Best Ski Pants [2020-2021 Ski Season]

There’s a significant difference between the just good and the best ski pants:

The best ski pants are not only comfortable, warm and will keep you dry. They are also highly breathable and sold at an affordable price.

In other words, the products we recommend ticks every box. Prepare for the Wild is an independent skiing site. This means we have no hidden agenda and all our options are based on extensive research and facts. We’re not afraid of telling you everything about the products we recommend, both the good and the bad.

So, without further ado, here are the best ski pants of the 2020-2021 ski season:

How to Choose the Right Ski Pants

Man skiing in the powder

Before you buy a pair of ski pants, there are several things you must consider so you can be sure you make a good purchase. In this guide, we’ll go through everything from getting the right fit to cool design features.

Size & Fit

Ski pants usually come in sizes slim, regular and loose. The first thing to make sure of is that the ski pants fit properly in the waist. If they are a bit too large you can always tighten them with the drawstrings or wear a belt, so better go for a bit too large than a bit too small. Belts can often be cumbersome so I would recommend trying to get a good fit from the get-go.

Make sure they are long enough so they cover the ski boots so you don’t get any snow in them. Another thing to keep your eyes for is a higher back. It will keep the draft off and if you fall you won’t get snow in your back or pants.

Some people prefer baggy ski pants for the added maneuverability and a more relaxed fit. Other people prefer a more slim style. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. No matter what style of ski pants you decide to go for, make sure to go for a bit wider fit than you would with regular streetwear. Here’s why:

Remember you want to layer under the ski pants so make sure you at least have space for a pair of thermals. A wider fit will also give you better mobility and trap more air so you’ll stay warmer longer.

Warmth

Once you know what size and fit to go for, think about what weather conditions you are going to ski in. There are big differences in the types of ski pants best suitable for warm spring days and cold midwinter days. Three major things will decide the warmth of the ski pants: the material, the vents, and the insulation.

Insulation

Two women sitting on the snow in Zillertal, Austria

When it comes to insulation there are two ways to go. Either you choose shell ski pants or choose insulated ski pants.

Shell ski pants act as a breathable and windproof outer layer, but they lack insulation on the inside. They are perfect if you want a more lightweight alternative and will allow you to go for a more layered approach. Shell pants provide better agility and are the best option for warmer weather (such as spring skiing).

If you are going to ski in cold conditions or if you just prefer having insulation in the ski pants, insulated ski pants are the way to go. Insulated ski pants have, just like shell pants, an outer breathable and waterproof layer. On the inside of the insulated ski pants, you’ll find insulation usually made of fleece or Primaloft. The amount of insulation is measured in grams. The more insulation the pants have the better the warmth. However, more insulation also means a higher price. In ski pants, there are not as many insulated alternatives compared to ski jackets. This is because the legs generate more heat and don’t hose the internal organs.

Material

Ski pants are usually made of some kind of waterproof breathable fabric (WPB fabric) such as Event, Hyvent or Gore-Tex. The general advice is to go for comfortable and lightweight materials. Heavier ski pants will be warmer, but it’s usually recommended in most conditions to go for lighter ski pants and wear another layer underneath for warmth.

Vents

The vents are the key to cooling you off. It will release excess heat. You usually find vents on the inside of the leg. Zippered vents will allow you to regulate airflow and if you feel it’s getting too hot, you can just open up the zippered vents for better airflow.

Waterproof

Man skiing in wet snow

It’s crucial that the ski pants don’t leak any water. You’ll usually find a waterproof rating between 5000mm and up to 20000mm+ in ski pants. Be aware that the waterproof rating is not standardized so it can differ between brands and even models. The brands won’t often reveal exactly how they determined the waterproof rating. However, if you aim for a rating of over 10000mm, you can be sure to get waterproof ski pants.

The more waterproof a ski pant is, usually the more expensive it is. If you are going to ski in really wet conditions, don’t hesitate to go for ski pants in the upper 20K range.

Two other features you’ll see in ski pants for even better water protection is seam taping and a DWR finish. A DWR finish means that the ski pants have a water repellent coating so water rolls off the material. Seam taping means that all seams where water could leak in have been sealed with waterproof tape.

