Of all your ski gear, ski pants may be the most under-rated. You need to consider your skiing style and conditions to get the right ski or snowboarding pants for your needs.
Spring skiing, where its warmer and wetter will have entirely different criteria vs a cold, dry climate. Its worth some research to choose the best possible pair.
Ladies: can skip to the best Women’s ski pants here.
So of all of the available options which ones are right for you?
First lets take a look at the ski and snowboard pants, then we’ll talk about how to choose the right pair for you.
- Columbia Bugaboo II Ski Pants
- The North Face Freedom Ski Pants
- Burton Cargo Mid Fit Snowboard Pants
- Arc’teryx Sabre Gore-Tex Ski Pants
- Arctix Ski Pants/Bibs
Here is a feature overview of the ski pants with full reviews and our buying guide below.
The Best Ski Pants
Ski and Snowboard Pants Reviews
Columbia has always been one of my favorite budget-minded outdoor brands. Let’s see if the Bugaboo II pants can keep up the economy-grade quality of the Columbia line.
A 100% nylon outer means great durability and abrasion resistance with thicker nylon reinforced cuffs on the pant legs are great for preventing fraying. This is important in my opinion as this area often sees a lot of abuse during skiing.
With a claim of waterproof / breathable fabric, Columbia has somehow managed to get these pants into the sub-$100 category. So I was concerned that they may have sacrificed quality in order to achieve the economy pricing with “waterproof/breathable” fabric.
They are “Critically seam sealed” in the most critical areas that are most prone to getting wet. However I’d really have liked to see them seam seal the whole pant. But I had no issues with getting wet even in wet spring skiing.
Insulation on these pants is a low 40g of polyester which puts them into the high-activity-level and warm temperature classification for skiing.
Adjustable waist system is the industry standard double Velcro and does include a set of belt loops for added security.
As is absolutely necessary, Columbia put integrated gaiters into these pants so we’re guaranteed at least the bare minimum necessities in a ski pant.
All said and done, the Columbia Bugaboo II pant make a solid choice for the budget-minded skier looking for waterproof pants at an economy price. My only grip is they could have more inner-boot reinforcement and seam sealing. Overall these are your best bet for a quality pair of ski pants.
The North Face can be very hit and miss with their price points and product quality. That being said, the Freedom pants might just be one of the better offerings I’ve seen from TNF in a long while. In the $150 range it’s really a reasonable price point.
Nice, modern, clean aesthetic means you’ll look like a pro right out of the gate. Just don’t take a digger under the lift.
Of particular note is that the “Power Green” shell is a mix of nylon and polyester so we can expect it to be tough and durable yet stretchy and forgiving. The other shell colors appear to be 100% nylon. I would suggest going for the “Power Green” shell based on its added benefits.
These pants include a layer of waterproofing so you may find them to get hotter faster than non-waterproof pants. This is for the best, however, as it is balanced by a relatively lightweight insulation and a good ventilation system.
Of the three pants on our list, the Freedom pants are the only to offer an inner thigh zip for ventilation. This is an important feature in my mind.
Featuring reinforced inner-boot patches (called kick patched by TNF) you won’t have to worry about destroying your pants during hardcore skiing.
The absolutely necessary integrated boot gaiters are standard fare on the Freedom pants and will keep snow out!
One of my favorite additional features is the cargo pocket. Stash a couple granola bars in there are have a quick power-up before you hit the trees! With the North Face, you know your guaranteed a quality pair of pants.
I have always been a fan of Burton outdoor wear. They are usually fairly priced and good quality. These snowboard pants are no exception. I say snowboard because they are baggier than typical ski pants normally are.
There is a slimmer fit model as well if you want all the features but not the baggier snowboard look and fit.
As the name implies, they have cargo pockets and lots of them. If you are like me and like to avoid the lodge and just carry your lunch with you consisting of some power bars and trail mix, your gonna love these pants.
These are what I would a shell only but they do have a light layer of insulation with a mesh and taffeta lining. There is a model available with a thicker insulation if you think you need it. The shell is what I would call 100% waterproof, rated at 10,000mm (see below for what this means).
