Finding the perfect pair of ski pants is easy when you educate yourself and understand exactly the different types of pants available to accommodate your style and skiing. This guide will help you find exactly what you need to keep you warm, dry and comfortable on the slopes.
Types of Ski Pants
The first thing that you need to consider when purchasing your ski pants is whether you run hot or cold while skiing. Some people run hot and can overheat no matter how cold it is while others get cold no matter what. The next thing that you want to consider is the weather conditions you usually ski in. Do you ski at resorts that are in a cold and dry climate? Or ones in warm and wet climates? There are even ski resorts that can have a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions all in the same weekend.
- 3-In-1 Ski Pants have a pretty unique feature that allow you to have a ski pant and mid- or base-layer pant all in one. 3-In-1 pants have a waterproof and weatherproof shell that is on the outside with a wicking or insulating layer that can be snapped or zipped into the inside of the pants. They give you the option to wear just the outside when it is warm out, use them together on the coldest days, or you can wear the mid- or base-layer just by itself lounging around the condo after a day of shredding up the mountain.
- Insulated Ski Pants are the most popular and common type of ski or snowboard pants. They give you a blend of warmth and protection from the elements. The insulation layer is usually a synthetic. The Insulation weight is measured in grams and the higher the number, the warmer and more insulated the pants will be.
- Shell Ski Pants give the most protection from the elements. They are windproof, waterproof and highly breathable, but have no insulation. They are the lightest weight pants and provide you with the maximum amount of mobility. Since they do not have any insulation, a heavier or thicker base layer pant is strongly recommended.
- Softshell Ski Pants are made from a softer, stretchier fabric. They are typically the most breathable pants that work for warmer climates or for skiers who run warm while skiing.
- Stretch Ski Pants are becoming very popular again with women. They are very form fitting without very much insulation however they often have a lining that provides some warmth and some waterproofing.
Ski Pant Fit
Fit is all about the shape of the pants: slim, regular or relaxed. The fit you prefer will depend on the style and look you prefer.
- Slim Fit: Form fitting, tailored at waist, hips and thigh. These pieces are often good for layering as they offer a more active fit that sits close to the body.
- Regular Fit: Standard fitting, tailored at the waist. These pieces often offer a flattering fit without being too tight or constricting, and fit true to size.
- Relaxed Fit: A larger fit, little to no tailoring with more room in the waist and hips. Theses pieces offer more room for comfort and layering.
Ski Pant Warmth Factor
Choosing a ski or snowboard pant that will keep you warm is important. Some people tend to stay warm on their own so they may prefer a pair of pants that are not as warm or provides no insulation. Other people tend to be very cold while riding and should look for as much warmth as possible.
- No Insulation: Pants with No Insulation are considered shells and are ideal to combat precipitation while providing you with minimal warmth. Shell Pants offer the highest amount of mobility while sacrificing warmth. If you wear a shell when out on the slopes, please consider wearing a thicker base layer and/or mid-layer.
- Lightly Insulated: Slightly Warm pants will be lined or lightly insulated to help keep a little heat inside. While these are great options on the warmer days, layers are suggested in cold temperatures or windy days.
- Insulated: Insulated pants are ideal for the normal cold. If you can handle a normal winter day then a Warm pair of pants should suffice when you’re on the mountain. A wicking base-layer is encouraged to help with moisture management to keep you warm and extra layers are encouraged if you tend to get cold easily, or you're skiing in extremely cold temperatures.
- Down or Synthetic Insulation: Warmer pants tend to have down or synthetic insulation. There may be a little technology in these pants to help trap the heat inside so you can remain warm in consistently cold temperatures. Base-Layers are encouraged for moisture management but mid-layers, depending on the temperature, may be too stifling.
- Insulation and Heat: The Warmest pants have insulation and heat properties. The heat properties will keep the heat trapped inside providing a solid layer of warmth against the extreme cold. Base-layers are always recommended for wicking and moisture management. The Warmest pants will be ideal for the rider who heads to the mountain regardless of the frigid temperatures and conditions.
Ski Pant Waterproof Rating
Waterproof Rating of a pant is how quickly a pant will become saturated to the point that is allows water to permeate the pant or their ability to keep you dry in wet conditions. The higher the rating, the longer the pants will keep you dry when wet. Waterproof ratings are measured in millimeters (mm). This level is determined by placing the pant in a cylinder filled with water. The level at which the water begins to penetrate through the fabric is the waterproof rating.
The higher the number, the more waterproof the pant will be.
There are many different types of waterproof fabrics that are used in ski and snowboard pants. Among the more well-known materials that are used are Gore-Tex, Hyvent, and Event. What makes these materials so effective is that there are pores that are larger than a molecule of sweat but smaller than a molecule of water meaning that they are not only waterproof but very breathable.
- Very High Waterproofing (>20,001mm): Very High Waterproofing means that the pants are the best way to stay warm and dry. By combining the best waterproof fabrics and best water repellant DWR coating, these pants will stay dry all day in sustained snowfall and moderate rain.
