Buying Guide for Women's Ski Pants
By Steve Kopitz
Womens ski pants are necessary to keep you warm and comfortable on the slopes but you don't need to sacrifice fashion for function when it comes to choosing the right womens ski pants. Womens ski pants come in a variety of styles that will keep you warm, dry, and of course stylish. With a ski pants selection that is so vast, it can become quite confusing as to which womens ski pant will work best for your skier type and style preference. The purpose of this guide to explain many of the common features you can expect to find while shopping for womens ski pants including waterproof and breathability ratings, size adjustments and pocket types.
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|Waterproof Rating||Breathability Rating||Fabric Durability||Cut|
There are several types of womens ski pants, with the most common being an insulated pant. Other types include shell pants, stretch pants and bib pants. The most common question that people have is, “Which one should I buy?” A simple answer to this question would be that there is no right answer. This is because each person has different body temperature regulation. Some people will get hot very quickly, thus having an insulated pant may cause great discomfort once heat builds up. Others, however, are routinely cold and having an insulated pant would be ideal. Additionally, some skiers prefer the added protection from the snow with a bib pant. The purpose of this particular type of ski pant is to keep out snow and moisture; and some women may prefer the less bulky feel of a stretch pant.
The first step in selecting womens ski pants that are best for you is determining if you are a warm or cold person by nature and what type of protection from the snow you prefer. Once these characteristics are determined, you can then move forward in the process of selecting your womens ski pants.
If you do not plan to dress in layers with long underwear and an insulated mid-layer, you will definitely need a garment with some insulation for skiing; especially in cold conditions. The construction of insulated womens ski pants includes an outer layer which is waterproof and windproof, along with an insulated layer built directly into the pant. An insulated ski pant provides you with the necessary layers you need for cold skiing conditions. The insulating inner layer is likely to be made of fleece, down, or a synthetic fabric such as Primaloft. You may also find some insulated pants that have a separate insulator piece that can be removed to help regulate the internal temperature.
The insulation found in insulated pants is most commonly measured in grams. The greater the number weight in grams, the warmer the pants will be. Insulation types can range as low as 30 grams and go as high as 800 grams, which is most commonly found with Down material. For skiers who are colder by nature, an insulated pant is the most suitable option.
Womens shell ski pants are windproof and waterproof but contain no internal insulation and are highly breathable. Other than just being a warmer woman by nature, one may choose this type of pant because she prefers to have added mobility that is not available with an insulated pant. As shell pants are usually worn over a base layer and a mid layer for colder days, shell pants do not have the added bulkiness that an insulated pant has.
Shell pants can be worn on their own on warmer days or layered with base and mid layers for colder days. However, for extremely cold temperatures and extended periods of time outdoors, a shell pant is probably not the best option, but the final decision is ultimately up to you. For more information on base and mid layers, please review our video on the importance of layering.
The most flattering, feminine and fashionable ski pant choice is womens stretch ski pants. The design is a cling-to-body type pant that is made of an insulated, waterproof and breathable material. Its construction allows for four-way stretch so it can conform to the body type of its wearer. Although this type of ski pant tends to be closer to skin tight, these pants still allow for a wide range of mobility as the materials used have elasticity allowing the pants to move with your body. The idea is that the less room that exists between the body and the pant, the less space their is to heat. Additionally the design creates less weight and bulk to deal with.
Bib pants are insulated ski pants that offer an added piece of fabric that extends up from the waist to cover the back and chest areas. Womens ski pants with a bib can vary from a high-waisted pair of pants with suspenders to the overall-style. If you can imagine a pair of overalls, then you understand the design of a pair of bib ski pants. The two greatest benefits to this type of pant is that one, it provides extra warmth to your core areas and two, it provides additional coverage above the waist to protect from snow going up your jacket or down your pants. These pants can be a little trickier to get into but is best for the coldest days of winter.
One of the most important factors in choosing a ski pant is the waterproof rating. This rating will tell how quickly your womens ski pants will become saturated by snow and moisture which allows water to penetrate to the layers below. For a fabric to be classified as waterproof it needs to withstand water pressure applied from a 1m high column and not leak. Waterproof ratings are measured and indicated in millimeters and are determined by placing a tube filled on the fabric and filling it with water. *WHAT?* The level at which the water begins to penetrate through the fabric is the waterproof rating. The higher the number, the more waterproof the pants are and the longer they will withstand snow and rain.