Breathability

A good pair of breathable ski pants will help to transfer the sweat from your legs through the fabric and out in the air. If the ski pants have poor breathability you can easily get cold. The sweat will get trapped inside the pants and cool you down.

Picking breathable ski pants is about finding a good compromise between warmth and breathability. Warmer ski pants have generally worse breathability. To find out how breathable your ski pants are, look for a breathability rating.

Breathability rating

How breathable ski pants you need depends on your ski style. If you are a resort skier that takes regular breaks in the chair lift or at the lodge, a breathability rating of 5000-10000 will be fine. However, if you are an active skier that usually break a sweat from your skiing, aim for a breathability rating of 15000-20000. If you are a backcountry skier that skin or boot thousands of vertical feet a day go for ski pants in the 20000+ range.

Design

Cropped shot of a skier in yellow ski pants wearing skis standing on top of a slope in the mountains

The look of the ski pants is of course important. Who doesn’t want a nice color that goes well with the rest of your ski gear? But when it comes to the design of the ski pants there’s much more to consider than the style. Many ski pants have some really neat features that can help you with everything from reducing the pressure of the knee to keeping you warm.

One often overlooked feature ski pants is the pockets. The placement of the pockets is crucial. You don’t want to have the pockets somewhere you’re likely to fall on, especially if you have valuables such as your phone in the pocket. Some ski pants have pockets made of fleece or another warm material so you can warm up your hand in the pockets.

If you are skiing in the backcountry make sure you have a Recco reflector. Over 600 ski resorts and rescue teams all over the world use the Recco rescue system to pinpoint a person exact location. Many ski pants come with a Recco reflector that can save your life if you get stuck in an avalanche or a tree.

Another cool feature available in some ski pants is articulated knees. Ski pants with articulated knees are sewn in a way so they already have a natural bend. This makes wearing the ski pants more comfortable in a normal skiing stance and will help taking pressure off the knee.

Best Ski Pants Reviewed


Arctix Essential Snow Pants: Best Ski Pants for Beginners

Arctix Men's Essential Snow Pants, Black, Large/Regular

If you’re new to skiing, these are your ski pants. They are basic, but they’ll get you through a casual day, and they carry a low cost compared to other options.

Personally, I also like these as spare snow pants. I can wear them for after-skiing activities or driving home from the mountain. Also, when I need to clear snow at home, I can just throw on these pants instead of my nicer gear.

You will find dated snow-wear technology in these Arctix pants, but you’ll still be happy with this product if you simply don’t hit the slopes very often.

The manufacturer used ThermaLock on the exterior. This polyester fabric resists snow, water, and wind, but it also keeps your perspiration from evaporating.

Beneath the shell, we find ThermaTech insulation. A lightweight, synthetic textile, ThermaTech provides warmth and mobility. I frankly find these pants too warm for skiing. You might decide they’re perfect.

In addition to weather protection, these pants give you an adjustable fit at the waist. Within one of the two zippered pockets, you will find an O-ring. I use it for my keys.

Whether you ski in these pants or not, their price makes them excellent for keeping a few pairs for guests who don’t own ski apparel.

Pros
A nice price
Sufficient quality for casual skiers
Ready for the lift or the lodge

Cons
Unsuitable for experts
Water-resistant instead of waterproof
Limited breathability


The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants: Best All-Around Ski Pants

The North Face Men's Freedom Insulated Pant, TNF Blue, S Regular
If you are an advanced skier who wants a pair of ski pants that will keep you warm and dry without a price tag higher than a family of four’s grocery bill, these are a worthy choice. Think of these as the apparel counterpart to all-mountain skis.

DryVent technology makes these ski pants waterproof and breathable, two essential ski-apparel qualities that combine to support long, happy days on the slopes.

To enhance this product’s breathability, designers at The North Face also added the brand’s Chimney Venting system. It pairs with this model’s Heatseeker Eco recycled insulation to optimize your body temperature.

Also, if your previous on-mountain adventures have included snow uncomfortably shooting up your leg and into your boot, you will appreciate these pants’ gaiters. They feature gripper elastic for a snug fit around each boot’s upper portion.

I would find that aspect perfect if The North Face had also included fasteners to fully secure each gaiter to its boot. Hopefully, the company will address that drawback if it updates this product.