The Burton Mid Fit pants are a 3 layer construction with a membrane middle layer to provide extra protection from the elements plus breathability. The seams are fully taped to complete the pants for water resistance.
They are feature rich, the knees are articulated (pre-curved) for extra comfort and have reinforcement on the cuffs to provide abrasion resistance.
The Burton Cargo pants have powder liners for protection from snow and cold air coming up the bottom of the pants plus one of my favorite features; inner thigh zips to provide ventilation.
There is a lot to like with the Burton Mid Fit cargo pants, highly recommended.
Arc’teryx is a maker of “premium” ski gear and tend to be expensive. But for that extra money you get a product that is second to none when it comes to detail and quality. Arc’teryx started out making outdoor clothing for the Canadian military so it should tell you something about their standards and quality.
These are a shell only category of ski pants meaning there is very little insulation in the pants. Obviously unless it is some warm spring skiing you will need a good base layer underneath.
The DWR finish (Durable Water Repellent) with a Gore-Tex liner provides 100% water resistance and wind resistance.
The material is fairly thick and can feel stiff at times, I personally like the crotch sits a little lower than most ski pants. I seem to have an issue with most pants riding up my crotch and it’s pretty annoying!
All seams are FULLY taped that insures no water gets in through the seams and fit flush with the pants for a sleek look. They have ventilation zippers for when it gets warm, but oddly they put them in the back.
This keeps them out of view for a clean look but does reduce their effectiveness. For extra reinforcement the Arc’teryx has reinforcement on the cuffs to provide abrasion resistance.
They have powder cuffs to fit around your boots to keep out the snow and wind. The Arc’teryx Sabre ski pants have belt loops and include a belt if find they are loose on you. If you don’t mind spending extra money, these are ski and snowboard pants for the person who is looking for the best.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Arc’teryx are the Arctix ski pants. Similar in name only, these are a budget pair of ski pants. The Arctix Men’s insulated pants are a solid shot in that category.
Featuring 100% nylon shell material, you can be assured that the outer fabric is robust and durable. This is paired with some super thick 600D nylon reinforcement around the cuffs and ankles to help prevent ski boot abrasion and resist the sharp edges of your skis.
Adjustable waist with two side-mounted Velcro straps means you won’t have to match your sizing perfectly so you’ll have room to eat as much lunch as you want and still hit the slopes comfortably.
Arctix also included a set of belt loops so you can get a great, secure fit on these pants.
Belt loops are great to help ensure that your ski pants stay in place during hard runs. Having a belt on also helps to keep powder out of your pants!
Boot zippers help with getting your ski boots on without having to fight the pants as you gear up. Then simply zip ‘em back down and you’re ready to get shreddy.
Good gaiters are a 100% necessity on all ski pants and these Arctix pants don’t disappoint. The gaiters elastic band is coated in silicone gripping material to keep the gaiters in place while you’re skiing. Make sure you use them!
Being insulated pants, these ski pants are rocking 85g of 100% polyester insulation. If you’re not sure what that means for you let’s break it down: 85g is a moderate – low amount of insulation for skiing.
You’ll have a bit too much insulation for warm spring skiing and a bit too little for the colder days. Make sure you use a good base layer on colder days, see my guide here.
Machine washable and machine dryable is a great plus because, often, high end outdoor gear can be a little finicky in the wash. Don’t have to worry about damaging these pants in the wash though so just toss ‘em in after a hard sweaty day.
Arctix also makes some of the best ski bibs as well, here is the link to see them on Amazon.The Arctix ski pants are perfect for someone on a budget and still wants a good pair of ski pants.
The Best Women’s Ski and Snowboard Pants
Columbia sportswear has been at the top of the list in my book on a price/performance basis. The Columbia Women’s Bugaboo Pant is definitely a shot in the right direction. They have a durable 100% nylon shell that will take a lot of abuse. I would have like to have seen reinforcement patches to prevent cuts from your ski or snowboard edges but that’s not a deal breaker.
They have Columbia’s well known “Omni-Tech” shell that is waterproof and breathable keeping you dry and comfortable on the slopes. The seams are all taped providing extra waterproofing where it is most needed.