For pants to be deemed legally waterproof, it must achieve a minimum 1,500mm rating. Pants can be rated as high as 20,000mm, but the average rating is typically between 5,000 and 10,000mm. Keep in mind that as the rating goes higher, so too will the price.
There are many different types of waterproof fabrics that are used on the market today. Gore-Tex, Hyvent and Event are among the more well-known materials used to create womens ski pants. What makes materials such as these so effective is that they contain pores; which are larger than a molecule of sweat, but smaller than a molecule of water. This means that not only is the material waterproof, but also very breathable.
Just like the waterproof rating measures how effective pants are at keeping water outside, the breathablity rating of a pant measures how effective the pant is at transferring moisture from inside to the outside. Even while resting, a skier loses more than half a liter in fluids through their skin everyday. The same fabric pores that help prevent water from penetrating inside a jacket, allow sweat molecules to escape and ultimately keep your warmer.
To release moisture, womens ski pants needs to be able to ventilate or breathe, not through holes, but through the fabric itself. This is not very difficult as cotton and nylon are already breathable fabrics and used to create a vast amount of womens ski pants. The difficulty arises in making the fabric waterproof aside from being breathable. This seems very exotic but there are many different layers which can achieve this based on a simple physics principle. Beneath the pants, the temperature and humidity are higher than in the outside. This creates a pressure whereby pushing the moisture outside.
A breathability rating is measured and indicated in grams (g). The measurement is determined by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). The MVTR determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape a jacket in a 24 hour period. The higher the number, the more moisture escapes and the more breathable a pair of womens ski pants becomes. Entry level breathable fabrics will have MVTR ratings in the range of 2,000-3000g. Fabrics at the high end of the breathability scale will have an MVTR around 25,000g.
Contrary to popular belief, womens ski pants are different than most everyday winter pants. As a result of their construction and material make-up. A ski pant can suffice as your everyday outdoor pants, but if you haven’t purchased a pair of pants specifically for skiing, you’re best not to wear the everyday winter pants that you bought at the department store on the slopes. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is that womens ski pants are going to be far more durable and able to withstand the added abuse from skiing.
Womens Ski pants are made of tightly woven nylon or polyester. These are materials that are designed for high performance use against the elements of winter. Extended exposure to high winds and the wet elements of winter are what make the construction of womens ski pants a better fit for snow riding than your everyday winter pants. This is also why you’ll find that womens ski pants will cost more than snow pants you’d buy from the department store.
Womens ski pants come in different cuts just like a regular pair of pants. Higher cut pants decrease the likely hood of snow and cold entering your pants. However, they tend to have slightly less mobility. Lower cuts, such as a lowrider pant, make the ski pant more susceptible to snow and cold entering so it is crucial that this type of pant fits you correctly and comfortably. The waist cut of the pant, however, really comes down to personal choice and what’s most comfortable for the skier.
Full taped seems means the stitched seams have been taped for waterproofing. This is done with a waterproof tape that is glued on the interior and exterior of the seam. Fully taped seams are the best option if you want to resist the possibility of moisture seeping though your womens ski pants. They will, however, cost more than pants with critically taped seams. As an additional note, higher-end garments will offer Welded Seams, which are even more effective at protecting against moisture penetration at the seams.
A less expensive option than welded or fully taped seams are critically taped seams. Critically taped seams means that only some of the seams are taped and protect against moisture penetration. This is not necessarily a bad thing, so don’t be scared off by the fact that not all seams are covered. These types of seams are ideal for skiers planning on spending most of their time inbounds on groomers and cruisers. As long as you don’t spend long periods of time in wet weather, or are at a more advanced level where you tend to not fall a lot, critically taped seams will offer the protection you need.
When shopping for womens ski pants it is important to know that beyond how waterproof and breathable a pair of pants are, there are a number of features that you can expect to find available to you. In the following sections, we will cover many of these features so you will know what to expect when shopping from one model to the next.
