How to choose ski pants
When choosing ski pants it’s important to find a model that meets the requirements of the kind of skiing you do in terms of waterproofing, breathability, freedom of movement, and of course comfort. Here’s our advice on how to choose ski pants.
Waterproofing, breathability, insulation
Even though most people’s legs are less sensitive to the cold it’s essential to find pants that are well-insulated and protect against bad weather. Ski pants with a hardshell membrane will keep you dry regardless of the weather.
Whether you decide to go with 3 layer, 2½ layer or 2 layer will depend on how waterproof you need them to be and how much you can spend.
- With 3-layer fabric the membrane is protected by both an exterior and an interior fabric.
- On 2½-layer pants, the membrane is protected by an exterior fabric while the interior is protected by a “print.”
- With 2-layer fabric, the waterproof membrane is protected only on the exterior while the interior has an insulating lining.
If you ski a lot of powder or if you often ski in wet conditions, we recommend pants with 3-layer fabric.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for lightweight pants that won’t slow you down, 2-layer fabric will be the best bet.
Just like choosing a ski jacket, the waterproofing and breathability of the membrane will differ depending on the technology and models. Be sure to read the hang tags carefully. A fabric’s water permeability is measured in Schmerber (1 Schmerber = 1mm of water in a standardized column) and breathability is measured in RET (resistance to evaporative heat transfer) or MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) expressed in grams/meters2/24hrs.
- RET less than 6 / MVTR higher than 30,000: very good breathability
- RET between 6 and 12 / MTVR between 20,000 and 30,000: good breathability
- RET higher than 15 / MTVR less than 10,000: poor breathability
For even more warmth and comfort, wear a pair of technical tights as a baselayer under your hardshell pants.
The same type of softshell pants that are commonly used in mountaineering can be a good option if you are looking for additional comfort and freedom of movement. This two-dimensional weaving technique provides thermal insulation and a windproof effect while staying soft and breathable. Park and pipe riders also like this material because it has more stretch than hardshell fabrics.
For those who get cold easily or for super cold days, you can go with a pant that’s lined with synthetic insulation, which will also be less expensive than hardshell and softshell pants. You’ll also find pants available that are lined only in areas that regularly come in contact with the snow like at the knees and butt.
In addition to the breathable properties of the membrane, most pants have side vents for additional ventilation.
For ski touring, we recommend vent openings on the outside of the legs which provides better ventilation even though it’s a little less discreet than openings between the legs. We recommend between-the-leg vents for resort skiing and freeriding. A lot of pants feature a mesh fabric inside the opening for added comfort.
In terms of pockets, pants for ski touring, ski mountaineering and freeride are often designed with zippered thigh pockets that the skier can easily access while wearing a harness.
For other models, you’ll usually find zippered hand pockets under the waistband or pockets on the hips.
Gaiters and cuffs
It’s a good idea to find pants with snow gaiters that go over your ski boots for additional protection. The bottoms of ski pants are usually slightly flared and usually have a zipper or snap adjustment. Even so, we still recommend you check to make sure they fit over your ski boots. You’ll also normally find reinforced cuffs, which are great for protecting your pants from damage caused by ski or snowboard edges.
Belts and suspenders
Overalls, suspenders or belt, it’s nice to have a choice! Freeriders and snowboarders like overalls (or bib pants) because they provide more protection and are warmer, however they’re more difficult to take off, which is why some models have a rear zip.
Suspenders are very common on men’s pants because they hold your pants up without the waist being too tight.
The pant waist often has elastic, a removable belt or Velcro adjuster so that you can dial in the perfect fit.
Cut and size
Style is important, but so is comfort and performance! For ski touring, look for lighter weight and less material. For freeriding, look for a looser cut and bigger fit. And for resort skiing, look for a cut that is designed for flexing and extension movements.
As far as size goes, in addition to the standard sizes for women and men, some brands offer different leg lengths and inseams.
And as far as style goes, the choice is yours!