On the snow, your legs are more exposed than any other part of the body. Hence, it’s important to have waterproof, warm, and breathable pants to compliment your skiing or snowboarding style.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of snow pants – ski pants and snowboard pants.
Let’s get started with the best ski pants first; shall we?
Best Ski Pants
Ski trousers, salopettes, and ski pants are common terms to describe trousers for skiing.
Ski pants should not be confused with the thermal leggings that are worn underneath. These types of pants are generally suitable for all types of winter sports, including snowboarding. Hence, you should understand their importance in keeping you warm, protected, and in full swing in some of the most demanding terrains across the world.
It is crucial that you have ski pants that are the right fit, no question about that. Ideally, they should not be too tight as it restricts your movement, nor too loose, as you’ll be pulling your pants up more often. They should be loose enough from the knee and hip area. Ski pants with adjustable waistbands are very common today and should be considered if you’re a serious skier.
Reflectors are an important feature in ski clothing and should be looked into when buying best ski pants. RECCO® Reflectors are very popular today and are added as inserts in and outside the pants. This allows rescuers to pinpoint your location when searching for victims of avalanches or deadly falls.
Every ski pant has a water repellant coating that prevents water intrusion in cases where you are caught in a snow storm or if you fall down.
In waterproofing itself, there are many levels when it comes to best snow pants. Completely waterproof ski pants are accompanied with taped seams that prevent water intrusion from the stitched areas in the fabric. Water resistant or ‘snow proof’ salopettes are good in protecting you from light falls but not as good in ensuring that you are dry as heavy snow falls down.
Ski pants may accompany a breathable and waterproof membrane that prevents water seeping into the fabric while giving an escape route to perspiration.
These types of pants are very important for snowboarders and extreme skiers. The combination of breathability and waterproofing is ideal to keep you comfortable, warm, and dry on some of the most impervious of slopes and terrains.
Type of Ski Pants
There are various types of ski pants available, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the choices you have. Many of them differ in terms of fabric, feel, waterproofing capabilities, and so on. However, in general, there are three main types of ski pants, with specific branches of clothing in their own.
SHELL SKI PANTS
Shell ski pants, otherwise known as hard shell ski pants, are generally made of fabrics like nylon and/or polyester. These pants are commonly windproof, waterproof, and very breathable, despite looking quite the opposite. However, since they are very lightly insulated, shell ski pants won’t offer the same warmth as you would expect from insulated snow pants.
Shell ski pants are fairly lightweight which is why they have poor insulation. If you need improved mobility in your snow pants; then this is the ideal choice for you. They are suitable for naturally warm people and also have inserts in base layers for improved insulation. However, they are not suitable for extreme conditions and cold temperatures or in situations where you have to be inactive for quite some time.
INSULATED SKI PANTS
These types of pants generally feature a waterproof outer layer, otherwise known as the ‘shell’ along with an inner insulation layer. This is commonly synthetic, fleece, or down insulation, and the level is measured in grams. As such, the greater the total number of grams, the warmer the pants will be.
Insulated ski pants are the ideal choice for skiers and snowboarders in some of the coldest parts of the world. Insulated ski pants keep you warm, but at the same time, they are quite heavy. Hence, they are not very practical for Spring skiing as they are not as breathable as shell ski pants. Avoid using insulated ski pants in higher altitudes as you’re only restricting your breathability.
SOFTSHELL SKI PANTS
Soft shell ski pants feature soft woven fabrics and compared to their hard shell counterparts, they don’t rustle as much. Soft shell ski pants are ideal for extreme winter sports as they offer incomparable freedom of movement and breathability. These are the reasons why soft shell ski pants are suited for extreme sports like snowboarding, high-speed skiing, and freestyle skiing.
However, there is always a ‘but’ and the ‘but’ with soft shell ski pants is that they don’t offer the same levels in waterproofing as you would expect from hard shell ski pants. Hence, they are more suited for relatively dry conditions.
Types of Snow Pants to Choose
Cross Country Skiing
Slim ski pants are ideal for cross country skiing as you will be engaged in a highly intensive aerobic activity. Hence, breathability and freedom of movement are the main drivers here. Ski pants designed for cross-country may feature more flexible fabric and breathable membranes around the knees.
But of course, you need regular fleece tights to make sure that your cross country ventures go smoothly. Leggings are just as important, if not more, but in very cold conditions, they may not be as practical.
Back Country Skiing
Soft shell and hard shell ski pants are both considered as ideal clothing for back-country. Soft shell pants are ideal for cruising and more flexible than shell ski pants. However, they are not as water resistant, so there is no point in wearing them other than in dry terrains. Hard shell ski pants, on the other hand, are lightweight and give more flexibility. They are highly breathable and ideal for higher altitudes, not to mention adequately waterproofed, but still, could do better!
Shell ski pants are very common in downhill skiing, especially during the spring season. They offer great protection from wind and keep you warm. However, if it is still snowing a lot, then you should look for highly waterproof ski pants to deal so that your legs don’t get heavy when you need them the most. Insulated ski pants can also be used in downhill skiing and can help you withstand harsh temperatures with adequate insulation.
However, as these pants are generally heavy, they are less breathable and not as practical in the spring season as you would like!
Best Snowboard Pants
As you must have figured out by now, ski pants can be used as snowboarding pants to good effect. However, if you are a serious snowboarder, then you should look into snowboard pants, which to your delight are readily available.
So basically, there are three things you look into when buying best snowboard pants:
Generally speaking, snowboard pants feature two, three, and sometimes even four layers. The first layer is made of fabric that keeps the moisture away from your skin. This layer is typically made of tightly woven polyester blended with other materials. However, many snowboarding pants may not have this layer since some snowboarders prefer to wear high tech fiber underwear that runs through the legs under the pants.
The second layer is the insulation layer and is crucial for warmth. This layer features synthetic pile or fleece, which is a synthetic fiber that strongly resembles fur. The third layer is for breathability and features thin layers of membranes that are designed to promote freedom of movement and offer waterproof protection at the same time. In some pants, the fourth layer features an exclusive layer of waterproof fabric for added protection.
The type of pants you choose will have a remarkable effect on your freedom of movement. Ideally, choose snowboarding pants that give you freedom of movement and are reinforced in the seat and knees area. The Seat is where the snowboarder experiences the majority of the impact.
Extra padding around the knees and hips is also important, especially for beginners. However, they can make your pants bulky at the same time, so choose wisely.
Elastic waistbands are quite common in snowboarding pants and give you the flexibility to turn and jump on and off slopes. Articulated knees are also common in snowboarding pants to increase the range of motion.
Snowboarding pants may look simple, but they can have various features in them.
For instance, some snowboarding pants feature flap cover seams that protect you against blowing snow and wind. Stretch gaiter near the ankle help in keeping snow at bay. Zippered pockets offer you to safely carry your important belongings like your car keys or smart phone. Zippered sides allow you to open the side layers of your pants in Spring season for more breathability.
Some snowboarding pants feature breathable vents covered in mesh but are not very ideal for extreme weather conditions.
Alternatively, you can wear sealed seam snowboarding pants for water, weather, and cold protection!