Welcome to our best ski pants (for snowboarders too!) review feature. There is definitely some benefit to deliberating picking out your next pair of snow pants. Snow pants may not be as sexy and fun to pick out as a new board, goggles, or skis, but they are an essential item. Going downhill pantless or in shorts probably isn’t a good idea. Frozen chair lifts, thigh deep pow, and brutal arctic winds are just a few of the adversaries that challenge your leg gear. If you’re in the learning stages and falling a lot, the wrong pair of pants could mean snow getting in places you don’t want it. The bottom line is that your ski pants will take a beating. The best snow pants will keep you warm, keep the snow out, and perhaps even win some style points in the process.
The first stop on this run is a discussion about waterproof and breathability ratings. Then we provide readers with an overview of the types of snowboard pants out there. Be sure to check out the selection guide park for an assortment of things to look out for before hitting that buy button.
The Captain’s Orders: Get Water Resistant Snow Pants
That may sound like a no brainer, but bear with us. The fact of the matter is, snow pants are not created equally. Some are constructed with higher quality materials than others. Although the most high quality snow pants may be extremely water resistant — even under very high pressure — there is no such thing as a unconditionally waterproof outwear that lasts forever. Given enough time, pressure, and water a fabric will eventually begin to leak. Why isn’t snow gear waterproof? Because waterproof types of materials don’t let anything in or out. Sure you could go skiing in a yellow rubber raincoat (rubber is completely waterproof) but you’ll be hot and wet from your own perspiration in no time. The trick with ski outwear is to tread the fine balance of protection from the elements with the ability to let water vapor pass (such as warm perspiration) from the inside to the outside. Advanced fabrics such as Gore-Tex, eVent, FlashDry, and Dry.Q do a great job of keeping water out while still preventing you from overheating inside your gear.
One of the best things you can do when shopping for the right pair of waterproof snow pants is check the waterproof rating. You will often find a WR/BR scale stamped on the inside of the pants or on the sales tag. The WR is how water resistant the material is and is commonly stated in millimeters (mm). The higher the number, the more water resistant the pants are. Most ski pants will range from 0-20,000mm. For example, if a pair of pants has a 15,000mm waterproof rating, then if you put a square 1×1 tube over the piece of fabric of that pair of pants you could fill it to 15,000mm height (49 feet) before it would start to leak through. All that gets pretty scientific, but just remember the higher the WR the less likely it is to leak.
We recommend a pair of pants with at least a 5,000mm waterproof rating. If you’re a mountain regular and like to go hard, we’d suggest investing in ski pants that are over 10,000mm. Also, those in relatively warm and wet climates like Pacific NW states Oregon and Washington will want extra water resistant material. Conversely drier states like Utah and Colorado will be okay with snow pants with a lower water resistant rating. As a general rule of thumb, spending a little more for quality pants goes a long way towards longevity. Many entry level, low-cost pants will use cheap laminates that quickly lose their water resistant properties.
The “BR” of the WR/BR rating refers to how breathable the material is. The higher the number, the less likely you will get sweaty during intense boarding or skiing. A higher BR rating means it allows more water vapor to pass from inside to outside the pants. So, for example, if the pants had a BR of 20,000, it would allow 20,000 grams of water vapor to pass through in a 24 hour period. That’s why manufacturers continually hunt for and spend ridiculous amounts of money trying to craft the perfect synthetic materials for pants: they want something that allows plenty of water vapor to pass from inside to the outside while allowing no snow or wetness to pass from outside to inside.