They have zippered side pockets and back pockets with flaps for plenty of storage for your phone or some snacks. The waist has the industry standard double Velcro with added belt loops if you need them.
As is critical, Columbia put integrated gaiters into these pants so we’re guaranteed that snow and cold will not get in through the bottom of the pants. For someone who is budget minded but still wants a quality pair of ski pants, these are a good bet.
Burton was founded by Jake Burton in Burlington Vermont have been making snowboards and apparel since the 70’s. They are known for making quality outerwear and the Gloria Pants don’t disappoint. They designed primarily for snowboarders with a low rider fit.
The Gloria snowboard pants are bluesign approved with Burtons “DRYRIDE” shell that is waterproof and breathable rated at 10,000mm. They have a bit of stretch to them so they have some give when you want to carve some turns.
The liners are soft with a taffeta lining to wick away moisture and feels comfortable next to your skin if you are not using a base layer.
The thighs have ventilation zippers when you need to release some heat if you are working up a sweat or the weather turns warm. They are a 3 layer pair of pants, meaning they have a tricot membrane sandwiched between the liner and the shell. This helps with waterproofing and breathability.
One feature I really like the inner-boot reinforcement patches and anti-scuff cuffs to prevent scraping the bottoms when you are walking through the parking lot.
Being snowboard pants they have large zippered cargo style pockets for plenty of storage. There a variety of colors available, one is sure to suite your style. These are a great pair of snowboard pants at a mid-range price.
Helly Hansen is based in Oslo Norway and has been making outdoor apparel since the 1870’s. They are a relative newcomer in ski apparel but they have become known for making quality products and the Legendary Ski Pant is a solid option.
The shell is a 2ply Bluesign approved construction that stretches 2 ways giving you flexibility and comfort. They are fully seam sealed and have DWR (Durable Water Repellency) treatment for water resistance. They also feature articulated knees for added comfort when on the slopes all day or sitting in the lodge for an Après drink.
These are an insulated pair of ski pants, with 60g of Helly Hanson’s “Primaloft” insulation. This is on the high side, making these a warm pair of ski pants. For extra durability the bottom cuffs have been reinforced to prevent abrasion from walking through parking lots or other rough surfaces.
They have what I consider an absolute necessity, boot gaitors with a silicone layer to keep out the snow and cold. To top it off the pants also have inner thigh vents for releasing heat. These are feature rich pair of ski pants and with the Helly Hansen name on them you know they will last you along time.
Taking it up on the price and quality level are the Arc’teryx ski pants. These are what would be considered the “premium” category of ski pants. For the price we get a pair a ski pants bristling with features.
These are designed from the ground up for a woman’s shape so they provide a comfortable fit. And with articulated knees plus a flannel like liner they are a comfortable pair of ski or snowboard pants.
The have boot gaitors or what Arc’teryx calls “PowderCuffs” to keep out the snow and cold. Reinforced patches on the interior prevent cuts from your snowboard or skis. The hems at the bottom use “Cordura” to resist abrasion and tearing when walking over rough surfaces.
These are a lightly insulated pair of pants, so if the conditions are cold make sure to use a good base later to stay warm. All seams are taped for water resistance plus the zippers are water tight as well.
If the weather turns warm they also have ventilation zippers on the sides to release heat. The DWR finish (Durable Water Repellent) completes these pants to repel water and stains to keep tjem new looking for a long time.
Definitely on the higher end of the price spectrum, not only do they just look good they perform as well as you would expect for a pair of pants at this price point.
Now we are on the budget end of the price spectrum with the Arctix ski and snowboard pants. These are among the most inexpensive pants on the market but still manage to deliver on performance.
They have 85grams of ThermaTech insulation so they are definitely a warm pair of pants. Slightly bulkier because of it however. If you’re really tearing up you will probably overheat in these pants. Unfortunately at this price point they do not have zippers for ventilation. So keep that in mind before you buy them.
They are surprisingly breathable while providing water resistance. The critical seams are taped, so unless you are in very wet conditions you will still remain dry.
The shell is 100% nylon for durability and should give many ski seasons of use. Even at a bargain price they have boot gaitors and zippered pockets for secure storage of your phone or some snacks.
