Helly Hansen Elevation Infinity Shell Jacket
Weight: 750 grams
Waterproofing: Lifa Infinity Pro
Intended use: All-mountain skiing and snowboarding
These days, sustainability and the outdoor industry seem to go hand in hand, with more and more companies seeking to limit their environmental impact. Although many brands now prioritize this objective — and even more market it — the waterproofing in Helly Hansen's new Elevation Infinity Shell Jacket stakes an elusive claim: not only is it more sustainable than what has come before, but also it is lighter and more durable.
The key ingredient is the brand's new Lifa Infinity Pro, borne of a unique process that produces a waterproof-breathable membrane and exterior fabric without any chemical additives.
Now, Lifa itself isn't new: as far back as 1970, Helly Hansen was using the polypropylene in fabrics, particularly nautical wear and base layers. The material pulled moisture away from the skin to the exterior of the fabric where it evaporated, enabling the wearer to remain dry and comfortable. Over the years, the company began to realize the material could benefit other products, not only on the interior but also the exterior.
The more recent breakthrough? Performance technical wear that uses absolutely no durable water-repellent (DWR) treatments. Normally when you produce a microporous membrane, the fabric is dipped into a solvent to achieve the micropores, explains Philip Tavell, category managing director for Helly Hansen. But to make Lifa Infinity Pro, the manufacturer instead heats, stretches and folds the fabric to produce the micropores in the membrane.
“We haven't just done a marginal change," Tavell explains. "We came up with a solution on how to change the way to think about waterproof breathable material."
The industry has taken notice, as the Elevation Infinity Shell was named a 2020 ISPO Award Gold Winner in the snow sports segment and the best product in the hardshell jackets category.
"Helly Hansen shows that the beloved feeling of a pro shell can be made in new more sustainable ways without compromises," according to Marc Nylander, founder of North Retail/NK Sport and a member of the ISPO jury, which also noted that the jacket has a 16 percent smaller environmental impact compared to polyester.
What does this mean for consumers? They can now purchase a jacket that's more durable, less vulnerable to abrasion and requires less maintenance than ever before. The Lifa face fabric is naturally hydrophobic, and at 750 grams (1.65 pounds), the jacket is also lighter than average.
“The consumer will never have to worry about the DWR or chemical treatment failing," says Tavell. "They can just wear their jackets worry free. You won’t get the feeling of wetting out because the DWR has failed. As long as there are no tears or rips the fiber will always have this water repellency.”
Despite its light weight, the jacket isn't light on features. Thanks to Aerogel insulation, the Life Pocket preserves your phone's batter in cold mountain temps. Large side pockets allow skiers to store backcountry skins for easy access. The high collar is useful when trying to stay warm in windy conditions, especially on long rides up the lifts.
The only downsides? The way the membrane is produced doesn’t allow for four-way stretch, leaving the Elevation jacket is a bit on the stiffer side. It's only available in grey this season (more colors are coming next fall). And the price tag of $750 places it on the higher end of the ski jacket cost spectrum.
With the tech is still very new, scalability is the next big step for Helly Hansen. It's also present in the brand's Odin Mountain Infinity Shell Jacket, but the brand wants to deploy it in other environments too.
“We have tested and proven that there is a uniqueness and a special way to doing sustainable performance garments," Tavell says. "We will introduce it into more products in 2021 including urban products, sailing products and the requirements for salt water."
In the meantime, we are stoked about this first application — and of course look forward to trying it out on the slopes this season.
3 More Sustainable Ski Options
Helly Hansen isn't the only brand getting clever with its production processes. The following products provide a peek at other promising developments.
Picture Anton Jacket
The Anton Jacket is an anorak made from repurposed sugarcane waste that is converted into bio-based polyester. The result is PFC-free, durable water-repellent jacket that performs in a variety of conditions.
Patagonia PowSlayer Jacket
This is Patagonia’s first ever Gore-Tex Pro option constructed with a recycled membrane. Lightweight and highly waterproof, it’s an excellent option for slaying backcountry pow (naturally) or cruising the resort on warmer days.
Oosc Gin and Juice Ski Suit
This ski suit may look retro and turn heads from the trails to après ski, but the technology is all new school. Made with 50 recycled plastic water bottles, it shows sustainability doesn't have to come at the expense of style.