Women’s Ski & Snowboard Pants: How to Choose

Published on 06/02/2023 · 13 min readStay warm and dry this season with a sturdy pair of snowboard pants! Skiing Expert Lauren Dobbins gives the full rundown on how to choose women's snow pants!
Lauren Dobbins, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Lauren Dobbins

All Photos Courtesy of Lauren Dobbins

When buying women's ski/snowboard pants, prioritize waterproof and breathable materials, proper insulation, and a comfortable fit. Look for features like reinforced cuffs, gaiters, and vents. Consider style and color to match your gear. Remember, quality is key for durability and optimal performance on the slopes.

Introduction

Welcome to Curated! Are you on the hunt for new ski or snowboard pants? Today, I will walk you through some factors to consider when looking for your new favorite gear. I’m Lauren, a Skiing Expert here at Curated. I ski around 70 days a season, so I know just how important it is to have the right pants to keep me smiling all day. But don’t worry, snowboarders. I know how to board, too (though I’m no pro at it)!

I’ve helped hundreds of mountain enthusiasts find the right gear for them, and I’m excited to help you too. So let’s learn all you need to know about ski/snowboard pants for women!

What Are Women’s Snow Pants?

Happy Legs = Happy Skiers. Photo by Lauren Dobbins

Ski/snowboard pants are specialized outerwear designed with winter sports activities in mind. They provide warmth, waterproofing, and breathability to protect the wearer from cold, wet, and windy conditions on the slopes. In addition, these pants often feature reinforced cuffs, built-in gaiters, and vents for temperature regulation. Women's specific ski/snowboard pants are designed to fit and accommodate women's body shapes. They usually have a more tailored fit and may offer different color and style options to cater to women's preferences. Functionally, women's snow pants provide the same protection and performance as men’s and unisex options.

What to Consider When Buying Women’s Snow Pants

Photo by Maridav

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

Consider the conditions you'll be skiing or snowboarding in. For wetter and colder climates, opt for higher waterproof ratings (10,000mm or more) and breathable materials (10,000g/m²/24h or higher) to stay dry and comfortable. In milder conditions, lower ratings may suffice. More expensive pants often provide better protection, but assess your needs before overspending.

2. How Much Insulation Should Your Snow Pants Have?

Choose insulation based on your activity level and personal preference. Opt for lighter insulation or shell pants for high-energy activities or warmer days to avoid overheating. Choose pants with heavier insulation for colder days or if you tend to get cold easily. Layering can also be a great way to regulate temperature.

3. What Is Your Budget for Snow Pants?

Quality ski/snowboard pants can range from $100 to $500. Determine a budget based on your needs, frequency of use, and desired features. While investing in higher-priced pants often provides better performance and durability, there are affordable options that can also offer satisfactory protection. Balance cost with functionality and prioritize key features.

4. What Style and Fit Do You Prefer?

Women's snow pants come in various styles, such as slim, regular, and relaxed fits. Consider your personal preference, body shape, and the layers you'll wear underneath. Opt for pants with adjustable waistbands and articulated knees for better mobility and comfort. Style and color can also be important for coordinating with your other gear. Consult a brand's size chart before choosing the right size for you.

5. Do You Ski, Snowboard, or Both?

Ski pants and snowboard pants are (for the most part) interchangeable for each sport. Typically, there are stylistic choices for the intended use (e.g., ski pants are slimmer, snowboard pants are baggier). However, sport-specific pants may have additional features for that sport (like a reinforced seat for snowboarders). I highly recommend a bib for snowboarding, as the back enclosure helps prevent snow from entering when sitting down to put on a board.

6. Which Additional Features Are Important to You?

Consider the extra features that may enhance your experiences, such as reinforced cuffs for durability, built-in gaiters to keep snow out, and ventilation zippers for temperature regulation. Pockets, both zippered and cargo, can be useful for storage. Reflect on your specific needs to identify which features are most valuable to you.

What Are the Types of Women’s Ski & Snowboard Pants?

Several types of women's ski/snowboard pants are designed to cater to different preferences, performance requirements, and weather conditions. Each type of women's ski/snowboard pants has benefits and downsides, depending on personal preference, activity level, and weather conditions.

1. Insulated Pants

These pants have built-in insulation, typically made from synthetic materials, to provide warmth during cold conditions. They are ideal for those who tend to get cold easily or ski/snowboard in colder climates.

  • Benefits
    • Provide warmth in cold conditions.
    • Ideal for those who get cold easily or ski/snowboard in colder climates.
    • Reduce the need for heavy layering.
  • Keep in Mind
    • May cause overheating during high-energy activities or in warmer conditions.
    • Less versatile than other types, as insulation cannot be removed.

2. Shell Pants

Shell pants are lightweight and focus on providing waterproofing and breathability without added insulation. They are ideal for high-energy activities or warmer conditions, as they help regulate body temperature by preventing overheating. Layering with thermal or moisture-wicking base layers can provide customizable warmth.

