Requires additional layers
Arc’teryx is a Vancouver-based outerwear company whose outdoor gear has become the symbol of craftsmanship and engineering in the industry. The company’s website declares: “Using only advanced premium materials, meticulous detail and unique construction processes enable us to create technical products that can be trusted to work in all conditions.” To see if their products’ lofty reputation holds up, we tested their Arc’teryx Sabre Ski Jacket in a Rocky Mountain winter. We assessed its performance over several weeks, evaluating factors such as warmth, breathability, style, wind resistance, and versatility.
Warmth: Just a shell
One thing to note up front about the Arc’teryx Sabre Jacket is that it is a shell only. Most skiers rely on layering (rather than a single, heavily-insulated jacket) to ensure they can adjust to a range of temperatures and conditions, and the Sabre is only that outermost layer, designed keep weather at bay.
Unlike ski jackets with built-in insulation or integrated inner jackets, the Sabre will require other layers to keep you warm. The obvious downside is the need to purchase other layers. The benefit of the Sabre’s minimalism, however, is the ability to precisely customize layering to the conditions. Plan on hiking a steep trail in mild temperatures? Wear a thin base layer only under the Sabre. For sub-freezing, windy ski days above treeline add a down jacket underneath. This also makes the Sabre potentially a year-round layer in mountain climates.
The Sabre definitely lands in “luxury” territory, especially considering it’s only a shell.
The Arc’teryx Sabre might not be the right coat for people that run cold or who aren’t experienced enough with layering to know which base layers and inner jackets to choose on a given day. More casual skiers might prefer a two-layer jacket that provides at least a little insulation built-in and which simplifies their ski day decisions.
While certainly not insulated, the Sabre does have a thin, fleece-like “Lo Loft Softshell” lining on the inside which provides a small warmth benefit and softens the inner feel of the stiff shell a bit.
Slightly longer sleeves and wide cuffs that Velcro down securely help avoid any incursions from snow and/or cold air around the wrists. The built-in powder skirt is mainly there to keep snow out of your waistline, but it has the added benefit of keeping cold air out as well.
Waterproofing: Full protection
The Arc’teryx Sabre is nothing if not waterproof and you’d expect nothing less from a company based in rainy coastal Canada. This jacket sports Gore-Tex’s industry-leading, three-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric and is fully waterproof, durable and lightweight. Simply put, it is the highest grade of Gore-Tex available.
The 80-denier fabric feels substantial without being heavy (the jacket weighs 1.5 pounds), maintaining durability without resorting to Carhartt-like thickness. The PTFE coating beads water like any good fully waterproof shell, but it also should retain it’s waterproofing for years of wear and washing, unlike cheaper polyurethane coatings.
Windproofing: Better than the competition
The Sabre is as windproof as it gets and the relative stiffness of the jacket ensures you won’t feel the wind as much as you might in other technically windproof jackets with a flimsier construction.
This is the jacket you want when you’re exposed on a ridge with 80 mph winds buffeting you at every step on your way to the summit. That said, if you’re just looking for a simple windproof ski jacket for cruising groomed runs at the ski resort, the Sabre might be overkill and its stiffness can be a turn-off for skiers looking for something more comfortable.
Breathability: Best in class
The Sabre doesn’t sacrifice breathability in its pursuit of uncompromising water- and windproofing and it features a top-of-the-heap breathability rating. Like most waterproof, breathable fabrics, the Gore-Tex repels liquid water while allowing water vapor to escape rather than soak your underlayers and put you in danger.
Durability: Lasts years
Where the Sabre really shines is not just it’s weather-proofing but in how long-lasting the performance is. Any decent ski jacket should be wind- and waterproof out of the box, but where the Sabre’s Gore-Tex separates itself is how many years of heavy use it can withstand and still perform.
Not only are the materials the latest technology (Arc’teryx worked directly in partnership with Gore-Tex on the weatherproofing for this jacket), but their jacket construction process is famously meticulous and quality-controlled.
Arc’teryx says that, on an average single jacket, 67 different employees touch the garment over a more than 4-hour construction process that includes multiple stages of quality control on things like seam-sealing and zippers. Which gives you a sense of why this ski jacket might cost you more than $600.
Style: Limited color options
The mostly solid color options for the Sabre are nothing for the runways, though they do have a bright yellow option that you could likely see from space or mistake for one of those classic yellow rain slickers. The Orion colorway we tested looks very olivine green in photos but in reality is a much flatter, though still attractive, gray-green. Standard red and black are your other options.
Arc’teryx jackets generally look like what they are: serious outdoor performance wear. You might not look out of place in a ski resort town bar wearing one, but no one will mistake it for a casual streetwear garment.
In the lift line is a different story. Arc’teryx’s reputation as the Rolls Royce of dead-serious ski jackets means you’ll receive looks, compliments, and questions from gearheads about its seam-sealing and weight in grams. If you want to project that you’re a serious skier/outdoor enthusiast, this jacket will send the message.
