Every skier needs a good pair of pants. While picking a pair might seem straightforward, there are many options out there. That can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for, so this post aims to help you out.
I’m Christine, and I’ve been skiing for nearly my entire life. I’ve worn many different types of ski pants over the years, and I know what to look for in terms of quality, warmth, and everything else a skier wants and needs on the mountain.
The Arc’Teryx Beta AR earns my pick for the best ski pants of the year. This is an extremely high-quality option that will provide you with excellent water and wind protection to keep you comfortable anywhere in the snow.
There are an almost endless amount of ski pants out there, and I’ll give you all of my top picks in this post. Each model you see below is built to provide skiers exceptional protection from the elements and the freedom to move easily while they ski.
Let’s button up and get after it.
- Who Should Get This
- Top Picks of Best Ski Pants
- Best Ski Pants: What to Consider
- Useful Tips & Resources
- Final Verdict
Who Should Get This
If you ski, 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 regular pants while skiing, you risk shortening your ski day once you get cold and wet.
All of the pants listed below are premium options. In addition to weather and water protection, they come with features like zippered pockets, clips, and buckles so you can pack extra food or essential 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. While the options here would work for cross-country applications, many nordic skiers prefer a smaller profile and a more snug fit.
Can you ski with normal pants?
Technically you can, but I would not recommend it at all. If you ski in normal pants, you will get wet and cold in a hurry which will severely affect how long you can ski. Go with ski or snow pants that are fully waterproof.
Are expensive ski pants worth it?
If you are an avid skier who gets on the mountain often, then you’ll want to get a high-quality pair of ski pants. Expensive ski pants can last for years of consistent use, making them a good value in the long run.
Are ski pants supposed to be baggy?
The way pants fit is a matter of personal opinion. Some skiers like to go with a baggy fit, while others prefer something slimmer. It really doesn’t matter. Just make sure that if you choose baggy, the pants don’t drag over your skis onto the snow.
Are white ski pants a bad idea?
Just like many other articles of clothing, white can be more challenging to keep clean. I wouldn’t recommend white pants if you care about how you look or are concerned about stains. But there’s no difference in how they perform when skiing.
Do you need to wear anything under ski pants?
It depends on your preferences and desired level of warmth. Some people wear a base layer underneath their ski pants. I prefer just to wear athletic tights or shorts because I don’t get that cold with a good pair of pants on.
How many pairs of ski pants do I need?
If you don’t ski very often, you are probably okay with just having a single set of ski pants. I own three, but I get out in the snow often and like to have options. It’s good to have a pair for warmer weather and one for extreme cold.
Are ski pants different than snow pants?
Not really. As long as the pants you are looking at are fully waterproof and windproof, they will work for skiing. It doesn’t matter if they are listed as ski pants, snow pants, snowboarding pants, or snowmobiling pants. They are all basically the same thing.
How long do ski pants last?
I’ve had a pair of ski pants last well over five years before. And I’ve also had some that get ripped right away after you take a bad spill. If you want yours to last a long time, it pays to get a high-quality option made of strong and durable materials.
Top Picks of Best Ski Pants
Here are my picks for the best ski pants of the year. Every model you see below will work well for you on the slopes and comes thoroughly recommended.
1. Arc’Teryx Beta AR
- Best for: Overall
- Key features: Excellent Gore-Tex Pro construction, articulated knees/lower legs/seat, taped seams, Keprotech instep patches
- Insulation: No
- Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
- Cost: $$$$
If you are looking for the best of the best when it comes to ski pants, look no further than the Arc’Teryx Beta AR. These are a fantastic pair that will give you outstanding wind and weather protection all season long.
The pants have a Gore-Tex Pro 3-layer design that keeps out even the most severe wind and snow alongside many other high-end features meant to keep you on your skis all day long. They are strong, durable, and built for anything.
These pants are versatile and can handle everything from a mild day on groomers with the family to serious backcountry pursuits. A gusseted crotch provides comfort and flexibility, while the taped seams add durability and protection from the elements.
The Beta AR are sturdy and reliable, thanks to the articulated knees, lower legs, and seat. They even utilize a reliable and secure modern pocket design. Water-tight external zippers will keep all of your gear dry as well.
The downside to all of this amazing performance is that these pants are extremely expensive. They also don’t have any insulation.
