A Guide to Choosing Ski & Snowboard Pants
Snowboarding expert Alex Dolan explores the different types of snow pants out there for winter sports enthusiasts of any level - or budget.
If you are looking for a pair of ski or snowboard pants, there can be a lot of options out there to scroll through before you can decide which pair is best for you. Whether you are looking for that pair of snow pants that are going to last you through your next hundred-day season, or you are tired of skiing in jeans, this article will explore a variety of gear for all skill levels on any budget.
Why Wear Ski & Snowboard Pants
First, let’s discuss why we wear ski pants. Skiing naked will add color to your cheeks. Plus it’s pretty exhilarating (look up Shane McConkey if you don't believe me), but it leaves us vulnerable. Freezing temperatures pose a threat to our health. Gritty snow and hard ice, and branches we may encounter on our way down the hill can cause serious abrasion. The function of snow pants is to protect the lower halves of our bodies from the elements and keep us comfortable, warm and maintain homeostasis while we explore snowy environments on our skis and snowboards.
If you are actually skiing in jeans, you've probably noticed that your legs get really cold after a couple of runs down the mountain, especially if the conditions are particularly wet. This is because denim is made of cotton. While denim is very durable and will protect us from abrasion, it won’t keep us warm. When cotton gets wet, it actually pulls heat away from our bodies rather than insulating and keeping us warm.
So what materials should we be wearing? Nylon is a material that will not pull heat away from our bodies when wet. With the addition of a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating, nylon is made water resistant while remaining malleable and wearable. Nylon fabrics have been developed with varying levels of protection and insulation in mind. This means some snow pants are great for certain conditions, but don’t work as well in others. On our best days on the mountain, we feel perfectly comfortable, even in the harshest conditions, and this has everything to do with wearing the right gear.
Pro Tip: If you are exploring a bigger mountain anywhere beyond the bunny slopes, I highly recommend that you have at least one piece of gear that features Recco technology. Recco chips are sewn into ski and snowboard apparel and they send out a signal that can be detected by mountain rescue teams to search for people in emergency situations. They don’t need to be activated, they are barely noticeable inside your jacket or snow pants, and they could save your life if you get stranded or lost in a wintery wilderness environment. The technology is featured in a wide variety of brands and usually doesn’t add a noticeable cost to your gear. It’s pretty much a no brainer.
Here is a rundown of a few pairs of ski and snowboard pants that I really like with a variety of prices and uses.
Flylow Baker Bibs
Flylow is one of my favorite snow sports companies. Independently owned and operated, they make high quality, durable gear that is budget friendly. The Baker Bib holds true to this model. The bib style is my ultimate preference. While bibs do add a bit to the price tag, they’ll keep snow out of your back and out of your crack, even after the gnarliest wipeouts. Suspenders are also a great way to keep them from falling down, no matter how many layers you decided you didn't need on a given day.
The 20k/20k three layer fabric will keep you dry in even the wettest snow. Plus, it features "OmniBloq" DWR coating that was designed to last three times longer than the industry's standard. This means they and last longer than the competitor. The three-layer construction makes them breathable, durable, and flexible for maximum comfort. The Baker Bib features wear patches on the knees for durability, lots of pockets for all your stuff, and ventilation zippers down the leg for the really warm days. I promise, I'm not sponsored by Flowlow. They just make really great gear. They do have a more relaxed fit than other snow pant options. If you like a more tailored fit, these probably aren't for you.
Arc'Teryx Sabre AR Pant
Arc’teryx has made a name for themselves as one of the highest-quality apparel brands in the game. While their products aren't usually for those of us who are particularly price conscious, the durability, quality, and incredible warranty of Arc'Teryx snow pants mean that you'll be wearing them for a long time after you buy them.
The Sabre AR Pants are no exception. If price is no issue, these are the best snow pants money can buy. They are incredibly versatile. Designed for backcountry skiers that need handy features like double side zips that open wide for ventilation. N80p-X GORE-TEX three-layer fabric with three-layer lo-loft soft shell is some high-end fabric with a high waterproof rating and great breathability. The brushed inner lining makes them so soft that you'll be tempted to go commando. 100D Cordura® PowderCuffs™ keep snow out of your boot cuff and they are seamless enough to fit underneath a snowboard binding's high back and over a ski boot. Keprotec™ patches protect your instep, an area prone to damage from ski blades and constant friction. Yeah, this is a great pair of pants. If you can afford them, buy them.
These ski pants are going to get the job done, and with a completely reasonable price tag, the only real question is if you are into the style. GORE-TEX® Laminate and 40g PrimaLof® Silver ECO Insulation is going to keep you warm in cold climates, keep you dry in wet climates, and be durable enough to last for at least a couple seasons. The removable suspenders create a nice middle ground between bibs and pants. Spyder makes a good pair of pants equipped with all of the important features you need for a long day on the mountain. They come in a variety of bright colors and a couple of neutral options as well.
Columbia Bugaboo IV Pant
The Bugaboo is a great pair of pants if you are looking for a price point option so you don't break the bank. Without any outer thigh vents, they won't be ideal for backcountry or cross country skiers, but they are a good deal for someone who doesn't plan on riding outside of a ski resort. They feature a lot of insulation, which can translate into extra padding if you plan to spend a lot of time on your butt. The adjustable waistband makes them pretty darn comfortable.
Helly Hansen Ridge Shell Pants
If you prefer layering with long underwear rather than having an insulated pant, a shell is a better option for you. On warmer days, when insulation isn't really necessary, a shell will keep you dry and give you protection from abrasion and ice. The Ridge Shell Pants from Helly Hansen, a trusted high-quality brand, will give you just that. They are incredibly water resistant and durable for how stretchy and comfortable they are, and articulated joints offer even more comfort. This is a great option for someone who values quality and would like the versatility of customized base layers.
If you made it to the end of this article, hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to choose ski and snowboard pants for yourself. If you still have questions or you feel like I left something out, I would love to hear from you. You can click on the link to my profile below to chat with me in real time. As always, remember to focus on maximum fun while you are out there shredding the mountain.