Black Diamond Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pants
- Jacket: 40+
- Pants: 60+
- Luke Koppa: 5’8”, 155 lbs
- Sam Shaheen: 5’10”, 140 lbs
Size Tested: Medium for both
Blister’s Measured Weight (size Medium):
- Jacket: 732 grams
- Pants: 736 grams
Fabric: 3-layer Gore-Tex w/ 70-denier nylon face fabric & brushed flannel backer
Stated Features — Jacket:
- Integrated Cohaesive™ cord-lock technology in hood and hem
- Ski-helmet-compatible hood
- Brushed microsuede collar
- Extended two-way armpit zip vents
- Underarm gussets for added range of motion
- Internal stretch powder skirt
- Custom-molded cuff tabs
Stated Features — Pants:
- Features a PIEPS Pocket™ with protective Poron® XRD™ Impact Foam and integrated internal harness for low profile, quick-access beacon storage
- Internal RECCO® technology
- Integrated, removable belt with belt-loop waist
- Offset side venting
- Articulated knees
- Boot-access zippers for adjusting buckles
- Keprotec® reinforced instep patches
- Internal snow gaiters with gripper elastic
Pockets — Jacket:
- 2 exterior chest pockets (zippered)
- 2 exterior hand pockets (zippered)
- 1 exterior bicep pocket (zippered)
- 2 internal drop-in pockets
Pockets — Pants:
- 2 upper-thigh pockets (zippered)
- 1 w/ internal PIEPS beacon sleeve
- 1 thigh pocket under the right upper-thigh pocket (zippered)
- 1 rear-seat pocket (zippered)
- Jacket: $599 (on sale for $359 as of publishing)
- Pants: $499
For many people, all they want out of an inbounds-oriented outerwear kit is reliability. You want it to protect you from the elements, and ideally do that for many seasons.
The Black Diamond Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pants are targeted at those people, though Black Diamond says they can handle both in- and out-of-bounds skiing. Made with a burly 3-layer Gore-Tex laminate with a soft, flannel backer and loads of features, the Mission kit caught our attention when it was released a few years ago. Black Diamond has since made some subtle updates to the kit over the years, and we’ve now spent about a season and a half in the current version.
The Mission kit quickly became a favorite of ours for a variety of reasons, so here we’ll cover all the details, who we think will feel the same way, and who won’t.
Overall, the fit of both the Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pants is pretty generous / relaxed. Sam Shaheen (5’10”, 140 lbs) and I (5’8”, 155 lbs) both wear a size Medium in just about everything, and we both felt that the size Medium on the Mission Shell & Pants was the right call.
The Mission Ski Shell isn’t exceptionally long (just goes a bit past my butt), but it’s pretty voluminous. In terms of room around the torso, the Mission Ski Shell is bigger than the Norrona Tamok Gore-Tex Pro Jacket, Open Wear Open One 3L Jacket, Arc’teryx Sabre LT, Houdini Shelter, Houdini Rollercoaster, and pretty similar to The North Face Ceptor. In terms of length, the Mission Ski Shell is shorter than the Tamok & Open Wear shells, but longer than the Spyder Sanction GTX, Eddie Bauer BC Freshline, & Arc’teryx Sabre LT.
As a result, I could layer the Mission Ski Shell over anything I’d consider a “midlayer,” and I could even comfortably layer it over heavier insulation pieces like the Patagonia Macro Puff Hoody. And yet, the Mission Ski Shell doesn’t look super baggy, which I’d attribute to its pretty stiff fabric and overall patterning. Rather than hanging loosely off my shoulders, the Mission’s fabric feels quite structured and doesn’t look like I’m wearing a burlap sack.
On that note, I love the high collar of the Mission Ski Shell. Due to the cut and structure of the fabric, the collar sits comfortably between my chin and nose, which I love in chilly or nasty weather. Some people may not love this, but Sam and I are big fans and the soft microfleece lining on the collar makes it feel nice on skin.
The Mission Pants are similarly roomy, but they use the same fabric and therefore don’t look super baggy. I think the fit of the pants will be very versatile in terms of people’s preferences since the fit itself is far from skinny, but it also doesn’t look super sloppy / loose. One of the most similar comparisons to the Mission Pants is the Arc’teryx Sabre AR (a long-time Blister favorite), and the Sabre AR is a bit baggier overall.
Pockets — Mission Ski Shell
The Mission jacket has a lot of features.