The Arctix ski pants are perfect for the skier or snowboarder on a budget and still wants a good pair of pants.
How To Choose Ski Pants
You’re ready to hit the slopes and shred like Bode so you grab those pow-sticks and head to the closet to find your gear. Unfortunately for you, the old ski pants just don’t look very 2017 so you decide to head to the outfitter for a pair of new ski pants.
Maybe it’s been a few years since you sized yourself up against the wide array of technical ski pants on the market but, if you haven’t been in to a ski shop in the winter months recently, you’re about to find out that ski pants come in every size, style, shape, and material under the sun.
This article is going to help you pare down the choices to the ski pants that really matter and will leave you shredding the gnar in no time.
Types of Ski Pants
We’re going to cover the main types of ski pants here and you’ll be appropriately educated to go shopping!
Uninsulated ski pants, sometimes called shells, are usually a waterproof / wind proof outer layer meant to be worn as a layering system.
Most often shell pants are made, primarily, from an outer layer of thick nylon. Nylon is durable and abrasion resistant so that your pants don’t immediately rip when you take your first digger.
You can further break down the uninsulated ski and snowboard pants into two sub categories; 2 layer pants and 3 layer pants.
In the 2 layer variety you just have a breathable liner and a water resistant shell, whereas the 3 layer pants have a water resistant and breathable “membrane” in between the shell and liner. This hybrid system gives you the best of both worlds. Of course they are more expensive than 2 layer pants.
I don’t think the extra layer is really necessary. A good 2 layer pair of pants are fine and much cheaper.
Pro tip: look for reinforced nylon patches on the inside of each pant leg where your boots and ski edges are likely to rub and abrade. This is a nice extra feature.
Uninsulated pants sometimes come with a very bare minimum layer of fleece or some other polyester based “insulation” for just a touch of warmth.
Keep an eye out for leg zips, inner leg zippers which can be opened and closed to manage heat levels during changes in activity to prevent overheating. These are great extra features.
Make sure you buy a size of pant which allows plenty of space for adding layers of insulation underneath when the mercury drops.
Most people who get into skiing and snowboarding automatically assume insulated pants are the way to go. This is not necessarily the case. They are the least versatile type of pants and unless you are only making a few runs down the mountain or only ski in very cold weather, thickly insulated ski pants are probably not the way to go.
I can’t remember my legs ever getting cold on the slopes. While I usually ski pretty hard, even when I am skiing with my girlfriend who is much slower I still have never had an issue with uninsulated pants with a base layer underneath, (see my recommended base layers here).
Insulated pants come in many thicknesses and intended warmth ratings. These pants can range from bare minimum insulation to polar-explorer style insulation.
The single biggest drawback of most insulated pants is their inherent difficulty in modifying warmth levels based on activity level. If you’re ripping it down the double blacks you’re going to want less insulation than when you’re sitting down for the afternoon beer on the patio.
As with the shell pants, you’ll want to look for insulated pants with ventilation options, it will be critical for temperature regulation.
When it comes to insulated pants you’ll want to be very thoughtful about your normal activity levels while skiing. If you’re a slower skier who only skies a couple runs per day then you’ll be okay with a heavier insulation.
I have a good pair of The North Face Freedom Ski Pants that are lightly insulated and on especially cold days on the ski lift I am glad I have them!
If you’re going out to farm run after run down the bumps, you’re going to overheat quickly with insulated pants.
If you go with the insulated variety, go for a light insulation, like 40-60 grams, this way on the really cold days, just wear a good base layer and you will be fine.
Like jackets, there is a “softshell” type of pants offered as well. The main difference being soft shell ski pants don’t have the durable, nylon outer shell and use a lighter, more flexible material. These pants are primarily designed for warmer weather where you don’t need protection from the cold wind.
They are much more comfortable and breathable than the “hard shell” variety. If you are a beginner skier, these are probably not for you. They do not offer much in the way of water resistance and if you are falling, you are quickly going to get wet and miserable. For the spring skier in the warmer weather, these are a solid option.