  • Benefits
    • Lightweight, promoting mobility and comfort.
    • Ideal for high-energy activities and warmer conditions.
    • Excellent waterproofing and breathability.
    • Provide versatility through customizable layering.
  • Keep in Mind
    • Lack built-in insulation, so proper layering is essential for warmth.
    • May not be warm enough for some users in extremely cold conditions.

3. Softshell Pants

Softshell pants are made of stretchy, breathable fabric that provides moderate water resistance and insulation. They are suitable for mild weather conditions and offer more flexibility and comfort than traditional hardshell pants. However, they may not provide enough protection in harsher conditions.

  • Benefits
    • Stretchy, comfortable, and breathable.
    • Provide moderate water resistance and insulation.
    • Suitable for mild weather conditions and casual skiing/snowboarding.
  • Keep in Mind
    • Not as waterproof or warm as hardshell pants.
    • May not provide adequate protection in harsher conditions or heavy snowfall.

4. Bib Pants

Bib pants are similar to overalls, with a high front and suspenders that provide additional coverage and help keep snow out. They are ideal for deep snow conditions or for those who prefer extra protection. Bib pants can come in both insulated and shell varieties.

  • Benefits
    • Extra coverage and protection with high front and suspenders.
    • Help keep snow out, making them ideal for deep snow conditions.
    • Can come in both insulated and shell varieties.
  • Keep in Mind
    • Can be bulkier and less comfortable for some users.
    • May be too warm for high-energy activities or warmer conditions.
    • Less convenient for bathroom breaks.

5. Three-in-One Pants

These pants feature a removable inner lining, allowing you to customize the level of insulation and adapt to changing weather conditions. In addition, they provide versatility by offering the option to use them as insulated pants, shell pants, or just the inner layer, depending on the situation.

  • Benefits
    • Offer versatility with a removable inner lining.
    • Can adapt to changing weather conditions.
    • Can be used as insulated pants, shell pants, or just the inner layer.
  • Keep in Mind
    • Can be more expensive due to their versatile nature.
    • May not provide the same level of performance as dedicated insulated or shell pants.

When selecting women's ski/snowboard pants, weigh the benefits and downsides of each type against your specific needs, preferences, and expected weather conditions to make an informed decision.

Features to Look for in Women’s Ski & Snowboard Pants

Pants and bibs should move with you, not against you! Photo by Lauren Dobbins

When shopping for women's snow pants, consider the following features and technologies to ensure optimal performance, comfort, and durability:

  1. Waterproofing and breathability: Look for pants made from materials with high waterproof and breathability ratings (e.g., GORE-TEX, eVent, or proprietary technologies). A rating of at least 10,000mm for waterproofing and 10,000g/m²/24h for breathability is recommended for most conditions.
  2. Insulation: Evaluate the type and amount of insulation (e.g., synthetic or down) based on your activity level, personal preference, and expected weather conditions. Shell pants can be layered with base layers, while insulated pants provide built-in warmth.
  3. Seams and zippers: Fully taped or critically taped seams and waterproof zippers prevent water and snow from seeping through vulnerable points.
  4. Reinforced cuffs: Reinforced cuffs made from materials like Cordura provide added durability and protection against wear and tear from ski/snowboard boots and bindings.
  5. Gaiters: Integrated gaiters help keep snow out of your boots, so look for pants with built-in gaiters that can be secured around your boots.
  6. Ventilation: Mesh-lined or zippered vents, typically found along the inner or outer thigh, allow for temperature regulation by releasing excess heat during high-energy activities.
  7. Adjustable waistband: A comfortable and secure fit is essential, so opt for pants with an adjustable waistband, such as Velcro tabs or an elastic waist, to accommodate layers and ensure a snug fit.
  8. Articulated knees: Pants with articulated or pre-shaped knees offer enhanced mobility and comfort when skiing or snowboarding.
  9. Pockets: Look for pants with strategically placed pockets (e.g., zippered or cargo) to store essentials like lift passes, keys, or snacks.
  10. Style and fit: Choose a style and fit that suits your body shape and preferences, with options like slim, regular, or relaxed fits. Consider the layers you'll wear underneath when determining the ideal size.

Considering these features and technologies, you can find women's snow pants that cater to your specific needs and provide an enjoyable experience on the slopes.

