Where I grew up — a small ski town in the Rockies — there was no greater status symbol than North Face Denali jacket. You know the one: fleece arms and body in a variety of colors (blue, red, grey, black) with a black nylon overlay across the chest, with three zippered pockets and that little Yosemite Half Dome insignia you could identify from a parking lot away. I remember buying a fake one off eBay when I was in high school and having a meltdown when I realized the zipper was on the wrong lapel, later exiling it to the back of a closet to save me blushes in the hallways.
I eventually got my Denali, but didn't keep it for long. Because here's a little secret: the Denali isn't actually all that. It's prone to some gnarly pilling, and the functionality leaves much to be desired: the fleece is lightweight and loosely woven, which means that if you don't wear a shell over it, it's useless against even a mild breeze, much less the kind of bone-chilling winds that attend small ski towns in the Rockies.
Know what does hold its own in those conditions? The almost equally ubitquitous Patagonia Better Sweater, which is currently 20% off (a $30 discount) at Moosejaw. It's made from tightly woven 100% polyester, with those same three zippered pockets (two hips, one chest) and 60g fleece insulation. It also features a more structured, tailored fit than the Denali, rendering it a bit more appropriate for more formal settings (like, say, your poorly heated office).
You'll still want to pair it with a decent shell if you plan on hitting the slopes, but as a transitional active layer that looks good in pretty much any situation short of a suit and tie, you really won't find a better garment. Hence the name.
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