If you’re gearing up for a ski trip this season, you need to get all of your equipment in order before you head out to the snow. After the basics of skis, boots, and poles, there are a variety of other essential items that will help you stay warm and comfortable no matter how long you ride. Ski pants are one such item.
Every skier needs a good pair of pants. While picking a pair might seem simple or straightforward, there are many options out there. That can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for. As with other articles of clothing, there are many different looks, fist, and styles to choose from, and sifting through those choices can take quite a bit of time.
To help with that, this article will take a look at some of the best ski pants you can purchase and highlight where and why each option stands out. The best ski pants for you might come down to their materials, how they look, or how much they cost. It’s all about personal preference.
- Few ski pants can compete with the Arc’teryx Beta AR. These are top-notch and will work in just about any condition for any type of skier. The Spyder Troublemaker is a great all-around option as well.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get good ski pants. Some great affordable budget options include the Arctix Essential Snow Pants and the Columbia Bugaboo Pants. Both models are relatively cheap, and Arctix has a women’s style available as well.
- Both the Helly Hansen Switch Cargo 2.0 Pants and the North Face Freedom Insulated Pants make great options for women. While many of the options listed here can fit anyone, the fit and design of these two are specifically made for female skiers.
- For a backcountry specific ski pant, check out the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pants. These work for any skiing, but they have a few features and design elements specific to the backcountry.
- If you prefer a bib style ski pant, you’ll want to take a look at the Flylow Baker Bib. The Burton Reserve works as well.
- For comfort and performance, few pants are better than the Flylow Magnum 2.1. In fact, they are some of the most comfortable ski pants I have ever worn.
Who Should Get This
If you’re going skiing, you need high-quality pants. While some skiers go out in everyday pants or even jeans, that is definitely not recommended. Good ski pants provide warmth and comfort by keeping the snow and wind away from your lower extremities. If you wear normal pants while skiing, you risk shortening your ski day once you get cold and wet.
All of the pants listed below are premium items. In addition to the weather and water protection, they come with features like zippered pockets, clips, and buckles so you can pack extra food or important equipment. Good ski pants keep the needs and demands of skiers in mind.
The ski pants in this list are best-suited for alpine or backcountry skiing. If you’re strictly a cross country skier, you might want to find different models. While the options here would definitely work for cross country applications, many nordic skiers prefer a smaller profile and a more snug fit.
Best Ski Pants in 2020: What to Consider
Your ski pants must be water-proof. That is what separates them from regular pants. That feature may seem obvious at first glance, but always double check before getting a pant that can’t keep out the snow. All of the options listed here are fully water-proof.
Common materials to look for in ski pant construction are Gore-Tex and polyester. Many pants are built out of these synthetic and water-proof materials and some even combine the two. Other synthetic materials may be used in construction but again, always make sure that the description lists the build as water-proof and wind-proof. Modern ski pants are built to withstand severe winter weather.
Insulation is another important factor to look out for when picking out pants. Different types of ski pants can have different amounts of insulation built into them. More insulation material typically translates into a warmer ski pant, while less material means less warmth. You might want a lighter pant for spring skiing and a more heavily insulated pant for serious winter runs.
Some skiers like a less insulated pant because it allows for more flexibility while maneuvering around the mountain. You can wear a base layer underneath your ski pants to add extra warmth without getting thickly insulated ski pants. Other skiers like really thick pants so they can stay warm. Get whatever you prefer.
A ski pant’s fit also varies from model to model. I think beginner skiers should get pants that are comfortable, meaning not too tight and not too loose. If your pants are too tight, it might restrict your movement. However, if they are too big they can hang over your skis and potentially cause problems.
Most ski pants have features built into the design that makes the fit somewhat adjustable. Belt loops are pretty standard, as are velcro straps that can further adjust the waist. Straps or bands around the ankles are other nice features that can help fit your pants around your boots.
There are two main ski pant styles: pants and bib. Pant style refers to two legs that cover your legs and attach via a button or buckle at the waist. These are the most common type of ski pant. Pant style models can be secured with a belt or suspenders.