11 Best Ski Pants and Snowboard Pants 2016-2017
Glad you survived the rocky terrain and wild rails. You found the treasure. Welcome to the gear lodge, stocked full of the best ski pants (and best snowboard pants) currently available. We update our pages regularly, so you’re always viewing the freshest information and latest gear selections. Here you’ll find women ski pants, men ski pants, and kids ski pants.
|Arcteryx Men's Stinger Pant||Pant, Zipper Closure w/Belt, Insulated||Nylon|
|Volcom Men's Freakin Snow Chino Pant||Pant, Button Closure||Polyester|
|The North Face Freedom Insulate Women's Ski Pants||Pant, Zipper Closure||Nylon|
|Burton Women's Society Snow Pants||Pant, Zipper and Button Closure||Nylon/Polyester|
|Columbia Bugaboo II Snow Pants (Men's and Women's)||Pant, Zipper and Button Closure||Nylon/Polyster|
|The North Face Freedom INsulated Girls' Ski Pants||Girls' Pant, Adjustable Waist w/Velcro Closure||Nylon/Polyester|
|Columbia Boys' Ice Slope II Pant||Boys' Pant (Infant-Toddler-Big Boys), Adjutable Waist||Nylon/Polyester|
|Arcteryx Alpha SV Bib (Men's and Women's)||Bib, Zipper Closure||Nylon|
|Boulder Gear Pinnacle Ski Bib (Men's, Women's & Kids)||Bib, Zipper Closure w/Belt||Nylon/Polyester|
|Salomon Men's Chill Out Bib Pant||Bib, Zipper w/Button Closure||Nylon/Elastane|
|White Sierra Insulated Bib (Men's, Women's & Youth)||Bib, Zipper Closure||Polyester|
When you buy products from Arc’teryx you can come to expect two things: quality and a big price tag. The Stinger Pants are no exception. These pants come in four color styles, feature gore-tex pro material, and are designed to be a shell pant that are highly breathable. There are zippers on both sides, so if it starts to warm up outside (or you start to warm up after a run or two) you can open both sides for ventilation and relief.
Volcom tends to trend towards appealing to the snowboarder aesthetic and these pants are true to that pattern. Just because many boarders see Volcom and Burton as two of the manufacturers making the best snowboard pants in the business, that doesn’t mean they can’t double as a good ski pant. The Men’s Freakin Snow pants combine a relaxed fit with an oxford shell fabric that has a waterproof resistance rating of 10,000mm.
For women, The North Face makes an excellent insulated ski pant in the form of The North Face Freedom. These are a heavy, insulated pant incorporating The North Face’s ‘heatseeker’ insulation. They have been rated as some of the best snow pants for women, with their large velcro cargo pockets and handwarmer zip pockets in the front. Long story short: a versatile pair of pants from a trusted brand.
The Burton Women’s Society Pant comes in over 10 colors. Reinforced with fully taped seams and Burton’s Dryride Dura Shell 2-layer fabric tech, this pair of pants received full accreditation from Shredder’s University. The metaluxe zippers, hand warmer pockets, and mesh lined inner thigh vents round out this pair of pants nicely.
The Columbia Men’s Bugaboo II Pants are arguably the most well rounded and best snow pants available. They are one of the most popular models and keep selling like hot cakes. Columbia put a lot thought into the design with an adjustable waist, articulated knees for flexibility, and internal leg gaiters to help keep out the snow.
If there’s one thing that is a certainty, it is that the little ones will be taking a few spills and falls when learning to ski. A trusty pair of pants will hopefully aid in them not getting overly miserable. The ankle gaiters on this pant feature elastic grippers and the adjustable waist tabs with a velcro enclosure go a long way towards keeping her warm and comfortable.
For boys, Columbia makes a great pair of snow pants dubbed the Ice Slope II’s. The cool thing about these pants is they have the outgrown grow system to help keep up with the inveitable growth spurts kids go through. Like the Freedom pants for girls above, these also feature the adjustable waist and internal leg gaiters to help keep your little one warm and ready to go.
Other Recommended Ideas: Best Ski Bibs
The magical solution to no longer getting dosing of cold snow along your backside: enter the ski bib.
If you want the best, the Alpha SV Bib is it. This pant is the top of the line, with a price to match. Hands down the best women’s ski pants, this is a high performance ski pant with athletic patterning for full range of motion. The gore tex pro hard wearing nylon material is the ideal performance fabric. Stowable boot lace hooks, removable internal LegWraps, and grommets at the hems are added bonus features. Incorporating N80p-X face fabric and N155p-X in high wear and tear areas, this pant offers the ultimate in long term performance and durability.