On the outside, there are two zippered chest pockets, two zippered hand pockets, and a zippered bicep pocket. On the interior, it’s got two large, mesh, drop-in pockets.
On a subjective note, I love the look of the Mission Ski Shell and I think a big part of that is due to its covered, asymmetrically bellowed chest pockets. The right chest pocket expands a bit due to the bellowed design and both chest pockets are quite large with zippers that are very easy to actuate.
The hand pockets are nice for walking around with your hands in them, but they’re pretty small and I don’t typically like putting stuff in them while skiing since it tends to bounce around. I feel the same way about all non-pack-compatible, low hand pockets.
As with most jackets that have similar pockets, the Mission Ski Shell’s bicep pocket is nice for small things like a ski pass, credit card, or lip balm.
The two interior, drop-in pockets are pretty large and make for a convenient location to stash extra gloves, goggle lenses, or skins (though for reasons we’ll explain below, I would basically never want to skin in the Mission Ski Shell).
Pockets — Mission Pants
The Mission Pants have four pockets in total, with three on the thighs and one on the back.
On the left side of the Mission Pants, there are two zippered pockets with one “stacked” over the other. The top pocket has a diagonal zipper that’s easier to get my hand in / out of vs. horizontal zippers, and while I was worried it’d be more prone to having stuff accidentally fall out of it, there have now been several days where I had my phone inside, forgot to close the zipper, and my phone was thankfully still inside at the end of the day.
Under that left thigh pocket is another zippered pocket with a vertical zipper on the inside of the leg. I rarely put items in both the top and lower pocket on the left thigh since it starts to feel bulky / uncomfortable, but the bottom pocket is a nice spot to put a ski pass or credit card.
On the right thigh of the Mission Pants is a pocket that’s identical to the top-left pocket in terms of size, but inside the right one is a padded sleeve for a beacon. The sleeve has a super burly buckle that can close over your beacon, and there’s also a loop on which to clip your beacon leash.
I like this idea and would love it on my lighter, more breathable, touring-oriented pants. That said, the Mission Pants’ heavy, flannel-backed fabric isn’t exactly ideal for long days of uphill travel. And then the bulky clip over the beacon sleeve can also hurt if I manage to ram my thigh into something, and it rubs against the pants’ outer fabric and is causing a bit of premature wear. The fabric isn’t fraying right now or affecting weather protection, but it is showing some discoloration over the buckle, and I figure it’ll be one of the first areas to wear down after much more time in the pants.
I do think the beacon sleeve would be appealing if you ski at a resort with lots of sidecountry access, or you like to carry a beacon with you during deep days in the resort.
The Mission Ski Shell has a very large hood that’s helmet compatible and has an embedded Cohaesive cord lock for adjustment at the back. One thing I love about the hood is that, despite its generous cut, the stiff fabric keeps it from flapping around and pulling back on my neck while skiing.
The Mission Ski Shell features the same Cohaesive cordlocks at the hem that do a good job of cinching the hem while keeping the cords out of the way. The Mission Ski Shell has a non-removable powder skirt that’s quite nice, but it’s also placed pretty low on the shell so it hangs below the hem of the jacket when not in use. As someone who basically never uses powder skirts (especially on roomier shells like the Mission), this is kind of annoying, but you could always cut out the powder skirt if you really dislike it.
The velcro cuffs on the Mission Ski Shell are great — they stay closed and have easy-to-grab tabs.
The Mission Pants have an integrated, yet removable belt that’s pretty easy to use and actually stays tight. But I also love that Black Diamond still included belt loops in case the integrated belt doesn’t give you the secure fit you want.
The Mission Pants also feature unique cuffs, with a zipper on the outside of the leg, basically where your ski boot buckles are. The interior gaiter has a velcro opening under that zipper, with the idea being that you could keep the internal gaiter over your boot cuffs, but open the zipper / velcro to adjust your boot’s cuff buckles. However, the cuff zipper is very stiff and not that easy to open, so I still just pulled the entire cuff / gaiter up over my boots when I needed to adjust the cuff buckles and power strap on my boots. I’m not someone who gets upset about snow getting under the gaiters of my boots so I don’t care too much if I don’t have that gaiter perfectly over the cuffs of my boots. But for those who are pickier about that, the zippered opening on the Mission Pants’ cuffs might be a nice feature. And then the Mission Pants feature pretty standard reinforcements on the inside of the cuffs.