The leg opening of some pants are designed to tuck into ski boots while others are designed to go over boots. Most commonly pants go over ski boots as this creates a less likely chance of getting snow into your boots. Pants that fit over boots frequently have a rubberized snow cuff that snaps shut at the ankle to prevent snow getting into your boots. Pants that tuck into boots tend to be stretch pants, but tend to let more snow into your boot. With this type of leg opening, boot gaiters are highly recommended.
Boot Gaiters are a simple, but very effective feature of womens ski pants. A Boot Gaiter is an elastic fabric that is positioned at the bottom of womens ski pants. This fabric fits snugly over your boots to prevent snow from going up your leg. It also helps to retain heat that can escape through the bottom of your pants.
To help with flexibility and also to reduce bulkiness at the knee, many pants will offer the feature of an Articulated Knee. Articulated knees have a seam sewn in the pant that has a natural bend form. This feature is not a must have, but certainly a nice option for improving flexibility.
A Scuff Guard is extra durable fabric that is positioned inside of the ankle of a ski pant. Its purpose is to keep the pants from fraying in an area that is highly prone to friction. This feature is considered by many as a must have because it helps to protect the investment made in womens ski pants.
For those women who love to spend a lot of time on their on the slopes or tend to ride hard, make sure that the pair of womens ski pants you buy has reinforced knees, lower legs, and seat areas. These are the parts of a pair of womens ski pants that are prone to damage due to constant use.
To help with comfort and fit, many womens ski pants will offer some adjustability features such as a waist adjustment. This adjustment feature is usually present as a Velcro strap, cinch cords or snaps. While not a must-have feature, it certainly is a luxury to be able to adjust your pants at the waist, particularly if you need to wear more or remove base or mid layers throughout the day. If these adjustments are not available, many pants provide belt loops so you can wear a belt and adjust the waist yourself.
Another adjustment feature that is available on select styles of womens ski pants are pants with suspenders. Pants with suspenders will work in a similar fashion to regular dress pants with suspenders. The difference is that most pants with suspenders will have the suspenders sewn into the pants. Some suspenders are optional and will zip or button out. If you find that your womens ski pants are routinely falling down, you’re best to select this type of pant. Pants with suspenders will keep your pants from falling down, especially during activities with increased movement. The most convenient type of suspenders are those made from elastic material. This will allow for adjustment and also keep the straps from slipping while skiing.
Located near the bottom of the leg, side zips are a convenience feature that helps position your womens ski pants over your boots after you’ve put your boots on. Zippers can be left unzipped on warmer days. They also serve as a ventilation feature as they can be unzipped after heat enters your pants and you need to get a bit of cool air flowing through your pants.
Thigh Zip Venting
Thigh Zip Venting is an important temperature regulating features that are present on many womens ski pants. Thigh Zip Vents are zippers located on the inner thigh that can be adjusted on the fly to help retain or release heat that builds up inside a pair of pants. If you are cold, or the temperature starts to drop, you can close them up to help keep heat close to the body. On warmer days these can be opened up fully to allow heat to escape while you remain fully protected from the elements everywhere else. While not considered a must-have, thigh zip vents are certainly suggested if you want the luxury of regulating your core temperature easily.
Located inside of the pant, womens ski pants with the Leg Lifts feature have a cord with a snap located at the bottom of the pants. This allows you to fold the pants up and snap them higher when you are done skiing, walking in your street shoes or after ski boots. This is a great feature for many skiers because it helps prevent damage to the cuff of the pant when it is hitting the ground. It will also keep your womens ski pants cleaner by not having to drag them through mud.
While not offered by all brands, this feature allows you to snap or zip the powder skirt of your ski jacket to your womens ski pants. This help to further protect you from wind and any snow that may creep up your back.
Offered on select pants is a Pass Pocket. This pocket is provided so you can stow your lift ticket pass while you are skiing and have it readily available if it just so happens that you have to take it out at any given time. While not a must-have, it is nice to have a place to store your pass so it isn’t constantly flapping in the wind.
Just in case your ski jacket does not have enough pockets for all of your essential items, some models of womens ski pants will offer a cargo pocket to put any remaining items. This pocket is a great feature if you are a parent who wants to have a few on-the-go snacks available for children. Cargo pockets also offer a stylish and trendy look. Look for pockets with zippers covered by flaps to keep the snow out in case of a spill. View all womens pants.