2. Helly Hansen Women’s Legendary
- Best for: Women
- Key features: Women’s specific fit, comfortable, strong and durable, excellent warmth and waterproofing
- Insulation: 60 grams PrimaLoft
- Waterproofing: Helly Tech Performance Membrane/ DWR Finish
- Cost: $$$
The Helly Hansen Women’s Legendary (review) is the best women’s specific ski pants option around. These are a high-quality option offered by one of the world’s most well-respected manufacturers of cold-weather gear.
The pants are made with a 2-ply Fabric construction that provides a solid first layer of defense against snow and cold. The material is stretchy for plenty of comfort and flexibility while also being treated with a DWR finish for extra waterproofing.
You also get 60 grams of PrimaLoft insulation to keep you warm when the temperature starts to drop, or you are lucky enough to be knee-deep in powder. A Hell Tech performance membrane adds another layer of protection against the elements.
The pants also come with an adjustable waist and belt loops to give you a customized fit, and inner thigh vents provide airflow to keep you comfortable on warmer days or when you are skiing hard.
This model can run a little small, so you might want to size up if you are in-between sizes.
3. North Face Girls’ Freedom Insulated
- Best for: Petites
- Key features: Small sizes available, affordable, good waterproofing, insulated, adjustable velcro waist tabs, ankle gaiters
- Insulation: 60 grams Heatseeker
- Waterproofing: Polyester with DWR finish
- Cost: $$
If you are a smaller skier or looking for an option for kids, take a look at the North Face Girls’ Freedom Insulated snow pants (review). This is a petite version of one of the most popular ski pants from North Face and is quality all-around.
They are made with a 100% polyester micro-dobby face fabric that is very strong and tear-resistant. This is treated with a durable water-resistant finish to keep you dry no matter how hard it’s snowing.
The pants also feature a DryVent membrane that uses a two-layer design to increase comfort, warmth, and protection. This works really well alongside 60 grams of Heatseeker insulation.
Other stand-out features include adjustable velcro waist tabs for a customized fit and ankle gaiters that help keep snow from getting inside of your boots. Handwarmer pockets are another nice touch.
This option is built for kids but comes in many sizes, making it work for petite individuals. It can be too small for average-sized skiers.
4. Columbia Bugaboo IV
- Best for: Short Guys
- Key features: Many sizes available for a custom fit, runs short, breathable, comfortable, affordable, effective Omni-heat design
- Insulation: Polyester Micro Temp XF
- Waterproofing: Nylon Omni-Tech
- Cost: $$
Short guys will appreciate the Columbia Bugaboo IV because it comes in various sizes and tends to run short. Columbia makes quality outdoor gear that is reliable and affordable, and these pants line up with that quality.
The Bugaboo IV is 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 move in your pants freely. They 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.
Other features include leg gaiters, zippered hand pockets, and lower leg snap gussets to keep these pants and your belongings safe.
This isn’t the most durable option out there, and it obviously runs a little short.
5. Outdoor Research Skyward II
- Best for: Ski Patrol
- Key features: Strong and durable, comfortable, built for experienced skiers, articulated knees, zippered thigh vents
- Insulation: No
- Waterproofing: AscentShell Electrospun Membrane
- Cost: $$$
The Outdoor Research Skyward II is an excellent option for ski patrollers or any other experienced skier looking for a high-quality pair of ski pants.
They feature a fully water-proof AscentShell 3-layer fabric that is breathable and easy to move around on uphills or during a rescue.
They also feature a four-pocket design that allows you to store any extra gear or food you’ll need while on duty or on the mountain.
A secure and comfortable fit won’t get in your way no matter what type of skiing you’re doing while also providing excellent warmth and mobility.
The Skyward II can run a little snug and is a more slim-fitting option.
6. Flylow Chemical
- Best for: Plus Size
- Key features: Relaxed fit, many color options, good ventilation, strong and durable design
- Insulation: Shell
- Waterproofing: OmniBloq DWR
- Cost: $$$
The Flylow Chemical (review) snow pants make a great option for any bigger skiers because they have a relaxed fit and are available in sizes up to XXL. If you have ever struggled to find a good fit, this model is worth exploring.
In addition to a comfort-focused fit, the pants also give you plenty of water and wind protection thanks to a super tough 1000D polyester face fabric that is treated with OmniBloq DWR for outstanding waterproofing.
They also have built-in ventilation in the thighs to increase airflow when needed and have a beacon attachment system for backcountry pursuits.
These are a little expensive and do run large.
