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The New Shell Game

posted: 06/16/2005

Four years ago, only three manufacturers made soft shell jackets-the much-hyped, stretchy, and weather-resistant new breed of outerwear. Now everyone does, even traditional skiwear companies like Marker and Obermeyer.

We test-drove a sampling of this year's crop to gauge their chairlift-riding warmth, ridge-hiking breathability, and their knack at batting aside snow, rain, and wind. They've come a long way. Many are now loaded with a bevy of ski-friendly features (things like powder skirts, fleecy innards, and hoods). But contrary to what some manufacturers may claim, we didn't find a soft shell top that can do everything well. To cut through all the bull, we ranked each jacket according to how it performs in the backcountry, at the resort, and overall. The lighter-weight jackets are versatile enough for long uphill spring grunts, while the heavyweights are ideal for all-weather, lift-serviced skiing. Now it's up to you: Get the jacket that best suits your skiing style, and then get out there.

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