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Men's Ski & Snowboard Pants: How to Choose the Right One for You

Published on 05/26/2023 · 12 min readKeep your legs warm on the slopes by ensuring you have a good pair of ski & snowboard pants! Snowboarding Expert Will Koons explains how to choose.
will koons, Snowboarding Expert
By Snowboarding Expert will koons

Photo by PhotoMIX Company

As an experienced snowboarder and skier with over 20+ years of experience on the slopes, I understand the importance of having the right snowboard pants. In addition, my time in the mountains snowboarding and mountaineering and as an outdoor retail professional has given me valuable insights into choosing the best ski and snowboard apparel.

I'm passionate about equipping people with the right gear, as it is crucial to their overall enjoyment and performance on the mountain. In this guide, I'll share the knowledge I’ve picked up over the years to help you make an informed decision when choosing men's ski and snowboard pants.

Throughout this article, we'll discuss the essential factors even the most skilled riders need to consider when selecting ski and snowboard pants, ensuring you stay protected and comfortable on the slopes. Let's drop in and find the perfect pair of pants for you.

What Are Men’s Snow Pants?

Photo by John Robert - Nicoud

Men's snow pants are designed for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, providing warmth, waterproofing, and breathability. Men-specific pants cater to the typical man’s body shape, offering a comfortable fit and appropriate sizing. The difference between ski and snowboard pants is minimal; however, snowboard pants may have a slightly looser fit for better freedom of movement and a more casual style. Both types prioritize insulation, waterproofing, and breathability to keep you warm and dry on the slopes.

What to Consider When Buying Men’s Ski and Snowboard Pants

1. How Much Should Snow and Snowboard Pants Cost?

The first thing you should consider when buying ski or snowboard pants is your budget. This will help you narrow your options down quickly. Common price points include budget-friendly ($50-$150), mid-range ($150-$300), and high-end ($300+).

Lower-priced options may provide basic insulation and waterproofing but lack durability or advanced features. Mid-range pants offer a balance of quality, durability, and features. High-end pants provide superior materials, excellent breathability, and top-notch insulation, ideal for frequent or professional users. High-end gear may give you sticker shock, but if you spend a lot of time on the slopes, having highly durable gear that will last a long time is worth spending more. The old adage goes, “Buy nice, or pay twice,” and I have definitely found this to be true.

2. What Level of Waterproofing and Breathability Do You Need?

Consider the conditions you'll be skiing or snowboarding in. If you expect wet or heavy snow, prioritize pants with high waterproof ratings (15,000mm+). In addition, breathability is essential to prevent overheating and sweating; look for pants with breathability ratings of 10,000g/m² or higher, especially if you're a more active or aggressive skier/snowboarder.

Here's a guideline to help you choose:

Waterproofing Rating (measured in millimeters [mm]):

  • 5,000 to 10,000mm: Light rain and dry snow, occasional use.
  • 10,000 to 20,000mm: Moderate rain and wet snow, suitable for most snowboarders.
  • 20,000mm and above: Heavy rain, wet snow, and extreme conditions, ideal for serious, frequent, or backcountry riders.

Breathability Rating (measured in grams [g]):

  • 5,000 to 10,000g: Low-intensity activities or cold weather, casual riders.
  • 10,000 to 20,000g: Moderate to high-intensity activities, suitable for most active riders.
  • 20,000g and above: Extremely high-intensity activities or prolonged exertion, ideal for more serious users.

Choose higher ratings for intense activities or harsh conditions and lower ratings for casual or occasional use.

3. Which Insulation Level Is Suitable for You?

Determine your insulation needs based on the temperatures you'll face and your personal preference for warmth. Options include no insulation (shell pants), light insulation (40-60g), and heavy insulation (80-100g+). Shell pants are versatile, allowing for layering based on conditions, while insulated pants provide more built-in warmth.

4. Do You Need More Than One Pair?

Having more than one pair of ski/snowboard pants can be useful, especially if you plan to hit the slopes for multiple days in a row or ski in varying conditions. Owning a pair of shell and insulated pants can help you adapt to changing weather and temperature, ensuring comfort and enjoyment on the mountain.

What Are the Types of Men’s Ski and Snowboard Pants?

Photo by Yente Van Eynde

Several types of men's ski and snowboard pants cater to different preferences and weather conditions. Let me give you a quick rundown of the benefits and downsides of each type of ski and snowboard pants.

1. Insulated Pants

With built-in insulation, these pants keep you warm in cold temperatures. In addition, they're available in varying insulation levels to suit different weather conditions and personal preferences.