Importantly, I am a fan of the features on these pants that have nothing to do with keeping you warm or dry. For example, the edge guard at each leg’s cuff nicely resists abrasion your skis can cause. If you’ve ever seen skis make horizontal slices on basic snow pants, you can appreciate these tough patches.

Likewise, if you’ve ever lost your phone in the snow, you will enjoy these pants’ pocket system. It includes hand pockets with protected zippers and a side-access pocket. You will also find a hook-and-loop pocket large enough for your smartphone and an energy bar.

Pros
Apparel tech that wicks moisture toward the pants’ outer layer
Chimney vents for airflow
Sufficient pockets

Cons
A gaiter system that lacks fasteners
An insufficient set of features for ski mountaineers


Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II Ski Pants: Best Ski Pants for Experienced Skiers

Outdoor Research Men’s Trailbreaker II Pants - Breathable, Waterproof Snow Gear

As an expert skier, I adore these pants from Outdoor Research. If you appreciate ski gear that feels like it could endure any scenario you might encounter on two planks, you’ll probably love them, too.

I respect Outdoor Researchfor openly sharing this garment’s three sections’ thickness ratings. The product’s upper-pant material, which features stretch-weave construction to help you release body heat, measures 90 deniers.

Meanwhile, the section that covers your knee, shin and calf uses a 200-denier layer that adequately resists wear and tear. Lastly, the edge guard on each inside cuff battles your skis’ finely honed metal with 400 deniers. Both of these sections are waterproof.

If you can confidently challenge every marked trail the world’s ski resorts offer, these are your pants. They will amply support a 100-day season.

Whether you like pounding moguls or floating down powder-filled bowls, you’ll grin in these technical, slightly stretchy pants. If you prefer skinning uphill on free-heel bindings, these pants will help you earn your turns, too.

I consider these ski pants nearly perfect. Still, the pocket on the back of the right thigh makes no sense to me. Who would put anything in there?

Of course, that’s a small drawback, and I plan on adding another pair of these to my gear collection when my current pair eventually shreds, which I imagine will be thousands of turns from now.

Pros
Hybrid pants with breathable upper legs
Waterproof lower legs
Resilient garment that can go anywhere you can ski

Cons
Possibly, the two-tone look
The odd pocket behind the right thigh


Helly Hansen Legendary

Helly-Hansen Men's Legendary Insulated Pant, 222 Alert Red, Small

The Helly Hansen Legendary is a lightweight ski pant that comes in 10+ different color options.

It has a two-layer fabric design. The outer face is made of 100% polyester and in the inner face is made of 100% Polyurethane. It comes with two hand pockets and one back pocket. All pockets have zippers, to keep your items safe and secure. The hems are reinforced to keep the pants from fraying.

One of the main reasons I recommend the Helley Hansen Legendary ski pant is the excellent protection it provides for any weather. It’s fully seam sealed so you don’t have to worry about any leakage in the seams. Even the zippers are water resistant. The outer layer is made of the Heolox++ rainwear fabric and has a water protection rating of 10000g.

On the bottom of the ski pants, you have a nice boot gaiter to keep snow out. Along the inner leg, you have a vent that will regulate how warm the ski pants are.

With a 60g WarmCore insulation by Primaloft, you’ll get lightweight insulation that breathes well. If you wear a thin layer underneath you can ski most temperatures without freezing. The fit of these pants is a bit snug, especially if you layer, but you will still have enough space for a pair of long johns or a pair of tights. You can adjust the fit with a velcro strap, and it has belt loops if you prefer to adjust the fit with a belt.

The Helly Hansen is an excellent ski pant, that is definitely worth its price.

Pros
Excellent protection from water and snow
Good stretch that moves with you
Lightweight without any excess bulk

Cons
Not much space for layering
You need to layer for really cold days


Dynafit Mercury Ski Pants: The Ski Touring Choice

Dynafit Mercury 2 DST Pant - Men's, Poseidon, L, 08-0000070743-8961-L

If your key priorities are breathability and agility, then one of the best ski pants you can get is the Dynafir Mercury Ski Pants.