Features to Avoid in Women’s Ski & Snowboard Pants

While there are numerous features to look for in women's snow pants, some aspects may not be suitable or could even detract from their performance. Consider avoiding the following:

  1. Non-breathable materials: Pants from non-breathable materials can trap moisture and sweat, causing discomfort and reducing warmth. Choose pants with breathable fabrics to regulate temperature and stay comfortable.
  2. Inadequate waterproofing: Avoid pants with low waterproof ratings, as they may not provide enough protection from wet conditions and can lead to dampness and discomfort.
  3. Poorly constructed seams: Pants with seams that are not fully or critically taped may allow water and snow to seep through, reducing their effectiveness in keeping you dry.
  4. Heavy, bulky fabrics: Pants made from heavy or bulky materials can hinder mobility and make skiing or snowboarding more difficult. Opt for lightweight, durable, and weather-resistant fabrics instead.
  5. Pants without gaiters: Gaiters help prevent snow from entering your boots. Pants without built-in gaiters can be less effective at keeping snow out, leading to discomfort and cold feet.
  6. Pants with limited mobility: Pants restricting movement can make skiing or snowboarding challenging and uncomfortable. Look for pants with articulated knees or stretchy materials to ensure flexibility and freedom of movement.
  7. Unreliable closures: Weak closures, like low-quality zippers or Velcro, can lead to malfunctions or wear out quickly, reducing the overall durability of the pants. Choose pants with reliable, high-quality closures.

By avoiding these features and focusing on the essential aspects of women's snow pants, you can ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable experience on the slopes.

How to Choose the Right Pants for You

Let’s walk through a few real-people examples to help identify what pants or bib may be right for you:

Joann: The Cold Fashionista

Needs: Joann is from the South, and her favorite possession is her collection of white pants. She wants ski pants that are just as fashionable, but unfortunately, this Florida gal is always freezing. Although she only skis on sunny days, she still finds herself cold at all times.

Features to look for: Joann should prioritize her need for insulation. She should look for pants with as many grams of insulation as possible for extra warmth. Since she wants to look good on the mountain, she prefers a slim fit or traditional ski pants.

Products to consider: Obermeyer Bliss Pants or Helly Hansen Alphelia Pants

Courtney: The Weather Warrior

Needs: Courtney is no stranger to cold weather. She lives in Wisconsin and takes a ski trip to Colorado every year. She has faced a -30°F windchill, which certainly won’t stop her from making the most of her time on the slopes! Courtney needs protection from the weather and mobility for her aggressive skiing style.

Features to look for: Courtney needs insulation to power through the cold weather. More importantly, she should watch for good joint articulation that will allow her to move, regardless of the number of layers she wears easily. She should also look for pants with an adjustable waistband to accommodate her layering or a bib with adjustable shoulder straps.

Products to consider: Volcom Creston Bib or The North Face Freedom Pants

Rachel: The Backcountry Gal

Needs: Rachel snowboards exclusively in the backcountry. She powers through hard uphill treks like a champ. However, Rachel is often hot from physical exertion and usually takes her jacket off. Since she can’t easily remove her snowboard pants like she does her jacket, she needs something that can breathe.

Features to look for: Rachel should look for a backcountry-specific bib. She would be happiest in something exceptionally breathable (at least 20k) and has venting that can be opened to prevent overheating. A bib is best to keep her core warm when she removes her jacket and will keep snow out when she is strapping in for the downhill. No insulation is needed here!

Products to consider: Helly Hansen Powder Queen Bib or Flylow Foxy Bib

What Pants Do I Wear?

Someone tell ZZ Top they no longer need to look for some tush. Photo by Lauren Dobbins

I’m often asked by customers and fellow skiers what pants I wear. So let me first cover the specific needs I had when shopping for pants:

  1. Highly weather-resistant: Since I’m no stranger to bad weather, I knew I needed pants that were at least 20k for waterproofing.
  2. Shell: I ski from October through May every season, so I wanted a shell style instead of an insulated option to use in all conditions. It needed to be light enough for warm fall/spring days yet have room to layer for the cold days.
  3. Room for movement: I have an athletic tush and thighs, so I needed a looser fit through the hips than the traditional figure-flattering style. I needed pants that moved with me!
  4. Bib: Plain and simple; I wanted a bib so I wouldn’t get snow in my pants! This factor was important to me for both skiing and snowboarding.
  5. Blue: Blue is my favorite color. I like blue for my ski gear because it is a good contrast to snow and trees.

Ultimately, I purchased the Flylow Moxie Bib in Night (aka navy blue). I’m a big fan of Flylow for both winter sports and mountain biking because they know how to design for an athletic and curvy body. In addition, the durability is outstanding, and it has checked off all the boxes for me! You can check out my full review of them here.

Conclusion

#1 fan of bibs. Photo by Lauren Dobbins

Remember: Pants (and bibs) designed for skiing and snowboarding will be superior on the mountain to regular pants. Remember to go for function over fashion when looking for ski or snowboard pants. Staying warm and dry on the slopes is important to maximize your fun! Still not sure what gear is right for you? Reach out to a Skiing Expert (like me) or a Snowboarding Expert here at Curated, and we will help you find exactly what you need to make the most of your next day at the resort!

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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