[skier ’s choice]
Get a versatile ski shell at a great price. The tough, relatively heavy fabric and snow-specific features make the Mantra Fusion ideal for fall-through-spring skiing (both resort and backcountry), yet built-in stretch and a removable powder skirt keep it from being too niche. The elasticized powder skirt let our tester hit deep lines without soaking her torso, and the high, microfiber-lined collar kept her from choking on fluffy Utah powder in the Wasatch.
The helmet-compatible hood has a stiff visor that provides ample protection from windblown snow. The generous (but not baggy) cut and stretchy fabric (a 40-denier polyester with a three-layer, proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane) allow for total freedom of movement. Breathability is adequate, though during sustained sidecountry hikes, our tester routinely needed to open the pit zips to stay dry.
Five pockets (three chest, two interior) organize lip balm, cash, and keys. But as with most shells in this weight category, the Mantra Fusion proved too heavy and warm for aerobic activities in temps above the mid-40s. $259; 1 lb. 8 oz. (w’s S); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL; sierradesigns.com