Ladies, you have a unique set of clothing choices available to you when you hit the slopes. For better or worse, women’s clothing on the mountain tends to have some dedicated features.
Five years into my career as a ski instructor in the mountains of Utah, I know what gear belongs on the mountain and what doesn’t.
My first winter wasn’t that way.
I think I must have bought four different pairs of pants trying to find the right ones for using on the mountain. Choosing the best Women’s ski pants is critical for enjoying the slopes.
Now I’m going to help you avoid the same mistakes and find the right ski pants for you!
Quick Answer: The 5 Top Rated Ski Pants For Women
- Columbia Women’s Bugaboo Pant
- Burton Women’s Gloria Pants
- Helly Hansen Women’s Legendary Ski Pant
- Arc’teryx Women’s Sentinel Ski Pant
- Arctix Women’s Insulated Ski Pant
Best Ski Pants For Women
Women’s Ski Pants Reviews
- Shell: Nylon twill
- Insulation: Polyester
- Seams: Fully taped seams
- Other: Zip-closed pockets
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 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.
- Shell: Dobby nylon shell
- Insulation: 85 Grams ThermaTech
- Seams: Fully taped seams
- Other: Zippered cargo pockets, Anti-Scuff Cuffs
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.
The Gloria ski 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.
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 probably the best Womens ski pants.
- Shell: Polyester with DWR finish
- Insulation: PrimaLoft 60g
- Seams: Fully taped seams
- Other: Dual hand pockets and back pocket
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.
- Shell: Nylon with Gore-Tex
- Insulation: Lightly insulated liner
- Seams: Fully taped seams
- Other: 100D Cordura powder cuffs
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 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 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.
- Shell: Dobby nylon shell
- Insulation: 85 Grams ThermaTech
- Seams: Critical seam taped
- Other: Zippered hand warming pockets
Now we are on the budget end of the price spectrum with the Arctix ski 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 on a budget and still wants a good pair of pants.
Women’s Ski Pants Comparison Table
|Women's Ski Pants||Shell||Insulation||Seams||Other||Rating|
|Columbia Women's Bugaboo Pant||Nylon twill||OMNI-TECH||Fully taped seams||Zip-closed pockets, reinforced leg hem||4.4 / 5.0|
|Burton Women's Gloria Pants||Dobby nylon shell||85 Grams ThermaTech||Fully taped seams||Cargo pockets, Anti-Scuff Cuffs||4.2 / 5.0|
|Helly Hansen Legendary||Polyester with DWR finish||PrimaLoft 60g||Fully taped seams||Dual hand pockets and back pocket||4.1 / 5.0|
|Arc’teryx Women's Sentinel||Nylon with Gore-Tex||Lightly insulated liner||Fully taped seams||100D Cordura powder cuffs||4.5 / 5.0|
|Arctix Women's Insulated||Dobby nylon shell||85 Grams ThermaTech||Critical seam taped||Zippered hand warming pockets||3.8 / 5.0|
How to Choose the Best Women’s Ski Pants – Buyers Guide
- Ski Pants Fit
- Types of Women’s Ski Pants
- Venting and Zippers
- Belts and Snaps
- FAQs For Women’s Ski Pants
Ski Pants Fit
By some unspoken agreement, ski outerwear designers have been constricting ladies’ pants like a slow paced boa constrictor. It’s common now to see women on the slopes with near yoga pants tight ski outerwear.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s something I think ladies should consider before making a buying decision.
Because these tight ski pants, in many cases, are so tight that they restrict movement and insulation. With such tight fabric it’s hard for your legging and base layers to keep you warm on those nasty days!
Plus, there’s nothing more annoying than getting bound up by your clothing when you’re trying to absorb and rip those bumps.
Types of Women’s Ski Pants
We’re going to cover the types of ski pants here so you can make a good decision on what type of ski pants are right for you!
Uninsulated ski pants, aka shells, are usually a waterproof / windproof outer layer that is meant to be worn as part of a layering system.
Most often shells 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 or brush against some branches.
You can further break down the uninsulated ski pants into two sub categories; 2-layer pants and 3-layer pants.
In the 2 layer variety you have just a breathable liner with a water resistant shell, whereas 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.