Boulder Gear makes one of the best ski bibs for the money out there. A very functional ski bib, the Pinnacle has all critical seams sealed, boot gaiters, and the adjustable straps are actually not too troublesome to use. Offered in men’s, women’s and youth models in solid black, you can’t go wrong with this versatile snow bib.
Another great bib solution is the Chill Outs by Salomon. They come in a variety of colors making it easy to find one to suit your tastes. As expected these are water resistant, insulated, and decently flexible and of course come with the Salomon polish. Another nice feature is that the suspenders are removable, so it allows you to switch between bib and pant styles.
White Sierra packs a lot of value into this well rounded ski bib. This ski bib is a 100% nylon shell with 100% nylon lining and polyfill insulation combines for a good balance of dryness and breathability. It is tough enough for a day on the mountain but easily doubles as a great pair of pants for playing or working in the snow around the house. The leg pockets are zip secured and the gaiters have gripper elastic. This bib is offered in women, men, and youth sizes. The Women’s model is featured in the above image.
Types of Ski & Snowboard Pants
Here are the main categories of snow pants. Depending on your style and the mountain you frequent, you’ll want to choose your pants accordingly.
This type of snow pants is usually referred to as “shell” pants. They protect from the elements and are water resistant, but do not have insulation on the inside. This allows the user to better customize their apparel to the weather conditions. If it is going to be extremely cold, they will perhaps opt to wear a few additional layers underneath. On a sunny day, they may choose to just rock the shell. Uninsulated ski and snowboard pants are further broken down into two main categories: two-layer and three-layer pants. Three layer pants sandwich a water resistant membrane between a tough face fabric and an inside liner such as mesh or fleece. They are a bit more durable but also feel stiffer than two layer pants. An example of a solid pair of three layer pants is the Arc’Teryx Sabre Pants. Arguably the most versatile snow pants are those that fall into the two layer uninsulated pants category. The two layer construction combines a face fabric with a water resistant membrane. If there is a liner, it hangs free. The result is a more flexible, softer, and breathable pair of snow pants. Patagonia’s Powder Bowl Ski Pants and the North Face Freedom Pants are some of the leading pants featuring two layer construction.
Manufacturers add a synthetic layer of insulation to insulated snow pants. Most new comers to snow sports such as downhill skiing believe that insulated pants are the only way to go. With an extra layer of “puff” insulation, they are the warmest pants by far. But warmest is not always best when it comes to snowboarding and skiing (unless you strictly visit Alaska and its arctic-like conditions). The truth is it isn’t too difficult for skiers to keep their legs warm. Skiing is a demanding, physical activity and after a few turns most peoples’ bodies warm right up. Oftentimes, insulated pants are not very breathable, bulky, and lead to athletes getting sweaty and wet underneath the material. Nevertheless these types of pants are great for those with poor circulation or during mountain trips exhibiting very cold temperatures. In the heart of winter, they serve their purpose well and when you’re sitting on the chair lift on a windy day you’ll be thankful that you’re wearing insulated pants. Conversely, on a warm day you’ll be considering tearing them off.
While technically not a category in its own right, softshell is an important distinction. Softshell pants use lighter, less durable materials. These are much more likely to let a little water in here and there, so if you’re a beginner and frequently falling you’ll get wet real fast. Going softshell is a compromise, you’ll get a lot of extra flexibility and breathability relative to a pair of thick and heavy insulated pants. You’ll feel light, which is especially great if you are throwing down some aerobatic tricks in the park. Sure it is a tradeoff, but if you go to the mountain a lot it may be worth it to buy a secondary pair of softshell pants for warm days.
