Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket – Best Backcountry Ski Jacket
If you enjoy going uphill as much as hitting monster powder stashes, it’s essential to have the right gear to keep you protected, yet ventilated. The Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket is hands down the best backcountry ski jacket on the market, performing just as good on the uphill as on the downhill. The Skyward Jacket has every feature that you could ever want in a backcountry ski jacket without the $500+ price tag.
Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket Uphill Performance
When skinning uphill, most people generate an excessive amount of body heat which often times equates to sweating a ton. If you’re not able to provide your body the appropriate ventilation and airflow, you tend to overheat and become a sweaty mess. Instead of using a standard pit zip that goes from the bicep and down around to the side of your chest, the Skyward Jacket ventilation zips go from the bicep all the way down to the waist of the jacket. While your standard pit zips work for light uphill activity, the Skyward Jacket zips are your workhorse for those days of moderate to extreme uphill touring.
When you’re in your tour stride with the Skyward Jacket, the jacket flexes which allows the jacket to open up on the sides which allows for the perfect amount of airflow. To keep the from being a cape that flaps when it’s windy out, there is a snap on each side zipper that keeps the jacket together at the waist.
On high exertion or warmer days, the jacket fully opens up like no other jacket on the market. This provides the maximum amount of ventilation, and it rocks! On extreme cold days, you can always close the side zippers up. While these zippers have awesome uphill performance, they are hardly visible when zipped up. This means you can also use this jacket your standard winter jacket without looking all teched out.
I typically skin up Steamboat Resort 2-3 times a week which has 2100 ft of vertical over the course of 1.8 miles. With past jackets I would start sweating within 5 minutes of my uphill training and with the Skyward jacket, I have a light sweat all the way up. The temperatures in which I do this activity typically range between 5-30F. For longer tours with more variable terrain where you’re not generating as much body heat, I’ve found the Skyward jacket to perform better than other any other 3 layer shell on the market due to the added ventilation.
Protecting you from the Elements
The Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket uses a their AscentShell 3L fabric which protects you from snow, rain and wind. This is a waterproof breathable 3 layer material protects you from all weather elements equally. This means that this jacket isn’t just a rock star in the winter, but also shoulder seasons where rain has a tendency of entering the picture from time to time. To ensure water doesn’t get into through the stitches, the jacket is taped on the inside of all seams.
To ensure the water stays out of the jacket, the Outdoor Research Skyward jacket uses YKK waterproof zips for the front chest pocket zippers and full length side zippers. The front zipper has wider teeth which makes it easier to zip open and close the jacket. This style of zipper is preferable on the front because they slide much easier and the fabric doesn’t buckle like it does with waterproof zippers. The zippers on the side pockets aren’t waterproof, but they have a layer of the AscentShell 3L fabric covering them which prevents precipitation from getting in.
On those days when the snow is puking, the rain in dumping, or the wind is strong enough to blow house down, it’s nice to know the OR Skyward Jacket comes with a helmet compatible hood. This hood can be cinched from each side of your head as well as from the back of the head to give you a precise fit around your head . There’s also a small brim built into the hood to keep out the rain and snow from getting into your eyes.
Downhill Ski Performance
On the downhill, the Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket performs just as good as it does on the uphill. To start, it’s easy to open and close the side zippers which makes for a quicker transition when switching between uphill and downhill. On cold and windy days and nights, this is a huge bonus. The jacket has two inside mesh pockets that can each hold a touring skin. If you don’t need to carry a backpack with your shovel, probe, etc., this makes for a nice light setup.
The cuffs on the Skyward jacket are best used with an over the cuff glove or mitten setup, but with a little finesse, you can fit your glove or mitten cuff under the hand opening of the jacket arm.
Skyward Jacket Fit & Style
The Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket has a standard fit to it. This means you can fit a lightweight insulation jacket or a thick fleece on underneath for those cold days without feeling like the Michelin Man. At 6’0 tall and 173lbs, I found a size medium to provide the perfect fit.
The color combos on the OR Skyward Jacket are some of the best I have seen on the market for winter jackets and shells. The jacket provides just the right amount of sporty look for when you’re out in the backcountry, but it doesn’t scream Yo Bro, look at ME! These subtle yet stylish colors look great for apres ski and city wear as well.
Final Thoughts – Best Backcountry Jacket!!
Having tested dozens of shells from some of the top brands in the outdoor industry, I can confidently say that the Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket is the best backcountry ski jacket on the market. My only complaint with the jacket is that I wish it came out 5 years earlier. At $350, this jacket is an absolute steal and worth every penny! Head on over to OutdoorResearch.com or your local retailer for more information.