  • Benefits: They offer consistent warmth due to built-in insulation and are suitable for colder conditions without requiring multiple layers.
  • Keep in Mind: They can be less versatile in fluctuating temperatures, and you may overheat if you're a more active skier or snowboarder.

2. Shell Pants

Lightweight and versatile, these pants provide waterproofing and breathability without built-in insulation. As a result, they're ideal for layering or those who prefer to control their warmth using base and mid-layers.

  • Benefits: They're lightweight, making them easy to pack and wear. They also offer excellent freedom of movement and versatility for varying weather conditions through layering.
  • Keep in Mind: They don't provide built-in insulation, so you'll need to rely on proper layering to keep warm.

3. Softshell Pants

Made from stretchy, breathable materials, softshell pants prioritize comfort and flexibility. While they provide some water resistance, they may not be as waterproof as other options, making them better suited for milder conditions or spring skiing/snowboarding touring. This pant style is primarily used for backcountry touring or ski/splitboard mountaineering.

  • Benefits: These pants prioritize comfort and flexibility, making them perfect for skiers or snowboarders who value mobility and a less restrictive fit.
  • Keep in Mind: They're not as waterproof as other options, making them less suitable for wet conditions or heavy snowfall.

4. Bib Pants

Similar to overalls, bib pants have an upper portion that covers the chest and back, with suspenders to keep them in place. They provide extra warmth and protection from snow entering at the waist, making them a popular choice for deep snow conditions or backcountry skiing/snowboarding.

  • Benefits: They provide excellent protection from snow and cold drafts entering the waist. The added coverage is great for deep snow and backcountry adventures.
  • Keep in Mind: They can be bulkier and less convenient when it comes to bathroom breaks or adjusting layers.

5. Three-in-One Pants

A versatile option, 3-in-1 pants include a removable insulated layer, allowing you to use them as shell or insulated pants, depending on the conditions. This adaptability makes them popular for those who want a single pair of pants to cover various weather scenarios. Additionally, this style of pants is a great option for riders who aren’t sure which type of pants they want or don’t want to shell out for two types of pants.

  • Benefits: They offer excellent adaptability, allowing you to adjust to various weather scenarios without needing multiple pairs of pants.
  • Keep in Mind: They can be slightly bulkier due to the removable insulation layer, and the overall quality may not be as high as dedicated insulated or shell pants.

In the end, it's essential to consider your specific needs, skiing/snowboarding style, and the conditions you'll be facing to make the best choice.

Features to Look for in Men’s Ski and Snowboard Pants

As you're shopping for your first pair of ski or snowboard pants, there are some essential features and technologies to keep in mind:

  1. Waterproofing: Look for pants with a waterproof rating (measured in millimeters) that suit your conditions. A higher number means better protection. A 10,000-20,000mm rating should suffice for most skiers and snowboarders.
  2. Breathability: Breathability (measured in grams per square meter) is crucial to prevent overheating and sweating. Aim for pants with a breathability rating of at least 10,000g/m², particularly if you're an active skier or snowboarder.
  3. Seam Sealing: Taped or sealed seams prevent water from seeping through the stitching. Look for pants with fully taped seams for the best protection against moisture.
  4. Ventilation: Zippered vents, usually found along the inner or outer thighs, allow you to regulate your temperature by letting cool air in and releasing warm air. This feature is particularly useful for high-energy skiing or snowboarding.
  5. Gaiters: Built-in elastic bottoms and powder cuffs create a seal around your boots and wrists, keeping snow out and ensuring your feet and arms stay dry.
  6. Adjustable Waist: An adjustable waistband allows for a more customized and comfortable fit. This feature helps keep your pants in place during movement and accommodates layers underneath.
  7. Reinforced Material: Look for pants with reinforced fabric in high-wear areas, like the knees, seat, and cuffs. This added durability is essential for long-lasting performance.
  8. Pockets: Adequate storage is always a plus, so consider pants with functional pockets that can securely hold your essentials.

Features to Avoid in Men’s Ski and Snowboard Pants

As someone who has tried many different pants over the years, I'd advise you to watch out for a few things when buying snowboard pants:

  1. Poorly Constructed Seams: Avoid pants with weak or poorly constructed seams, as they can result in leaks and reduced durability.
  2. Inadequate Waterproofing: Pants with low waterproof ratings (below 5,000mm) may not provide enough protection in wet or snowy conditions, leaving you damp and cold.
  3. Lack of Ventilation: Pants without proper ventilation features, such as vents or breathable materials, can cause overheating and discomfort during high-energy activities.

While finding pants that meet your needs and preferences is essential, being mindful of these potential drawbacks will help you make a more informed decision and ultimately lead to a more enjoyable experience on the slopes.