Bib pants are another common variety of ski pants that are steadily growing in popularity. This type of pant looks more like overalls, where the snow pant material goes above your waist up to your chest and is secured in place over your shoulders. These are good for deep powder or backcountry skiing because they keep deep snow from entering your pants.
Ventilation is another important consideration when purchasing ski pants. You might not think you’d ever need ventilation in your pants, but it’s great to have on a warm day or when you’re pushing yourself extra hard. Ventilation on ski pants comes in the form of zippers you can open or close to let in extra airflow. Many ski pants have this feature built-in and it’s a good one to look for if you ski in different conditions.
Pockets are another key feature that generally come down to personal preference. Some ski pants have a lot of pockets while others only have a few. I always prefer a lot of pockets and tend to go with cargo-style so I can keep lots of snacks or gear on me at all times. However, some skiers don’t like to carry extra gear or food. If that’s you, only get pants with one or two pockets.
Regardless of how many pockets you think you’ll need in your ski pants, it’s always a good idea to make sure they stay shut with a secure zipper or velcro system. Even if you’re an expert skier, you’re going to take a good fall at some point. You don’t want any of your belongings to disappear into the powder.
High-quality ski pants can cost quite a bit of money. As such, you want them to last quite a long time. Durability is another consideration to keep in mind when purchasing your pants. Ski pants can go a lot of abuse during the course of a day, let alone an entire season. You want something that can stand the test of time.
I would recommend looking for ski pants that have reinforced knees and ankles. The extra material adds to the pant’s durability and better protects you during a fall. Your knees can take a lot of abuse when you fall, while your ankles constantly rub against your ski boots. This feature helps cut down on the complications that come with such issues.
Best Ski Pants in 2020: Our Picks
1. Best Overall Ski Pants: Arc’teryx Beta AR
Arc’teryx is a proven brand in the ski clothing world, and their Beta AR Ski Pants are some of the best overall pants you can find anywhere. These have a Gore-Tex Pro 3-layer design that keeps out even the most severe wind and snow alongside many other high-end features meant to keep you on your skis all day long.
These pants are versatile and can handle everything from a mild day on groomers with the family to serious backcountry pursuits. A gusseted crotch provides comfort and flexibility while the taped seams add durability and protection from the elements. These pants are sturdy and reliable, thanks to the articulated knees, lower legs, and seat. They even utilizing a reliable and secure modern pocket design.
- Great all-around ski pants
- Excellent Gore-Tex Pro construction
- Articulated knees, lower legs, and seat
- Water-tight external zippers
- Taped seams
- Keprotech instep patches
- Light on insulation
The Spyder Troublemaker Ski Pant is one of the best models on the market. Spyder is a trusted brand that has been popular among ski racers and winter enthusiasts for years. These pants have everything you would ever need in a ski pant, and they do so at an affordable price point.
These feature a Hydroweb 2.0 material that makes them water-proof. They also come with fully adjustable suspenders so you can secure the pants to your liking. The critical seams are fully taped to add strength and durability and the pants have zippered pockets along with a thigh ventilation system. The Thinsulate insulation provides warmth and helps the Troublemaker pants make it to the top of this list.
- Comfortable fit
- Adjustable suspenders
- Inner snow gaiters included
- Multiple colorways
- Can run short
- Suspenders not ideal for everyone
- Only one cargo pocket
3. Best Budget Ski Pants: Arctix Essential Snow Pants
If you’re looking for a pair of affordable ski pants, you’ll want to check out the Arctix Essential snow pants. These are available in fits for both men and women and although they are not the most durable option on the list, they are by far the friendliest for your wallet. The pants are constructed out of 100 percent polyester to keep out the water and snow, and they have 85 grams of Thermatech insulation.
The Essential Snow Pants come in a variety of color options to match your outfit and are more than durable enough to keep you warm and dry. They have a reinforced ankle that provides extra protection against scuffing and wear, and also have built-in elastic gaiters. These pants won’t stand up to serious abuse, but if you’re a beginner skier looking for cheap pants, they are great.