In terms of ventilation, the Mission Ski Shell has very long underarm vents and the Mission Pants feature zippered vents on the outside of the leg (I’ll add measured lengths soon). All of these vents are open and not mesh-backed, which is usually polarizing. Personally, I don’t want mesh-backed vents since that often means the vents can’t open very wide and limits the amount of air that they can actually let through, though that also means snow can easily get inside. The zippers on the underarm and thigh vents are pretty big, water-resistant numbers that are what I’d call “average” in terms of how easy they are to actuate.
The Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pants are quite heavy. Not much of a surprise, given their burly fabric and generous feature set, but this is one of the reasons why they wouldn’t be my top picks for touring.
For reference, here’s a list of some of the other jackets and pants we’ve reviewed, and their respective weights. Note that not all of the pieces are the same size, so try to keep that in mind when making comparisons.
364 g Black Diamond Helio Active Shell, size Medium
366 g Patagonia Ascensionist Jacket, size Medium
435 g Arc’teryx Rush LT Jacket, size Medium
464 g Houdini Shelter Anorak, size Medium
518 g Flylow Cooper Jacket, size Medium
544 g Outdoor Research Hemispheres Jacket, size Medium
563 g Rab Sharp Edge Jacket, size Medium
571 g TREW Capow Jacket, size Medium
574 g Amundsen Peak Anorak, size Medium
590 g Flylow Higgins Coat 2.1, size Large
593 g Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket, size Large
598 g The North Face Freethinker Jacket, size Medium
601 g Spyder Sanction GTX Pro Shell Jacket, size Medium
605 g Patagonia Descensionist Jacket, size Medium
610 g Strafe Cham Jacket, size Large
615 g Patagonia SnowDrifter Jacket, size Medium
626 g Arc’teryx Sabre LT Jacket, size Medium
635 g Mammut Alvier Armor Hardshell Jacket, size Medium
665 g Norrona Tamok Gore-Tex Pro Jacket, size Medium
701 g Eddie Bauer BC Freshline Jacket, size Medium
726 g Holden M-51 Fishtail 3 Layer Jacket, size Medium
740 g Black Diamond Mission Ski Shell, size Medium
825 g The North Face Ceptor Jacket, size Medium
841 g Strafe Pyramid Jacket, size Large
848 g Open Wear Open One 3L Shell Jacket, size Medium
1047 g FW Manifest 3L Jacket, size Large
441 g Norrona Lyngen Windstopper Hybrid Pants, size Large
485 g Strafe Cham Pants, size Large
494 g Patagonia Descensionist Pants, size Medium
539 g Arc’teryx Rush LT Pant, size Medium
555 g Open Wear Open One 3L Shell Pants, size Medium
603 g Patagonia PowSlayer Bibs, size Large
608 g Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs, size Medium
618 g Rab Sharp Edge Pants, size Medium
620 g Arc’teryx Sabre Pants, size Large
635 g Spyder Turret GTX Shell Pants, size Medium
638 g The North Face Freethinker Pants, size Medium
723 g Black Diamond Mission Pants, size Medium
775 g FW Manifest 3L Pants, size Large
824 g TREW Capow Bib, size Medium
896 g Flylow Baker Bib, size Small
Now, onto one of our favorite aspects of the Mission kit — its fabric.
The Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pants both use the same fabric: a 3-layer Gore-Tex laminate with Gore’s standard Gore-Tex membrane, dense, plain-weave, 70-denier nylon face fabric, and a brushed flannel backer.
Especially compared to the numerous, more supple waterproof / breathable fabrics currently on the market (e.g., Gore-Tex C-Knit, Patagonia SnowDrifter, & Houdini Atmos), the Mission’s fabric feels quite stiff in comparison. That said, it’s not “crinkly” in the way that very light Gore-Tex fabrics tend to be, and the stiffer nature of the Mission kit gives it a nice amount of structure. It just feels burly, and I think Black Diamond pretty much nailed the combination of the Mission kit’s fabric, patterning, and feature set — everything feels very cohesive and sensible. Despite the stiffer, heavier fabric, we’ve never found the Mission kit to feel particularly uncomfortable.
Like the Arc’teryx Sabre Pants and Patagonia Untracked kit, the Mission’s flannel-backed fabric makes it feel a bit more comfortable on skin than many waterproof / breathable fabrics and it also makes it slightly warmer than most uninsulated shells.