The ultimate protection against snow getting down your back is the bib snow pants design. In addition, deep powder backcountry explorers will enjoy a bib style pant. Waistband-free comfort is another big bonus of this type of pants, just put the straps over your shoulders and you’re good to go. Some are styled like conventional overalls while others have a minimal backcountry look so you’ve still got style options in this category. Another plus is that you’ll get some extra warmth as they feature added upper body coverage. Some of the best ski bibs even incorporate zip off designs for top notch versatility. Bibs are excellent at bridging the upper/lower body gap, especially for heavier set and taller individuals. The straps may take some getting used to and they may take a little more time to take off and put on, but other than that bibs perform well in mountain conditions.
If you’ve got a buddy in the military or working certain types of outdoor work jobs requiring full body protection, you already have an idea of what a ski suit is like. Another name for this type of apparel is “cover-alls” because they literally cover your entire body. One-piece ski and snowboard suits have slowly grown in popularity over the last couple years. Much like a bib, they do a swell job of keeping snow out and eliminating the midsection gap in your outer shell protection. Designs and styles in this category vary widely, you can find some pretty crazy and funky stuff. The downside of these is that they can be a hassle to take off and put on. Keep in mind, much of this depends on the manufacturer’s design. Sometimes you’ll find a lot of these in children sizes at ski shops, which work pretty well (one less item you have to remember when making that mountain trip).
Key Features to Look for in the Best Ski Pants for You
Outside of the type of pants you choose, here are the top features to look for in the best snow pants.
- Fit. Just like jeans with their relaxed, baggy, and straight fits, snowboard and ski pants follow roughly the same groupings. Generally, you’ll need to be more careful about picking out a slim fit than a loose fit, and will want to try them on to ensure they look okay and are comfortable.
- Leg Lifters. These are simply tabs that lift the cuff and lower part of the pants when not on the hill. Pretty nice when you are cruising around the lodge and not trying to drag or step on your pants along the way.
- Gaiters. Built-in gaiters are a common design among most ski and snowboard pants. Found under the cuff on the pant leg, they prevent snow from getting in your boots and lower extremities by creating a tight seal over and around your boots. They usually have some sort of anchoring system like buckles or hooks that connect to your laces for example.
- Breathability. You don’t just want something that keeps the snow from getting in, you also want something that lets water vapor (in the form of perspiration) out. Something like a rubber jacket isn’t going to let heat out, which will lead to a lot of sweating and ultimately an uncomfortable experience.
- Ventilation. Hand-in-hand with breathability are venting features. Many pants will feature venting panels along the inner thigh inseam. This allows you to unzip things and dump heat when you get a little too hot. Pro ultra technical mountaineering pants will often feature full length side zippers for ultimate heat control.
- Waterproofing. Water resistance is obviously a big deal (we talked a lot about it in the first section). One thing we didn’t mention is an additional feature: fully taped seams vs. only critical seams taped. Pants will fully taped seams will be more expensive because the manufacturing process is more intensive. Literally every single seam is robustly crafted to promote durability and water resistance. A pant with critical seams taped means only the seams likely to see the most wear and tear are reinforced as opposed to every single seam.
- Warmth. Much of the warmth factor will be dependent on the type of snow pants you buy. For example, insulated, thick snow pants will do best on super cold days while soft shell pants will perform best on warmer days.
- Jacket-Pants Connection. Some brands have a system that connects your pants and jacket together as long as you buy their compatible models. This creates a snow and wind proof barrier much like a one-piece ski suit would.
- Cuff Reinforcement. The fact of the matter is the cuff around the ski or snowboard boot endures a lot of abuse. High quality snow pants will have extra-durable, stiff fabric around the cuff of the openings. This acts as a guard against snowboard and ski edges, crampons, debris, and the like.
- Style. Last, but certainly not least, is the style factor. Perhaps the best argument is that if your going to drop some serious cash on some nice pants, you might as well get some that you (and others) appreciate looking at. Head turning gear can add immensely to your enjoyment and other than a jacket, pants offer the second most real estate to showcase your own personal style. If your a greenhorn watch out for those white snow pants, they’ll get dirty fast.