When it comes to skiing you can find yourself carving on a warm spring day with temps rising in the 40’s, or you might be all bundled up as the wind chills reach near -30. To battle the wide range of temperatures you’ll need the right pair of ski pants to bring along on the trip.

Shell Pants

Ski pants
The North Face Mens Freedom Ski Pant

Shell pants are pretty straightforward. They simply are not insulated. There are many benefits to shell ski pants, the main one being their versatility. They allow you to layer underneath to meet the demands of changing temperatures. For warm weather skiing a moisture-wicking base layer may be all you need, whereas when you’re skiing in colder temperatures, you can add warmer layers and still have the freedom of mobility.

Since shell pants lack insulation you’ll find that you do have more maneuverability. Insulation can get bulky and, while you can still move with it, if you’re a park rider or you love the bumps and the trees, then you’ll enjoy the freedom that a shell ski pant offers. Other benefits of a shell ski pant will be that they are generally windproof, waterproof and highly breathable, but most insulated ski pants are also.

If you tend to be on the cold side then you’ll want to stick with an insulated ski pant. Let’s check out the various types of insulated pants.

Insulated Pants

Ski Pants
Obermeyer Womens Warrior Insulated Ski Pant

If you’re looking for warmth and protection then insulated ski pants are the way to go. There are various forms of insulation that are available, but in regards to pants (as opposed to jackets) you’ll most likely come across synthetic insulation, however fleece and down insulations are also out there.

The math is easy on insulation; the higher the number, the greater the insulation. But let’s breakdown what each category of warmth translates to:

  • Slightly Warm: Slightly warm insulated pants provide a little warmth but aren’t ideal on for cold, windy days. In those instances, definitely wear some layers. They’ll also provide the greatest amount of maneuverability.
  • Warm: Warm insulated pants are for the normal cold, probably those upper-20’s into the 30’s when you might find some wind that will give you a little wind chill factor.
  • Warmer: As you move up to an insulated ski pant that’s considered warmer, you’ll find that the insulation is thicker and may even include down insulation which is generally bulky but very warm. On top of that, there are technological properties included that may help retain heat. If it’s consistently cold then you’ll want a warmer insulated ski pant.
  • Warmest: This combination of insulation and heating properties will help keep the heat trapped in so you can try to stay warm in the most frigid temps. If you scoff at the reading on the thermometer and snicker at the skiers too afraid to handle the cold, you’ll want the warmest insulated ski pant you can find when you head out to the mountain and laugh in the face of old man winter.

There you have it. The pros and cons of both insulated and shell ski pants. What it really comes down to is you and your comfort level out on the slopes. If you’re a more active skier or snowboarder you may prefer shell pants because you can choose what layers you wear underneath, this allows you to stay bulk-free.

If you’re a more leisurely skier, who runs cold, insulation is going to be key for you in frigid weather conditions. Insulated pants (like we stated before) come in different weights, the lower the number the less insulation. The higher the number the warmer the pant.