- High Waterproofing (15,001mm-20,000mm): Pants with High Waterproofing are a great choice for avid riders that need a pair of pants to withstand any conditions they may encounter. These pants will keep you dry in heavy, wet snow and rain.
- Moderate Waterproofing (10,001mm-15,000mm): Pants with Moderate Waterproofing are the most common and use a combination of water repellant DWR coating and a waterproof fabric. These pants will keep you warm and dry in light to moderate snow all day long and in light rain.
- Mild Waterproofing (5,001mm-10,000mm): Pants with Mild Waterproofing can use a waterproof fabric or a more advanced water repellant coating called DWR. These will keep you dry in average snowfall and light rain.
- Water Resistant (<5,000mm): Water Resistant pants are treated with a water repellant coating called DWR. These will keep you dry in light snow but will start to absorb water quickly in the rain.
- Not Specified: Not Specified pants mean that the manufacture’s catalog claims the product is Water Resistant or Waterproof but does not provide and exact measurement.
- Not Treated: Not Treated means just that. These pants are not treated with any additional waterproofing and are typically just for casual wear.
Ski Pant Breathability Rating
Breathability measures how effective pants are at transferring the water vapor or sweat from the material. The same fabric pores that help prevent water from penetrating inside of pants allow sweat molecules to escape to keep you drier and warmer.
Breathability Rating is measured and indicated in grams (g). The measurement is calculated by finding the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR) and determines how many grams of sweat per 1 square meter can escape the material in a 24 hour period. The higher the number the more moisture escapes and the more breathable the pants are. The more pants can breathe the better it will be at keeping you at a consistent temperature.
- Very High Breathability (>20,001g): Ski and snowboard pants with Very High Breathability will keep you dry and comfortable in any condition. These pants breathe so well, they will keep you dry even under a full day of heavy activity.
- High Breathability (15,001-20,000g): Ski and snowboard pants with High Breathability are good for skiers and snowboarders who will work up a sweat from time to time. These pants provide great breathability which keeps you dry throughout the day.
- Moderate Breathability (10,001-15,001g): Pants with Moderate Breathability are the most common since they provide a good balance between function and the cost of technical fabrics. The pants in the moderate category can keep you dry and comfortable during a full day of moderate activity and will easily handle sustained periods of high activity.
- Mild Breathability (5,001-10,000g): Pants with Mild Breathability offer an adequate amount of breathability to remain comfortable for a full day of low to moderate activity and short periods of high activity. However without careful layering you will become sweaty with high activity.
- Low Breathability (<5,000g): Pants with Low Breathability offer some breathability but will keep sweat against your body under moderate to high activity causing you to become cold and chilly when you stop moving.
- Not Specified: Ski and snowboard pants which are in the category of Not Specified are made of materials that have not undergone breathability testing. This is common among casual and fleece jackets.
- Not Breathable: Pants that are Not Breathable are specified by the manufacture that they will not allow water vapor to escape from them.
Ski Pant Seams
- Critically Taped Seams means that only some of the seams most commonly around the backside are protected against moisture penetration. As long as you do not spend extended periods of time in wet weather or lying in the snow, critically taped seams offer you adequate protection.
- Fully Taped Seams have every one of the stitched seams taped for additional waterproofing with a waterproof tape that is glued on the interior and exterior of the seam in order to protect areas that are prone for moisture to seep into the pants. Fully taped seams are the best options for skiers or snowboarders who will be out in the most extreme elements such as heavy snowfall.
Ski Pant Waist Style
Ski pants can have a different style of waists
- Adjustable: Adjustable waist pants can have a system for fine tuning the waist size. While these adjustments may be internal or external, they allow you to dial in the perfect fit for your body.
- Belt Loops: Pants with Belt loops give you the ability to wear a belt with your pants to ensure your pants stay up.
- Elastic: Elastic waist pants offer a slight amount of stretch and plenty of added comfort.
- Pants With Belt: Pants With Belt include a belt or have a belt that is built into the pants.
- Suspenders: Suspenders are included in some pants that prevent your pants from falling down, help keep snow out and warmth in.
- Removable Suspenders: Removable Suspenders give you the ability to un-snap or un-button the suspenders to take them off on days when you don't want to use them.
- Non-Removable suspenders: Non-Removable suspenders are built into the pants and cannot be removed. Typically these will be bib style pants where the suspenders are attached to a longer front bib panel to ensure the snow stays out.
Other Features of Ski Pants
- Thigh Zips: Thigh Zips are vents that can be found on the inside or outside of the thigh. They allow for full breathability and venting when you need to cool down or the weather is on the warm side. These vents can easily be opened, closed or left partially open for adjustable venting.
- Full Zip Legs: Full Zip Legs allow you to unzip and remove your pants without taking your ski boots off. This feature is typically found on race or mountaineering pants where you may need to remove your outer layer but cannot take off your footwear.
- Articulated Knee: Pants that have an Articulated Knee are designed to improve the flexibility and mobility. They have a seam sewn in that has a natural bend to them.