Arc’teryx jackets generally look like what they are: serious outdoor performance wear.
Comfort and Fit: Versatile for different builds
Like many technical shells, the Arc’teryx Sabre is on the stiff side but not noisy or crinkly and the brushed lining softens it to the touch taking it on and off.
The cut overall is fitted, stopping just below hip length (30.8 inches in the back). The arms are on the long side to comfortably reach over gloves and still leave you enough rope to move your arms around freely. The large size fit both our 6’1” 205 lb. and 6’0” 190 lb. testers about right, indicating this coat doesn’t run particularly large or small. However, the longer arms, while great for skiing functionality, can look oversized when worn casually, especially without gloves.
Arc’teryx jackets generally are a slimmer fitted garment and can exclude more stout customers, but the Sabre’s latest rendition is actually a relaxation of the fitting compared to earlier years’ versions.
Ski-specific Features: Nice to have
The Sabre’s simplicity is one of it’s best attributes, but it does have some welcome ski-specific bells and whistles that back up Arc’teryx’s claim that this coat is “designed with specific snowsports features for efficient protection, layering and movement.”
The integrated snow skirt is one of those features and does what any good snow skirt does: stay out of the way when not in use and clip securely around the waist with a rubberized elastic that won’t budge when it is.
There’s also a ski-pass pocket placed conveniently on the left bicep which features a zipper you can manage with a glove on so you’re not the person fumbling to reach their pass in the lift line.
The pit zips are long and open wide to let you vent in bulk in a hurry when you realize you’re steaming up your jacket. Most ski jackets feature pit zips but they’re often just over your actual pits and don’t do much unless you keep your arms raised, which is an awkward look when you’re skiing.
If you purchase compatible Arc’teryx pants you have the option to employ their trademarked Slide’n Loc system to turn separate jacket and pants into something more like a one-piece suit (without the stigma of looking like you came from a different decade).
The main front pockets which at first seem oddly placed just below the chest are designed to be easily accessible even when wearing a pack hiking or skiing off-piste.
Quality and Warranty: A well-respected brand
As referenced before, quality and durability is a core part of the Arc’teryx brand and their attention to detail backs it up. Seams are sealed, zippers are tight and water-resistant, and overall you can expect the garments to hold up for the long haul.
If they don’t, the company offers its limited lifetime warranty which distinguishes between normal wear and tear and defects. For example, if you burn a hole in your jacket with molten ski wax, the warranty won’t cover you, but if a zipper fails two years after your purchase, Arc’teryx is likely to repair or replace.
Even when warranty doesn’t apply to damage, Arc’teryx is often willing to give you an estimate for them to repair whatever damage has been done by replacing parts or fabric panels when possible.
Just because the Sabre could last a decade or more, doesn’t mean it will. But you can at least rest assured that the company will work with you to keep it alive when things do go wrong.
Ski equipment, in general, is expensive and most skiers have come to terms with the high cost of their preferred pastime. Still, the $625 price tag on the Sabre can be hard to stomach, even for die-hard skiers with plenty of disposable income.
What you’re paying for when you fork that kind of cash over is the name, and the quality and performance backing it up. Buying Arc’teryx is also, in a way, buying peace of mind. You can spend an extra few hundred bucks and feel certain you’re getting a high-performance garment that will perform the way it’s supposed to and keep on performing for seasons to come.
The $625 price tag on the Sabre can be hard to stomach, even for die-hard skiers with plenty of disposable income.
Competition: Cheaper, still durable options
That said, the vast majority of skiers don’t need this jacket. If you ski fewer than 20 days in a ski season, you likely won’t incur the type of wear and tear that demands the bulletproof build of the Sabre. Plus, you can certainly buy comparable jackets from Marmot, Outdoor Research, Black Diamond, Flylow and a slew of other ski-specific brands and spend less for similar quality. Even more mainstream snowsports brands such as The North Face and Burton offer higher-end jackets at a much lower cost than the Sabre.
The Patagonia Triolet technical shell jacket offers a similar fit and Gore-Tex construction at $399 and includes Patagonia’s time-tested lifetime warranty. The main difference is that the Triolet is a more substantial 3-layer construction (think lined) so it is less versatile for warmer conditions and would likely be limited to use as a ski shell.
While there are pricier jackets out there, the Sabre definitely lands in “luxury” territory, especially considering it’s only a shell and you’ll need to add at least a couple other layers to your system. But if you understand what you’re getting with the Sabre, know that you’ll use it to its capacity and can afford it, it’s hard to go wrong with this jacket as your year-round shell for the next 5-10 years.
- Product Name Arc’teryx Sabre Men’s Ski Jacket
- Product Brand Arc’teryx
- MPN 16214
- Price $625.00
- Weight 8.7 oz.
- Back Length 30.8 in.
- Materials Polyester