How to Choose the Right Snow Pants for You

In this section, we will go over a few different types of riders or “personas” along with their needs and a few production suggestions for each type.

The Casual Resort Skier/Snowboarder

Brian snowboards a few weekends a year at his local resort. He enjoys it but he has a lot more hobbies in his quiver. Brian needs gear that is adequate for his casual weekends but that doesn’t break the bank.

Needs:

  • Comfort and warmth for occasional use
  • Adequate waterproofing and breathability
  • Affordable

Features to look for:

  • Insulated or lightly insulated pant
  • Waterproof rating of at least 5,000-10,000mm
  • Adjustable waist and integrated boot gaiters

Products to consider:

  • The 686 Smarty 3-in-1 Cargo Pants: The best-selling 3-in-1 pant of all time comes with a cozy zip-out fleece liner for full functionality. Leave the fleece liner in for cold days and zip it out if you just need a shell. The 686 pants are perfect for a sunny Saturday on the hill or those bitter-cold storms. They also come in bib models.
  • The DC Code Shell Snowboard Pants: With performance-focused tech fabrication, the Code Pant offers maximum durability, all-day comfort, and snow-specific details. It also has 15k waterproofing and 10k breathability at an amazing price point.
  • Burton Insulated Covert Pants: This classic pant provides penthouse performance at bargain basement pricing. Without a doubt, the best deal going. Get the most out of your day at the ski resort with the all-out performance and premium finishes.

The All-Mountain Rider

Abby loves to cruise the whole mountain. She spends most of her time inbounds on groomers and likes to get off into the trees when the conditions are good. She has a season pass and rides frequently throughout the season, regardless of the conditions. Needs:

  • Versatility for changing conditions
  • Durable and reliable protection
  • Layering options for varying temperatures

Features to look for:

  • Shell or lightly insulated pants
  • Waterproof rating of at least 15,000-20,000mm
  • Ventilation zippers and multiple pockets

Products to consider:

  • Burton [ak] 2L GORE-TEX Cyclic Pants: Every rider knows GORE-TEX material makes the best snowboard pants. These purpose-built pants combine that miracle membrane with backcountry-tested fit and features to create pants that truly live up to the hype.
  • Burton Reserve Bib Pants: Style, performance, and sustainability are the three focal points of the men's Burton Reserve Bib Pants. As classic as it gets, this style comes updated with a full array of tech features, including the proven waterproof performance of GORE-TEX fabrics featuring fully-taped seams with GORE-TEX seam tape.
  • Flylow Sphynx Pant: A highly technical bib pant for women made with a Finish two-layer hardshell and lined with a toasty layer of thin micropuff insulation, you can stay warm and dry in all conditions in this top pick.

The Backcountry Rider

Scott lives to earn his turns. He spends most of his weekends hiking new lines in the backcountry. He doesn’t mind shelling out for top-of-the-line gear and likes the lightest, most protective materials on the market. Needs:

  • Lightweight and packable
  • Advanced weather protection
  • Enhanced safety features

Features to look for:

  • Shell pants with GORE-TEX pro or active fabric
  • Waterproof rating of at least 20,000-30,000mm
  • RECCO reflector and avalanche transceiver pocket

Products to consider:

  • Dakine Men's Stoker GORE-TEX 3L Bib Pants: Dakine makes some of the best ski pants on the market, and this technical three-layer GORE-TEX bib with great backcountry features is storm-ready with some of the highest-level waterproofing on the market and a breathable lining.
  • Helly Hansen Elevation Infinity Shell 2.0 Pant: A great ski pant for backcountry skiers, active resort skiers, and snowboarders who want a waterproof breathable ski pant that uses LIFA INFINITY PRO fabric to get fresh tracks.
  • Flylow Men's Baker Bib: A waterproof, breathable stretch fabric bib with a baggy fit for skiing and snowboarding. A DWR coating helps the face fabric shed snow and water, and a 20k/20k membrane provides waterproofing and breathability. The Baker Bib is built to last with 1,000 denier-reinforced cuffs. Chest, thigh, and cargo pockets provide plenty of storage for snacks and other essentials, and large inner and outer thigh vents make it easy to dump heat on warm days.

Conclusion

In this guide, we explored the key factors to consider when choosing men's ski and snowboard pants, providing you with the essential information needed to make an informed decision. Using the info in this guide, you'll be well-equipped to find the perfect pair of pants to rip up the slopes chasing powder this season.

If you have any further questions or need personalized advice, don't hesitate to reach out to us here on Curated. Our Skiing and Snowboarding Experts are always available to help you find the ideal gear for your skiing and snowboarding needs.

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