Out of hundreds of options, what are the right ski and snowboard pants for you? Protecting your legs from wind, cold, and abrasion is a thankless job. You will use and abuse this garment for a long time, usually in unforgiving climates. You will need pants that fit and match your skiing style, while stylistically complementing all of your other layers. Finally, ski or snowboard pants need to withstand weather and usage. Their materials and design must be up to the task of protecting you from wind, snow, rain, and abrasion. So do your due diligence, consult our extensive review, and your choice will reward you for years and years.
Best Overall Ski Pants: Arc’teryx Sabre Pants
It was not an easy job to narrow down our selection of pants in an effort to pick our best choice. We had an excellent selection of highly functional garments. As is often the case, our pick doesn’t have the highest marks in any one category. Across the board, however, the Arc’teryx Sabre delivered strong performance. For each specific attribute, there is likely a better choice, but the Sabre is unbeatable as an all-arounder. This award winner, with its uninsulated construction, solid design, comfortable fit, excellent materials, and classic styling, is the highest scoring, most versatile, all-around product in our review.
Best Value: The North Face Freedom Pant
The North Face Freedom Pant is comfortable, weather resistant, and their fit is impeccable. Their price point is competitive, especially considering that the seams and fabric are durable, and the style is neutral and long-lasting. The fit isn’t too baggy or too tight. The fleece hanging liner means that the pants can be worn without long underwear on warm or long days, and the inner leg vents shed steam. The design is simple, with sparse features and solid boot-sealing cuffs.
Top Pick for Insulated Pants: Spyder Dare Athletic Fit
In general, we caution against insulated ski or snowboarding pants for most people. You’re better off owning multiple thicknesses of long underwear and layering underneath your uninsulated pants in order to adjust for different temperatures. However, some skiers will require insulated pants. If you dislike long underwear, get really cold, or ski in frigid climates, adding some insulation to your pants might be important. So if you must have insulated pants, the Spyder Dare Athletic Fit are the top pick. The insulation is carefully tuned, and the fit and styling is modern and clean.
Top Pick for Weather Protection: Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants
- Excellent weather protection
- The bib section is tight on bigger people
When worn with the matching jacket, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants create the most weather-protective two-piece suit we have ever used. Short of an admittedly unstylish one-piece, the zipped-together Norrona Lofoten pair guards best against the gnarliest winds and precipitation. The construction of each piece is clean and made from the best possible materials. The price shows this quality, but for those looking for the best outerwear for skiing in wild weather, the Norrona set up is at the top of the list. Pair these pants with the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell, our Top Pick shell-only jacket, for the ultimate weather protection.
Types of Ski Pants
Uninsulated pants are versatile because you can customize your gear according to the weather. These pants are divided into 2 different types:
“Three-layer construction” sandwiches a waterproof/breathable membrane between a burly face fabric and a lighter mesh or fleece lining textile. Pants constructed this way, like the Arc’teryx Sabre, Norrona Lofoten Pants, and Flylow Baker Bibs, feel durable and a bit stiff. They go on easy and vent well. They don’t feel all that comfortable against bare skin and therefore are best worn with long underwear.
In our testing, the most versatile and highest rated pants use “two-layer construction.” The face fabric and waterproof membrane are laminated together, but the inner layer of fleece or mesh hangs free. The pants are softer and more flexible as a result. These pants, like our Best Buy Freedom Pants from The North Face and high-scoring Patagonia Powder Bowl, are more comfortable and slightly warmer than the previous style, especially when worn without long underwear. The Patagonia SnowShot Pants are also a two-layer construction.
The Columbia Bugaboo II Pants, Spyder Dare, and Mammut Bormio are insulated. Essentially, in between the lining fabric and the waterproof membrane, the manufacturers add a layer of synthetic “puff” insulation. These pants work well if you will be in cold climates or get cold legs.
For those who want insulated pants as a second pair in their quiver, the less expensive Columbia Bugaboo is a good choice. If cost is no issue, the Spyder Dare is, as we’ve noted above, the best-insulated ski pant in our review.
In our review, only the Flylow Baker Bibs had full-bib construction. The Baker Bibs are made using three-layer construction and bridge the lower-body/upper-body gap, especially for tall people. The Norrona Lofoten Pants can be used as bibs or as regular pants, and zipped together with a matching jacket, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell, to form a one-piece suit. The Spyder Dare pants have a rear bib panel to add weather protection. The rest of the pants in our test are waist-high design.