These ski pants are all about maximum freedom of movement. It’s made of Dynastretch which consist of 65% Nylon, 26% polyester and 9% Elastane. This combination of materials makes it very durable with good protection from the wind. One thing to consider is that these ski pants are only water repellant. If you are going to ski in wet snow, these are not recommended. The thing that makes this material stand out is how breathable it is. It moves moisture away from the body with ease and is perfect for high-intensity activities such as ski touring.

This is a pair of softshell ski pants with no added insulation. There is however plenty of space to layer.

On the leg, there’s a ventilation zip so you can open it up to cool your legs down on warmer ski days. If you want to wear suspenders, there are loops for Dynafit suspenders. It has good ski boot compatibility and goes nicely over the ski boots.

Even if these ski pants are not suitable for all conditions, I would still recommend them to some skiers. If you are a skier that want maximum movement and do high-intensity activities that require excellent breathability, definitely consider these ski pants.

Pros
Durable
Excellent breathability
Maximum freedom of movement

Cons
No insulation
Only water repellant


Columbia Artic Trip: Best Weather Protection

Columbia Mens Arctic Trip Omni-Heat Ski Pants (L-Short, Black)

The artic fit ski pants made by Columbia is made of 100% polyester. It comes in 6 different colors. On the back of the right knee there’s an Omni-Tech logo, and on the bottom left knee, there’s an embroidered Columbia logo. There are two pockets that can be closed by zippers that are warm enough to warm up your hands.

You can adjust the fit with the adjustable waist thanks to the zip closure with double snap at the waist. One disadvantage with the fit is that it can be hard to layer underneath the pants. There is enough to fit a pair of leggings or long johns but not much more than that.

These ski pants have been critically seam sealed. This means that the seams most prone to leakage have been sealed with water resistant tape. Another great feature that will keep snow out is the snow gaiters and boot cuffs, that will seal any gap between the ski boots and the ski pants.

The thing that makes these ski pants stand out is the breathable and waterproof Omni-Tech material. Water seems to just roll off these pants and thanks to the seam-sealed design it’s unlikely you’ll get wet in these pants. One reviewer sat in the snow for an hour with these pants and remained completely dry. They will also keep you warm and will hold the temperature even in sub-zero temperatures.

Pros
Excellent weather protection
Seam sealed
Comfortable fit

Cons
Not much space for layering


Burton Insulated Ski Pants:

Burton Mens Covert Insulated Pant, Bog Heather, Medium

Made from a dual layer of Burton’s Durashell fabric, the Burton Covert provides a soft but durable ski pant, that can handle any weather. The outer layer is made of polyester and has a waterproof rating of 10000mm. It’s a highly breathable material with a breathability rating of 10000g.

You can be assured to stay dry if you get the Burton Covert ski pants. Every seam is sealed with waterproof tape, and the boot gaiter is elastic and fits perfectly over the ski boot. The bottom of the pant is the area most susceptible to tear so Burton has reinforced it with Cordura nylon. Cordura nylon is a very durable material that will prevent it from frying.

The fit of these pants is what Burton calls its signature fit. The signature fit is a roomy fit without being too baggy. It’s meant to work for all body types and leave plenty of room for layering. One complaint some reviewers had was that there was a big difference between sizes. For example, one person claimed small was too small and they had to wear the medium size with a belt.

To take the edge of the really cold days, Burton added some insulation to the ski pants. You get 40g of Thermolite insulation. Thermolite is very lightweight insulation so the pants won’t get bulky. 40G of insulation is a bit low to handle sub-zero degrees. However, thanks to the roomy fit, you can layer and stay to stay warm even on the coldest skiing days.

There isn’t a women-specific model of the Covert ski pants. The women’s equivalent is called the Burton Women’s Society Ski pants. The Women’s Society is made of the same durable, waterproof and comfortable material as the Covert. The big difference is the fit. The women’s Society has a more feminine fit suitable for women that want a fit that is not too baggy but with plenty of room for layering.

Pros
Excellent brethabillity
Comfortable and roomy fit
You can lift the hem to avoid mud and dirt

Cons
Large difference between sizes
Only 40g insulation


Special Blend Anti-Gravity Ski Pants

Special Blend | Mens Anti-Gravity Snowboard/Ski Pants (Black, Medium (Long))
These heavy-duty pants are both comfortable and rugged. The special blend fabric stands up to friction, extreme temperatures, and moisture and are an excellent pair of snow pants.