7. Flylow Moxie Bib
- Best for: Tall Women
- Key features: Comfortable, roomy, multiple color options, fully taped seams, lots of pockets, tall fit
- Insulation: None
- Waterproofing: 20K breathable OmniBloq DWR
- Cost: $$$$
The Flylow Moxie Bib has a long design and comes in multiple sizes, making it a solid option for tall women skiers who want warmth, waterproofing, and comfort.
This model is a bib-style design, which means they look more like overalls than pants. I like bibs a lot and think they are more comfortable and warm than regular pants.
The Moxie comes built with a Tactic 3L softshell outer layer that provides a serious layer of defense against the elements while also increasing comfort by being flexible and stretchy. It’s treated with OmniBloq DWR for extra waterproofing.
Bibs aren’t for everyone, but they will work well for taller skiers. Just know that this is another very expensive option.
8. Spyder Troublemaker
- Best for: Beginners
- Key features: Affordable, good ventilation, scuff guards, articulated knee, snow gaiters
- Insulation: Thinsulate
- Waterproofing: Polyester
- Cost: $$
The Spyder Troublemaker is a simple and straightforward option that will work well for beginners who want to get a quality set of ski pants without spending a ton of money.
Spyder is a trusted brand that has been popular among ski racers and winter enthusiasts for years. These feature a Hydroweb 2.0 material that makes them water-proof.
The critical seams are fully taped to add strength and durability, and the pants have zippered pockets along with a thigh ventilation system.
These aren’t the warmest option around but will still work for most beginners in average winter conditions.
9. Helly Hansen Alpha LIFA-Loft
- Best for: Extreme Cold
- Key features: Extremely warm, excellent wind and water protection, durable, comfortable, fully seam-sealed
- Insulation: LifaLoft
- Waterproofing: Helly Tech Professional
- Cost: $$$
If you are looking for warmth over anything else, take a look at the Helly Hansen Alpha Lifa-Loft snow pants.
These are built with a reputation for extreme weather protection made possible by a Helly-Tech professional membrane that works very well to keep you warm and dry. Innovative Lifa-Loft insulation adds another layer of comfort along the way.
The pants also come with fully sealed seams, adjustable suspenders, and outer thigh vent zippers so you can adapt to any condition you find yourself in.
This is another very expensive option, but they can be worth it if you struggle with staying warm and dry.
10. Arctix Essential
- Best for: Budget Option
- Key features: Affordable, well-insulated, reinforced ankle, built-in gaiters
- Insulation: 85 grams synthetic
- Waterproofing: Thermalock coating
- Cost: $
The Arctix Essential is one of the cheapest quality ski pant options you can find.
These still give you plenty of warmth and protection from the elements at a very affordable price. Eighty-five grams of synthetic insulation is sure to keep you nice and toasty no matter what condition you ski in.
A Thermalock coating gives you decent waterproofing and wind resistance, while the pants are made durable by 600D Ballistic reinforced ankle and scuff guards for added durability.
These aren’t the best for long-term waterproofing, so know that a lower price comes with a tradeoff in long-lasting performance.
Best Ski Pants: What to Consider
There are a few essential things to keep in mind when looking for the best ski pants. Take a look at the factors below and use them to help you make a good purchase that matches your needs as a skier.
Your ski pants must be waterproof. That is what separates them from regular pants. That feature may seem evident at first glance but always double-check before getting pants 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 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 crucial 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 warmer ski pants, while less material means less warmth. You might want lighter pants for spring skiing and more heavily insulated pants for serious winter runs.
Some skiers like less insulated pants 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 to 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 pants. 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 the 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 comes 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 through a lot of abuse during a day on the slopes, 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.
Useful Tips & Resources
Once you’ve decided which ski pants are best for you, it’s time to put them to use. Even though most of the options listed here are highly 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 a tiny hole or tear. The video below will teach you how to patch snow pants on your own.
If you’re torn between which style of snow pants to get – pants or bibs – check out this discussion. I like the fit, feel, and functionality of bibs because I want to ski in deep snow and carry many things in my pockets.
However, bibs are more expensive and have a fit that might not appeal to everyone. You can’t 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 putting 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 your ski pants last longer.
The Arc’Teryx Beta AR is my pick for the best ski pants of the year. This is an extremely high-quality option built out of materials that are very weatherproof and made to last. If you want an option that will last for years, this is it.
All of the pants listed here are great for skiers of all varieties. Take the time to explore what each has to offer, and you’ll be able to find one that matches your needs and preferences on the mountain.