When do I feel like a kid again? When I put on my powder skirt and play in the snow. That’s how I suited up half-way through a recent excursion skinning up Meadow Mountain (located five minutes west of Vail), before hitting some amazing powder turns on the late-afternoon descent.
I didn’t wear the powder skirt-laced jacket on the two-hour uphill trek. It was a sunny and temperate winter day, and I was plenty warm and almost too hot at times in a baselayer, light vest and snow pants.
Stuffed into a small space in my pack was an Arc’teryx Lillooet Jacket, weighing just over 30 ounces and compressed into a helmet-sized ball. It has an outer GORE-TEX layer that’s insulated with 750-fill goose down in the core of the jacket, and synthetic Coreloft insulation in areas that are prone to moisture buildup — like the hood, collar, front of the mouth, hemlines and cuffs. Since down doesn’t work well when it’s wet, Arc’teryx designed this smart system to ensure the down is protected so it can target its warmth toward the body’s core and shoulders.
Even in light layers, I had created a significant sweat by the time we reached the top of Meadow Mountain. It was about 4 p.m., and the January sun was just dipping behind the horizon line. The temperature rapidly dropped, and I could feel the wet on my body start to turn into a chill.
The cold jacket had been in my pack for two hours, but once I slid in to it took no time to work with my body to create a cozy warmth. My naked fingers started to freeze in the short time it took to remove the skins off my skis and get gloves back on, but my arms and torso didn’t even spark a chill in the Lillooet.
The ski down was through powder fields, and the jacket’s athletic fit allowed for a freedom of movement that complemented each backcountry turn. My temperature stayed perfect, and even my hands warmed up. If it would have still been sunny on our ski down, I could have opened up the mesh backed PowderGuard underarm vents, and if it would have been colder or snowing, I could have zipped my head into the helmet comparable StormHood.
As far as a ski jacket, this is no doubt the best I’ve ever worn. It is too warm to wear on winter and spring days above freezing, though, so it can be one your two top-layer go-tos. I’ve also gotten plenty of use out of it around town, because it’s just as flattering as it is technical and highly functional.
Kim Fuller is a freelance writer based in Vail, Colorado.