Both snowboarders and skiers will appreciate the dual-button closure at the waist. This keeps the pants from biting into your waistline as you twist and turn. In addition, adjustable, Velcro waist tabs help ensure a tight yet comfortable fit.

Two things are drawbacks: The Special Blend fabric makes these pants so well-insulated that you may get overheated. However, two heat-releasing, zippered leg vents provide fast relief. The other thing is the lack of knee padding. But for experienced snowboarders and skiers, this is a minor issue.

Generous two-inch belt loops let you quickly hook on your mountain pass and any other accessories you want to bring with you. Two angled zippered pockets offer extra secure storage for car keys and money.

The ankle cuffs are elasticized, which helps keep out snow and moisture. A gaiter boot overlay and scuff guard further protects the legs and boots.

As far as sizing goes, these ski and snowboard pants are pretty true to size. This is a great feature since they aren’t the bib style that fits over your shoulders. Basically, if you wear medium trousers, you can depend on a size medium snowboard/ski pants fitting you like a glove.

You also have the option of wearing long johns or a pair of denims underneath these snowboard/ski pants, since the fit is good, yet generous.

These snowboard/ski pants are available in an assortment of colors including, black, light grey, duck brown, steel blue, and khaki. Whatever your style, you’ll find a color that suits you.

Pros
Special Blend fabric holds up to extreme temperatures
Dual buttons at the waist prevent accidental opening
Adjustable Velcro tabs at the waist ensure a snug fit

Cons
Easy to get overheated
No built-in knee pads


Arctic Quest Men’s Insulated Snow Bib Pants

Arctic Quest Mens Insulated Water Resistant Ski Snow Bib Pants, Black, XXL

Arctic Quest Men’s Insulated Water Resistant Ski Snow Bib Pants are perfect for all kinds of snow sports. It starts with warmth. These coverall style bib pants cover the entire torso, keeping your core insulated. The entire coverall is insulated with high density, yet thin insulation, from the top of the bib all the way down to the ankles.

A water-resistant layer on the outside helps to keep out moisture, snow, and dampness, preventing core temperature drops in extreme weather conditions. Sandwiched between these two water-resistant layers is the insulation layer. So whether you’re active in snow, rain, or other wet conditions, your body and clothes stay warm and dry.

Sizing is ideal due to the adjustable shoulder straps. Not only do these straps make it possible to achieve a perfect fit; they enable you to quickly step in or out of the bib pants so you can make those periodic necessary stops at the lodge and quickly get back on the slopes.

Two zippered side pockets on each hip are perfectly located to hold necessities like cash and charge cards, lip balm, etc. The secure zipper toggle “locks” in place and doesn’t slip down like so many other zippers.

High-intensity sports like snowboarding and skiing require high performance gear and these snow bib pants are up to the challenge. Each knee is reinforced with extra stitching, offering extra support where you need it most. This is great for those rare times when your shredding goes wrong, and you end up sliding on your knees.

Finally, boot gaiters on the bottoms of each leg help to ensure that snow and moisture doesn’t creep up where your boots meet the snow bib pants. The elasticized ankle seam storm cuff and overlay boot gaiters keep snow out and protect extremities from moisture and cold.

Pros
Ample space to wear undergarments, jeans, etc.
Adjustable shoulder straps allow for full range of arm motion
Metal loop on the front secures mountain pass or keys for easy access

Cons
Need to lower the entire top bib for bathroom breaks
No coverage on sides beneath arms


Conclusion

Choosing a pair of ski pants can be overwhelming at first. But there are some things you can do to find the perfect product for your needs.

First, decide if you are going to get a pair of insulated ski pants or shell ski pants. Insulated ski pants provide better warmth, but they are also heavier and are harder when you use a layering approach. Unless you want maximum warmth, a pair of softshell ski pants is recommended due to the improved layering and the better agility.

Once you know what type of ski pants to get, consider how waterproof and breathable you need the ski pants to be. Just remember that the more breathable and waterproof a ski pant is the more it will generally cost.

Lastly, consider what features your ski pants need. Some features to consider is good zippered pockets, articulated knees, and Recco reflectors.

To help you choose the best possible ski pant, we reviewed 5 of the best ski pants you can get today. So if you haven’t already, check the mini-reviews and find your favorite.