Fit and Comfort
The Columbia Bugaboo II pants have the softest fleece lining, but the thick insulation hampered range of motion. The Spyder Dare is as comfortable as any of the other award winners, but the Mammut Bormio edges ahead when comparing insulated pants. In terms of fit and comfort, there is nothing notable about the Patagonia SnowShot or The North Face Freedom.
Hardcore, Dedicated users: Flylow Baker Bibs
Cold, but Not Super Cold Climates: The Mammut Bormio has lightweight insulation that splits the difference between uninsulated pants and our Top Pick Spyder Dare.
In deep snow, the protection afforded by any of the configurations of the Lofoten pants is appreciated.
The Patagonia SnowShot, Mammut Bormio, and The North Face Freedom have a weakness that takes away from their weather protection. Each is ready for average ski conditions, but when really pressed, the fabrics might get overwhelmed. For the SnowShot and Freedom, the catch is in the less-breathable fabric. In humid of conditions, condensation can appear on the inside, making it feel like the weather is getting through. In the Bormio, the shell fabric has a soft texture that catches and holds snow. Nothing gets through, but this cold layer on the outside can lead to condensation on the inside.
Finally, the Columbia Bugaboo II lacks seam sealing and is less protective as a result. In our shower test, we observed external moisture getting through the seams. This is the only product that exhibited this attribute. However, the insulated design is best suited to cold climates and conditions where there will be no liquid precip to breach the pants.
Given that most skiers wear underneath insulation, we didn’t give a great deal of importance to the warmest pants. But it’s important.
The Mammut Bormio is lightly insulated and fits solidly between the Columbia Bugaboot and those with shell fabric and separate fabric liner, like The North Face Freedom Pants, Patagonia SnowShot, and Patagonia Powder Bowl.
The Bugaboo II pants are very warm. In high energy skiing, only on the coldest days will the insulation of the Bugaboo be appropriate. On average to warm days of high exertion like this shown here, the Bugaboo pants are too warm.
We granted a Top Pick award to the insulated Spyder Dare. This product is the best-insulated pant in our test and we recommend it for those looking for warm ski pants. Finally, the one-piece pants like the Arc’teryx Sabre, Norrona Lofoten, and FlyLow Gear Baker Bibs had the least insulation.
If you are thinking about ventilation, look for thigh vents. Vents on the inside are more effective than those on the outside. The Flylow Baker Bibs earn special notice because of their inner and outer leg vents, while the Mammut Bormio pants vented very well, despite being insulated. The positioning of the Bormio vents pulls them open when unzipped and leaves you exposed to air flowing in from the front.
The long, non-mesh backed vents of the Arc’teryx Sabre and Norrona Lofoten are effective, but a touch immodest. The Patagonia Powder Bowl, The North Face Freedom, and Patagonia Snowshot vents, while different from one another, function to the same standard. The Columbia Bugaboo II pants do not have any vents.
The wide-opening inner thigh vents of the Mammut Bormio are turned every so slightly toward the rider’s leg fronts. For this reason, the Bormio pants vent better than most.
The wide-opening, inner thigh vents of the Mammut Bormio are turned every so slightly toward the rider’s leg fronts. For this reason, the Bormio pants vent better than most.
Style is subjective. However, certain characteristics and considerations stand out. Unlike ski jackets, it is less likely that you will wear your ski or snowboarding pants to the bar. But if you do end up there in your full kit, you are unlikely to care too much about what sort of statement your pants make when not on skis.
The Spyder Dare and Arc’teryx Sabre pants are the best equipped, while the Norrona Lofoten and Columbia Bugaboo offer the most sparse features.
The Arc’teryx Sabre is suited to all around ski life. Whether a cold day in the backcountry, or a hot day on the resort, or anything in between, the Sabre will serve you well.
In making your decision, weigh our recommendations against OGL’s user group. We speak to the average ski gear consumer. The occasional skier isn’t reading our reviews, as he or she simply uses what he or she has and doesn’t think much about it. Similarly, those at the other end of the bell curve, the die-hards, have a community of folks who give them equipment advice. In the middle are the glorious masses; those that love to ski, but don’t get to do it as much as they would like.