- Multiple colorways
- Reinforced ankle
- Built-in gaiters
- Not very durable
- Simple design
- No cargo pockets
Another great budget option for ski pants is the Columbia Bugaboo. Columbia makes quality outdoor gear that is both reliable and affordable, and these pants line up with that quality. The Bugaboo are built with what the brand calls an Omni-heat design that uses reflective properties to keep your body heat circulating so that you stay warm when things get cold.
These are also comfortable and breathable, which is great if you want to freely move in your pants. They also have a modern fit that can be customized using the velcro waist straps in addition to the belt loops, and they come in a wide variety of different sizes to fit just about anyone. They also have leg gaiters, zippered hand pockets, and lower leg snap gussets to keep these pants, and your belongings, safe.
- Innovative, effective omni-heat design
- Multiple sizes for a customized fit
- Can run short
- Leg gaiters have been known to rip
- Zippers could be more durable
5. Best Women’s Ski Pants: Helly Hansen Switch Cargo 2.0
Women skiers won’t find a better choice in ski pants than the Helly Hansen Switch Cargo 2.0. These pants are sturdy,reliable, warm, and comfortable – all of the desired elements you want out of a pair of ski pants. They also are designed with a unique and stylish look accented by the boot cut. That makes them stand out compared to other similar models. They are a low rise design intended to be able to tackle any condition you’d encounter while skiing.
These pants are warm thanks to DWR-coated two-layer fabric that sits over a layer of PrimaLoft insulation. They are also durable as a result of the fully sealed seams and articulated knees. The pants are also available in a wide variety of color patterns so you can always match your style. The fit is modern, and they might run a little short due to the low rise bootcut, but the durability makes these pants great for any female skier.
- Multiple colorways
- Articulated knees and seat
- Unique look
- Cargo Pockets
- Water-resistant zippers
- Heavy on insulation – can be too warm for touring or spring skiing
- Can run short
The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants are another great option for any female skier. North Face is a brand that has become synonymous with cold weather and outdoor activities. You would expect them to offer some great options for ski pants and this choice is definitely one of them. These pants have a standard-but-comfortable fit that’s flexible and breathable to allow a full range of motion while skiing.
These pants have a fully water-proof outer shell thanks to the built-in DryVent technology. They also include a TNF chimney venting system to keep you cool if your body or the temperature heats up. Built-in gaiters will keep the snow from getting in your boots and the fleece-lined pockets are a nice touch if you want to warm up your hands outside of your gloves for a bit.
- Fairly affordable
- Fleece-lined pockets
- Built-in gaiters
- Multiple colorways
- Critically sealed seams
- Can be tight around the thighs
- Basic design
- Pocket location can be uncomfortable for bulky items
7. Best Backcountry Ski Pants: Outdoor Research Skyward II Pants
If you’re a backcountry skier, you know that the skiing style has an entirely different set of demands than normal alpine or resort skiing. You need to be prepared for any and all conditions, and you need to be confident that your equipment will live up to the dangers that mother nature will throw at you. The Skyward II Pants by Outward Research are an excellent choice for backcountry specific ski pants and will surely meet the needs this style requires.
These pants feature a fully water-proof AscentShell 3-layer fabric that is breathable and easy to move around in on uphills. They also feature a four pocket design that allows you to store any extra gear or food you’ll need while touring. These pants have a secure and comfortable fit that won’t get in your way in the backcountry while also providing excellent warmth and mobility.
- Great in the backcountry
- Four pockets
- Breathable and flexible
- Comfortable thanks to the stretch of the 3-layer fabric shell
- Fully water-proof
- Hold up well in different conditions
- A little thin
- Can run small for larger skiers
8. Best Bib Style Ski Pants: Flylow Baker Bib
If you’re like me, you might prefer a bib style of ski pants. If you like to feel and fit of an over-the-shoulder pant, the Flylow Baker Bib is one of the best options around. I tend to like bib style ski pants because I think they are more comfortable. They also offer extra pockets for food and equipment. These Baker Bibs look awesome and will keep you warm and dry wherever your ski journeys take you.
