When Pip Brock made the first ski descent of Whistler Mountain back in 1933 he likely did it in a wool sweater and leather boots, so any jacket you buy in 2014 will be a huge improvement. The tricky part will be narrowing down your options.
Whistler has dozens of ski/board/outdoor shops carrying everything from a $4700 limited edition mink-and-leather ski jacket to the hottest new Gore-Tex Burton pullover to a plastic bag with armholes and the vintage Blackcomb logo printed on it. For quality and selection there really is no better place in the country to shop for a winter coat.
Of course, the tricky part is not finding a good jacket, it’s finding the right jacket to suit your needs. No single jacket is perfect for skiing deep pow, hiking for fresh turns, withstanding alpine winds, repelling valley sleet AND looking super swanky at après. As a buyer, you need to figure out where you want to stand on the ever-sliding scale of fashion vs function and find the jacket that works for you. And it’s not hard, even that fancy mink-and-leather number (aka The Clarrisa Fur) comes with a goggle-pocket and a powder skirt. It’s a buyer’s market so we hit the cobblestones of Whistler Village recently to bring you:
The Insider’s Guide to Whistler Winter Jacket Shopping
NOTE: More information on technical jacket terms and the science behind waterproofing, breathability and warmth is provided below.
Firmly entrenched in the working class, The Insider had no idea just how luxurious jackets can get. “We have Bogner jackets ranging in price from just under a thousand dollars all the way up past $7000,” says Liv at Can-Ski, Whistler’s top spot for high end shoppers. “Bogner is so out there and original looking, it attracts women who want something more feminine and form fitting.”
That sounds great for après but can you ski in it? “A lot of people swear by it,” Liv says of the longstanding German brand. “But none of it is seam sealed.” Not ideal for Coast Mountain storm season perhaps but Bogner remains the top selling luxury brand in town year after year.
Other popular high end selections available at Can-Ski (be sure to check locations in the Upper Village and Creekside too) include Mountain Force, who are gaining popularity with their slightly more tech-focused offerings (don’t be fooled though, they also make a $380 cashmere toque). Or check out Kjus, another high-end Euro brand doing interesting things with their insulation and venting – some Kjus jackets include rigid panels of wax that will absorb and hold body heat. Others have nifty wrist vents that work the same as rolling up your sleeves while also schussing fresh air up the arms to the torso to cool off the torso.
Canada Goose parkas, famous for their warmth in Arctic conditions, are still huge sellers but totally inappropriate for on-slope action. “People will still ski in them,” Liv says, “but these are rated to -25 celsius.” Any kind of hiking or exertion and you’ll be drenched in your own sweat.
LEFT to RIGHT: The Clarissa Fur from Toni Sailor, Frauenschuh with fur hood add-ons, and the always popular Bogner.
Much of Can-Ski’s super fancy inventory is also limited edition. There are only 30 of those Toni Sailer Mink-and-leather Clarissa Fur jackets available worldwide (and the Can Ski at the base of Blackcomb has four of them, get 'em while you can).
“Limited edition is big,” explains Claire, another Can Ski expert. “We are the only store in BC to carry the Frauenschuh line.” With clean looking design and a price tag somewhere around $1200-1500 the Frauenschuh’s are a comparative steal (the rabbit-fur hood will set you back an extra $800 though). Interestingly, a lot of the top brands, including Bogner, are selling their fur trim separately.
“A lot of people are not into fur these days,” Liv says, “so you have the option of leaving it out.”
On the other end of the spectrum, hard core skiers and snowboarders could care less about limited edition or whether farmed Finnish fox is considered ethically sourced. These jacket buyers want waterproof, breathable jackets that will keep the winter out and the warmth in (until they start hiking to get more fresh tracks, then they want to let that warmth out). The good news for the gear/tech-obsessed is that Whistler has flagship stores from all the top “core” mountain brands:
A Vancouver company done good, some Arc’teryx jackets are still made just down the road in Burnaby, BC. Also, everything from this brand is perfectly designed for the exact kind of mountains and conditions Whistler offers. Their shells are legendary for the ergonomic design but hot this winter is the Veillance Trenchcoat, an about-town garment with clean lines and all the best Arc’teryx technology.
LEFT to RIGHT: Arc'teryx Veillance Coat, Patagonia Nano-Air, The North Face Nuptse
The best thing about Patagonia is they make incredible outerwear and always have. The other best thing is the entire company is committed to putting the planet before profits. Their corporate responsibility practices are industry leading. The hot Patagonia jacket this winter is the Nano-Air Jacket. Designed as a breathable, stretchy insulation layer for on-mountain antics, this one also doubles as a lightweight, weather-shedding jacket for après or walking around the Village.
A brand doesn’t get this big unless you make good stuff and The North Face’s down jackets are legendary. New this year, the classic Nuptse jacket has been slimmed down but still maintains that deep, lofty 700-fill goose down warmth. One of the coziest shops in town, they have a whole floor of kids jackets too.
Colour Blocking is back this year and Peak Performance has big bold colours on fabrics that are reportedly 5 times stronger than steel. Check out the Heli Pro outfit and the new Vectran fabric for proof. The tech qualities perform and those loud colourful jackets look far less “out there” up on the ski hill surrounded by all that white pow.
Stretch fabics are big this winter at Helly Hansen as a way to increase jackets’ range of motion without added bagginess. New this winter, Helly Hansen’s Odin Mountain Jacket ($700) is the complete package for mountain travel and thanks to the stretch shell it actually becomes more breathable the more you move around. Smart. Hansen has two stores in Whistler Village.
LEFT to RIGHT:Peak Performance Heli Gravity, Helly Hansen Odin Mountain Jacket, Spyder Avenger Kids Jacket
Fun For Kids
Whistler's only clothing store dedicated solely to children, Fun for Kids says that Spyder jackets are always hot sellers because kids think spiders are cool. (and I guess they kind of are.)
Of course, you can snowboard in any of the jackets listed above but Snowboarding deserves its own category because snowboarders approach the concept of on-hill style much differently than the ski industry does. And this is a good thing.
“Large fits are in for jackets this year,” says Dee, manager and buyer at