Technology gets better, and prices go down, right? It's a phenomenon that's happened in just about every realm-computers, VCRs, microbrews-except skiing. Until now, that is. High-tech skiwear is finally becoming more affordable. Sure, you can still pay top dollar for some supertechnical, tricked-out, completely waterproof stuff. But value skiwear is no longer just for skiers willing to compromise on performance in the name of a tight budget. The jackets featured here are all the real deal-well-thought-out performance garments with venting capabilities, multitudinous pockets, and weatherproof shells with DWR (durable water repellent) coatings. They're tough enough to last for several hardcore ski seasons. Plus, their hip styling and looser, more casual fit give them some serious freeskiing credibility. And you won't need to liquidate a mutual fund to buy one.
CONVERT WOMEN'S PILELANDER PARKA $135
This stylie jacket from Columbia's snowboarding line has a rugged, nonshiny, water-repelling shell and flattering fit that looks good on the slopes or around town with jeans. Its thick pile lining dries quickly and retains its warmth even when wet. The back is cut a bit longer for added warmth, underarm venting zips provide A.C. (although they do add a bit of extra bulk), and an adjustable powder skirt keeps out wind and snow. All this for less than the price of those Revos you sat on last week.
HARD CORPS ZOMBIE JACKET $150
Don't be fooled by this jacket's trendy street appeal: Underneath its hip exterior is a hard-working, if pared down, technical garment. Hard Corps put all it learned from years of making techy skiwear into its new line of crossover clothing, which the company says "redefines the technical look." The Zombie's sturdy shell fabric has a weather-resistant finish, and critical seams are taped. Other performance- and comfort-enhancing features include underarm venting zips, a fleece-lined collar, a drawcord waist, and oversized interior mesh pockets.
NIKE ACG FOXHOLE JACKET $160
Ever put on a jacket loaded with bells and whistles and wonder what the heck all those doodads and pockets are for? Nike solves the problem and helps you make better use of these features with a clever icon system: Every feature on the jacket is marked with a cute symbol; just look for that symbol on the decoder diagram printed on the jacket's inside tag. A musical note? Aha, that's where the headphones go! The Foxhole's beefy, if somewhat stiff, shell fabric is waterproof and breathable with moisture-wicking mesh panels under the arms.
CB SPORTS BACKSIDE 180 JACKET $180
We know what you're thinking: navy, red, and Duran Duran. But the company that made the padded corduroy ski jacket you wore in the early '80s is back-though with a new freeskiing-inspired look. This loose-fitting jacket is made from two-ply nylon with a waterproof-breathable coating and taped seams. It features an adjustable zip-off hood, wicking mesh lining, internal waist gaiter, and venting pit zips. The collar sports a nifty zippered gusset, which allows it to loosen by about two inches (key for skiers who pile on the layers).
MAMBOSOK WIDEN JACKET $185
Snowboarders and skiers alike swear by Mambosok clothing because it's tough enough for bushwhacking through thick glades and shouldering your skis for hike-to assaults, but it still manages to look laid-back. The Widen's waterproof-breathable fabric body is reinforced at key wear spots like shoulders, outer arms, and hips. In addition to mesh-lined underarm pit zips, it's got extralong chest vents that allow air to flow through. There's also a fleece-lined neck and chin warmer, powder skirt, and mesh lining. A shaped hood stows in the collar.
BONFIRE WOMEN'S GOLD JACKET ONE $1999.95
Sliding in just under our price cut-off, Bonfire's jacket is made from a lightweight shell fabric that is noticeably soft and drapey, yet it's also waterproof, thanks to a double dose of DWR, and highly breathable. The Gold Jacket One is cut a bit trimmer for women but is designed to stay put when you lift your arms-great for doing the wave. A clear pass pocket is positioned strategically inside the bottom of the jacket so it's easy to flash without opening the coat. Other features include a brushed mesh lining, pit zips, and a high storm collar, but no hood.