These pants have an excellent 20,000mm waterproof rating that makes them perfect for skiers who like to tackle deep snow and challenging conditions. They have a 3-layer design and a DWR outer coating, two features that make the pants sturdy, comfortable, and extremely breathable. These are serious ski pants for serious skiers, but they also excel in comfort and design.
- Excellent water-proofing
- Bib design
- Plenty of pockets
- Great look
Although Burton is known for its snowboarding gear, it makes plenty of great ski items too. The Reserve Bib Pant is an awesome all-around pant that fully takes advantage of the bib style. This option is a bit more affordable than the Flylow bibs mentioned above, making it a great choice if you like this style of ski pant but don’t want to spend too much money.
The Reserve Bib Pant is a very comfortable and durable ski pant. They feature a polyester construction built with Burton’s Dryride technology that offers 10,000mm of waterproofing. They have zippered microfleece pockets to warm up your hands on cold days and offer excellent ventilation. The multiple pocket design offers excellent storage and these have a fully water-proofed chest pocket complete with a solid zipper to keep your belongings secure.
- Comfortable bib-style design
- Warm and water-proof
- Zippered hand warming pockets
- Excellent ventilation
- Multiple colorways
- Affordable bib-style pants
- Can run large and baggy
- Designed for snowboarders
10. Most Comfortable Ski Pants: Flylow Magnum 2.1
If comfort is your main concern, you need to take a look at the Flylow Magnum 2.1 ski pants. These are some of the most comfortable ski pants I have ever put on. Though they feel like sweats, they hold up under any condition. The pants are extremely cozy, but still offer great protection thanks to their 20,000mm of water-proof protection.
These pants are comfortable as a result of their roomy, spacious design and jersey construction.
They have a baggy fit, which you would expect out of something so comfortable, but aren’t too big where they get in your way. They also have a very durable outer shell that holds up to steady use and come equipped with zippered ventilation alongside built-in powder gaiters.
- Extremely comfortable
- Excellent water-proofing
- Built-in powder gaiters
- Great company
- Runs baggy
- Can hang over ski boots
Useful Tips & Resources
Once you’ve decided on which ski pants are best for you, it’s time to put them to use. Even though most of the options listed here are extremely durable and reliable, you still might accidentally rip or tear them while out skiing. If that happens to you, don’t worry. There are many easy ways to fix and repair your ski pants. You won’t need to buy a new pair of pants simply because of one small hole or tear.
If you’re torn between which style of snow pants to get – pants or bibs – check out this discussion. I personally like the fit, feel, and functionality of bibs because I like to ski in deep snow and carry a lot of things in my pockets. However, bibs are more expensive and have a fit that might not appeal to everyone. You can’t really go wrong with any of the choices here, but you want to make sure you’re satisfied.
In addition, always roll up your ski pants when booting on your ski boots. If you accidentally clip or strap a piece of your pants into the buckles of your boots, you can easily tear or rip that portion of your pants. While many models have reinforced material around the ankles to help with this, if you simply roll up your pants while you buckle up your boots, you can avoid this common issue and help you ski pants to last longer.
Ski pants are an essential item for any skier and you want a pair that will meet your needs. Take a good look at all of the options listed here, as well as all of the things to consider before making your choice. You don’t want to spend a bunch of money on pants that aren’t going to be to your liking or have features you’ll never use.
Remember to always get ski pants that are fully water-proof and have your desired amount of insulation. I suggest purchasing based on comfort and flexibility as well because you’ll be spending quite a bit of time in these pants and want them to fit. If you’re able to, always try on ski pants before making the final purchase. This will help you to determine if they fit properly.
Do you have any recommended ski pants that didn’t make the list? Do you remember your first pair of ski pants? Let us know in the comments below!