There’s a reason Gore-Tex has been trusted and used for years — it does a very good of preventing water from getting from the outside to your skin. We’ve used the Mission kit in everything from dry snow to rain, and never had any water penetrate the fabric. I think the DWR on the Mission kit also performs really well, which is likely in part due to the densely woven and stiff face fabric.
One thing that standard Gore-Tex — especially when combined with a flannel backer — does not do incredibly well is release body heat and internal moisture buildup.
The Mission kit is no worse than any other standard Gore-Tex shells I’ve used in terms of breathability, but there are loads of other options that breathe better (e.g., Black Diamond’s own Helio Active Shell). And due to the little bit of extra warmth created by its flannel backer, the Mission kit feels a bit warmer and less comfortable during high-intensity activity than waterproof shells with non-brushed backers.
FWIW, we used the Mission kit last spring in temps up to around 50°F / 10°C. We were only using light baselayers under the kit and there were definitely times while I was a bit too hot, but I don’t see the Mission kit’s breathability and warmth as an issue for most inbounds, resort-skiing scenarios. But for touring or people who hike a lot in the resort, there are much better options.
As we just noted, the Mission kit is slightly warmer than most uninsulated shells that lack a flannel, brushed backer.
This difference is subtle and I still found myself using the same layering systems vs. my other shells. The flannel backer on the Mission isn’t warm enough to ditch my midlayer or go with a drastically lighter baselayer, but it does add just a bit more warmth compared to most other shells.
The Mission kit has proven to be very durable in our experience.
Especially compared to other shell jackets, the Mission Ski Shell feels super burly and we’ve had zero durability issues with it. After 40+ days in it, it looks extremely similar to the day we got it, which is impressive.
There are a few even more robust pant options out there (Flylow’s Baker Bib being the most obvious), but the Mission Pants definitely sit on the burlier end of the spectrum. They have fewer scratches and tears than any of my other ski pants.
The Mission Pants’ beacon clip seems like it could cause premature wear over the right pocket, but it hasn’t been an issue so far after 60+ days. The reinforcements around the cuff of the Mission Pants are doing their job, though, as with most inbounds-oriented pants, I wouldn’t mind the reinforced section on the Mission Pants being a few inches higher, and having it go all the way around the bottom of the cuff. I end up knocking my skis around a lot in the air or when skiing fast through tight spots, so I always end up with a few small slices around the cuffs of my ski pants. There are a few on the Mission Pants, though fewer than most of my other ski pants and none that have sliced through the reinforced area on the cuffs.
Comparison: Black Diamond Mission Pants vs. Arc’teryx Sabre AR Pants
As we noted above, the Sabre AR is extremely similar to the Mission Pants and we’re huge fans of both. They both retail for $599, they both use a 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric with a flannel backer and similar face fabric, they have very similar fits, and they have very similar feature sets.
The main differences come down to how you feel about the Mission’s beacon sleeve, unique cuff-access zipper, and which you can get at a better price. Some people may not love the Mission’s beacon sleeve & buckle, while others may love it and / or want the Mission’s additional thigh & seat pocket and access zipper on the cuff.
But the bottom line is that both are exceptional resort-oriented shell pants.
Who’s It For?
Skiers & snowboarders who are looking for a new outerwear kit and who prioritize weather protection, durability, and a generous feature set over low weight, breathability, & packability.
If you’re looking for a dedicated touring kit or something that will see a lot of time on the skin track, I’d look to lighter, more breathable options (especially for the jacket). While I’ve toured in the Mission Pants and they work alright for that, the Mission Ski Shell’s weight, bulk, and not-amazing breathability make it feel pretty out of place during long days in the backcountry. For better options for ski touring and high-output use, check out our Winter Buyer’s Guide and other apparel reviews.
But the Mission kit has become one of our favorites for resort riding. It provides all the features I could ever want, does a great job of blocking wind & water, has held up extremely well so far, and is quite comfortable. The kit is not cheap (the jacket & pants each retail at $599), but I expect this kit to hold up quite well in the long run.
Black Diamond’s Mission Ski Shell & Mission Pant are pieces that do a great job of making us forget we’re wearing them, which is exactly what we want out of a resort-oriented kit. They’re burly, protective, comfortable, and provide plenty of features and storage options. They’re far from ideal for high-output days in the backcountry, but should be on your radar if you’re in the market for a new inbounds kit.