Bibs take the pants game to the next level. Over the shoulder straps hold these chest-high pants in place while you ski.
These type of ski pants are an excellent option for the deep powder skier/snowboarder and the back country or heli-skier who needs the ultimate protection from snow getting down your pants.
Bibs are usually more expensive than pants but they have two solid benefits:
- They stay in place more securely
- There is no waistline where snow can sneak in
It’s important with bibs that you get the correct size. For guys, if they straps don’t allow the bibs to sit low enough they will ride up your crotch making for a uncomfortable day on the slopes. I tried a friend’s pair of bibs and was constantly trying to pull them down all day, very annoying.
The best ski bibs offer a hybrid design that allow you to zip off the “bib” part and left with a pair of pants only. I like this design as it offers the best of both worlds.
Ski bibs are the best option for deep powder skiers or skiers who feel that ski pants won’t stay in place for them.
Criteria for Evaluation of Ski and Snowboard Pants
Fit and Comfort
It’s critical that your skiing pant choice fits well and remains comfortable throughout the day in all conditions. We’ll make note of any fitment considerations in our reviews. See the descriptions of different skiing pant types above for more details on fitment.
Pants which include stretchy panels in the crotch, knees, and butt are often quite flexible and may be a great solution if you’re ripping carves so hard you need to get all the way down on the snow.
If you’re going to error on the fitting side, better a little bigger so that they don’t reduce your flexibility.
Usually skiing pants must only resist the cold. Frozen snow rarely presents difficulty in staying dry (unless it gets inside your clothing).
However, during spring skiing you’ll sometimes find yourself skiing in unexpected weather. Rain is possible and getting wet in 40-degree weather is a recipe for hypothermia.
Be sure to consider the possibility of soft, wet, spring snow or a rare cloud burst at the end of the season.
For the experienced piste skier, waterproof pants are most likely not truly necessary 95% of the time.
We’ve talked about warmth in the pant descriptions section but let’s consider a little more:
During spring skiing temperatures in the sun can easily rise into the high 40’s or 50’s on occasion. During these times you’re going to want very thin layers with great warmth management such as vents and layering options.
Mid-season when temps plummet into the negative 20’s or deeper, you’ll need to add layers or pull out your most highly insulated pants.
For these reasons, I prefer to use a shell system with many layering options under it which can meet the warmth demands of the whole range of seasonal conditions.
Not only do ski pants need to keep the heat in so you stay warm, the best ski pants also let moisture out (perspiration). The last thing you want is to be skiing hard and then start sweating and your pants get wet from perspiration.
This is incredibly important to remain comfortable on the slopes. Long inside zippers on the legs are, by far, the best solution for great ventilation.
Sometimes you’ll find outer leg zippers for ventilation but these can more easily lead to snow finding its way into your pants on accident. Brrrrr!!!
Style and Color
Looking good is 90% of becoming the best skier on the mountain. Everyone knows that. Be careful buying white pants, they look great but one fall can get them permanently stained, drink coffee or hot chocolate, better watch the spills!
Be careful not to come off as a beater, though, or you’ll end up on the Jerry of the Day list. You don’t want to be on that list.
There are a few features that I would consider a necessity. One of them are reinforced panels for durability. Gaiters are pretty much included in any decent pair of pants, they are an extra cuff with elastic so they fit tightly around your ski boots to keep the snow out. Some other features are cargo pockets for storing some snacks or your phone. I have even seen pants with a goggle wipe included.
All said and done the following features are critical in a ski pant:
- Integrated snow gaiters
- Adjustable waist
- Vent zippers
- Reinforced nylon cuffs
Of all the pants we’ve reviewed in this article, I feel The North Face Freedom Ski Pants are the best purchase for your money. With all the critical features and a price that seems reasonable, you’re sure to be happy.
Don’t forget to carefully consider the type of skiing you do before making a choice of ski pants.
Stay safe out there and rip it up!
If your looking for a good pair of goggles, please see my favorite pairs here. I review the best ski and snowboard helmets here and my reviews of Men’s ski gloves here and Women’s gloves here. Don’t underestimate the importance of your base layer, be sure to check out my review of base layers and socks.