Naturally they are more expensive than 2 layer pants.
I am of the opinion the extra layer isn’t 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. This will prevent your skis from cutting your pants, definitely a nice feature!
Some uninsulated ski pants 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 temperature to prevent overheating. This is a “must” have in my book!
Make sure you buy a size of pant which allows plenty of space for adding layers of insulation underneath when the mercury drops.
Insulated Ski Pants
Most women who get into skiing assume insulated ski pants are the way to go. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. 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 may not be 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 down 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 should be fine.
Like jackets, there is a “softshell” type of pants offered as well. The main difference is that 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 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 and the back country or heli-skier who needs the ultimate protection from snow getting down your pants.
Bibs can be expensive than ski 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. 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.
Good 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.
Hmmm… to pocket or not to pocket? That’s the question this time around.
When skiing I hate having stuff in my front pockets. It gets in the way when I’m moving through the steeps and bumps. There are a few exceptions, however.
With larger or deeper front pockets I don’t mind keeping a few items in there. Come chapstick and maybe my wallet (if it’s not too bulky) can be okay. But over a 6 hour day of ripping the mountain, stuff in your pockets can pinch, rub, and annoy you to no end!
That’s why I prefer cargo pockets. They’re handy in case you need a place to stash a trail map, an extra layer, or some gloves. You can never have too much backup storage on the mountain!
Rear pockets are also nice but good luck finding them on ladies’ pants. The back of women’s pants seems to be precious real estate reserved by designers exclusively for visual appeal these days.
With already tight fitting pants, be careful about the location and contents of pockets. It sucks to have your phone or keys binding against your legs while you’re trying to move freely on the mountain!
Built in gaiters are almost guaranteed these days when you purchase ski pants. If you’re not aware, gaiters are the parts that come down over your ski boot and keep snow out of your legs and boots!
If you suspect that the pants you’re investigating don’t have gaiters, just leave them. They’re not worth buying.
Good gaiters should have a snap or velcro to open up. You then roll up the gaiters, put on your ski boot, and then roll the gaiter down over the top and snap it closed.
Waterproof ski pants are usually a must-have. I would argue, however, that isn’t necessarily the case all the time.
For confident intermediate or expert skiers who don’t spend much or any time falling in the snow, there’s usually no reason to worry. However, early and late season conditions with freezing rain (or rain) and sloppy snow may call for waterproof pants.
Most skiers want, and feel more confident, with waterproof pants though. That’s fine! I usually ski with waterproof pants myself. But what kind of waterproof fabric makes the most sense?
Waterproof breathable garments are often touted as the best options on the market. They’re expensive but allow some water vapor to escape as you ski to help reduce sweat buildup. Many skiers prefer this style of waterproofing.
However, there’s a much more affordable alternative that I think you’ll love. I prefer the much cheaper non-breathable waterproof pants. But how do you avoid getting sweaty and gross? There’s a secret I’m about to tell you!
Venting and Zippers
The best ski pants, in my world, are those with inner leg vents. These zippers open up mesh covered openings on the inner legs of your pants. Once open, the cool winter air does a great job of regulating temperatures and moisture in the pants.
Worried about modesty? Not a problem. Most skiers wear leggings under their pants, so even if someone sneaks a peak, they’ll just see your leggings. If it’s too warm for leggings, there’s not much to worry about.
Use the vents half-zipped and remember they’re between your legs anyways so it’s very unlikely to be visually noticeable anyways.
Ski edges are sharp or at least they should be (you have had your skis tuned this season, haven’t you???). Plus the hard plastic and metal of boots and buckles can do some serious damage to the lower pants.
So how do you protect your often expensive ski pants investment?
It’s simple – look for ski pants with reinforced boot patches. These sturdy, durable, patches of fabric are located on the inside of each pant leg. They resist abrasion and cuts from ski edges very well.
I’ve put well over 100 days a season on my ski pants over the last 5 years and these durable patches are only just beginning to wear out. Most people don’t ski nearly that much, so you shouldn’t need to worry about durability as long as you choose ski pants with good cuff and boot reinforcement!
Belts and Snaps
Fastening your ski pants at the beginning of the day is easy! After a heavy lunch as you launch into the steep bumps of the chutes it might be a different story, though.
When I look for ski pants, I’m always on the hunt for double snaps and an integrated belt. Of course, you may not always find both features.
Many ski pants have adjustable elastic waistbands that allows for movement on the fly. Based on how many layers you’re wearing and how you’re feeling that day you can open or close some of the waist of the pants.
FAQ For Women’s Ski Pants
Q: What’s the difference between loose fit and slim fit ski pants?
A: There’s a huge tendency right now in women’s ski pants to make them fit like leggings. Sure, it looks good and fashionable, but is it practical?
Well, I have to say that I’ve never worn skin tight women’s ski pants so I’m speaking from a perspective of a professional ski instructor and not a woman’s perspective. That said, however, here’s all I can help you with…
Generally insulation in outdoor clothing is achieved by trapping dead air between layers of clothing. When your outer layer (ski pants) are tight against the skin, there is very little room for warm air to be trapped.
Usually the best way to stay warm is to use a skin tight under layer of leggings which add warmth and wick away some moisture. Over that a looser pair of pants keeps water and wind from sapping away that warm pocket of air around your legs.
When we wear a tight outer layer it defeats this combination purpose and leaves us with a lot less insulation.
That said, as long as those tight(er) ski pants are wind and waterproof they’re going to help a lot over nothing at all. Plus, many of them have some insulation built in.
In the end, however, they’re never going to be “technically” as warm as some other options might be.
Q: What should I be wearing underneath my ski pants?
A: I usually suggest that people wear either lightweight or midweight leggings under their ski pants. If you’re skiing hard, go with lightweight, if you’re not working as hard, go with a midweight legging.
Skin contact with most ski pants is just uncomfortable so leggings provide moisture management (sweat) as well as warmth and comfort. Then you can adjust and control your temperature by using leg vents on your ski pants (which I highly recommend).
Q: Do I need pockets on my ski pants?
A: Ladies know as well as anyone that women’s clothing tends to lack pockets. In the case of ski pants the lack of pockets is probably for the best.
When I get out skiing I try not to store anything at all in my pants. Even if they have pockets I usually store my gear in my coat and not my pants.
Why avoid storing gear in your ski pants?
Because when you’re skiing hard and really cranking down into you skis (advanced and expert skiers usually) your legs can be maxed out. You don’t want keys or phones binding in your pockets as you drop the hip and crank those ski edges up to rip a line.
Beginner skiers probably need not worry so much about these details and can more easily get away with storing stuff in pants pockets.
Q: What’s the story with bell-bottom ski pants?
A: Women’s fashion is a topic I most certainly won’t pretend to understand. The simple fact is that bell bottom ski pants seem to be making a small comeback. But should you be wearing them?
Kind of like the whole “pockets on ski pants” topic, I can only approach this from a relatively sterile standpoint.
Fine motor control of the edging and rotary movements involved in good skiing demands perfect dexterity of each ski boot. At high speeds, when you’re really ripping lines down the mountain, those sharp ski edges and boot buckles can and will get thrashed around.
The last thing you want is to hit a bump and have your binding, buckles, or ski edges get momentarily caught up in the fabric of a bell bottom pant leg. This is going to result in a high speed wipe-out instantly.
Not to mention skiing off trail means skiing through brush, sticks, and sometimes little saplings (usually on accident). It just happens. Who wants to get their pant leg caught on a branch? Not me!
Fashion aside, bell bottom pants for skiing are probably not the best technical choice.
Q: Do I go with waterproof and/or breathable pants?
A: Always go with waterproof ski pants. That’s just my two cents.
Breathable pants aren’t really necessary and they cost a ton. I just recommend people avoid them.
Instead, look for ski pants with zippered leg vents. These allow a lot better control of temperature and moisture inside your pants as you ski through various conditions.
A good pair of waterproof (non-breathable) ski pants with leg vents will cost you half or less than breathable pants and they’ll get you a lifetime of use. No need to overthink it.
Video Overview of the Women’s Ski Pants
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best women’s ski pants to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a pair of pants I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
New to skiing? See my beginners guide to skiing for tips and advice.
Have fun and be safe out there!