Best Ski Pants for Women of 2021
|Price||$499.00 at Amazon|
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|$419.95 at Backcountry|
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|$598.95 at Backcountry|
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|$599.00 at Backcountry||$199.00 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Spacious pockets, color and size options, weatherproof, versatility, ventilation, built to last||Comfortable, high-performing, pocket space, 'core' look||Backcountry specific features, comfort and stretch, pocket space||Bombproof, venting, removable bib attachment||Comfortable, warm, RECCO|
|Cons||Price||Narrow upper thigh, cuff guard||Price, boxy fit, not for resort days||Stiff, pricey||Not great for backcountry use, waterproofing|
|Bottom Line||A reliable and comfortable pant that is ready for anything||Ready for anything, these bibs combine form and function||An ideal bib for backcountry enthusiasts, fully loaded with features||These pants are for those who are preparing to take on harsh conditions||If you want a basic insulated pant to keep you warm and comfortable at the resort, this pair is for you|
|Rating Categories||Sentinel AR Pants||Flylow Foxy Bib||Hemispheres Bib||Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants||Insulated Snowbelle Pants|
|Weather Resistance (25%)|
|Fit And Comfort (25%)|
|Specs||Sentinel AR Pants||Flylow Foxy Bib||Hemispheres Bib||Lofoten Gore-Tex...||Insulated...|
|Measured weight (lbs)||1.1 lbs||1.4 lbs||1.3 lbs||1.8 lbs||1.4 lbs|
|Waterproofing||3-layer Gore-Tex||3-layer Intuitive stretch stormshell||3-layer Gore-Tex C-Knit||3-layer Gore-Tex Pro||2-layer H2No Performance Standard|
|Vents||Outer thigh||Inner and outer thigh||Outer thigh||3/4 outer side zips||Inner thigh|
|Insulation/Lining||Brushed liner||None||None||None||100% polyester taffeta|
|Main fabric||70D nylon||3L Stretch Stormshell Intuitive||70D nylon||200D nylon||75D 100% polyester|
|Waistline construction||Button & zip fly w/ integrated belt||Bib||Bib||Button & zip fly||Button & zip fly|
|Pockets||2 zippered thigh||2 mid thigh, 2 chest||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered kangaroo, 1 thigh||1 zippered hand, 2 zippered thigh, 1 zippered rear||2 zippered hand|
Best Overall Women's Ski Pants
Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Pants - Women's
If you are looking for a pant that can get you through the harshest of days, just as well as spring groomer laps, the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR is calling your name. It's our top-scoring pant for many reasons. With the construction that feels bomb-proof and high-performing weather resistance, fleece lining for comfort and just a bit of warmth, as well as pocket space for your essentials, these pants are ready for whatever you may throw at them. There's space to layer up underneath them for cold resort laps while also featuring large external leg vents to dump heat while ski touring. They also have a sleek look that most of our friends and testers found appealing.
The catch? You pay for what you get. The price is high for a pant without many luxurious features, but our testers found they liked this minimal, less frivolous approach to ski pants. If it's performance you want, you're likely to be happy with the results that the Sentinel provides. Put it this way—investing in high-quality pants now may mean avoiding buying again next season. As far as women's ski pants go, we haven't found anything the covers all aspects as well as this pair.
Read review: Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Women's Pant
Best Women's Ski Bibs
Flylow Foxy Bib
It's rare to find a product that lives up to the hype built around it, but that was our experience when it came to testing the Flylow Foxy Bibs. These bibs have everything you'd typically want for everyday use while still excelling in a variety of conditions. With thoughtfully placed pockets (the kangaroo pocket quickly became a favorite), a drop seat for easy relief in the backcountry, and a variety of color options, these bibs did not disappoint. We expect these pants to handle on-snow abuse with the best of them, too, potentially providing multiple seasons of use. These bibs also have the most efficient ventilation system of all pants we tested, with leg vents on the interior and exterior of the legs to really shed heat quickly.
Not everyone wants bibs, though. If that's you, even this fantastic pair might not pull you over to the bib side. After extended use, the DWR coating on the Foxy Bibs wore off from the pair we bought, which allowed the external fabric to saturate quickly, although no water penetrated to our legs. Using a waterproofing wash to re-up their DWR treatment is suggested. If you're looking for resort bibs, these are the first place to look.
Read review: Flylow Foxy Bib
Best Bang for Your Buck
The North Face Freedom Insulated - Women's
The North Face Freedom Insulated ski pant delivers more than it promises. For being lower on the price range, it held up considerably well to its weather resistance testing while garnering compliments on style around the resort. The pant offers a wide range of size and color options, and if you're someone who isn't on the slopes every week of the season, these could be just what you're looking for.
That being said, these pants are not perfect. They performed well economically but didn't seem to be built to stand up to prolonged harsh elements, nor are they incredibly versatile in function. With limited venting and breathability, these pants are best for resort use only on days where conditions are relatively dry. Getting the correct fit can also be complicated, so we recommend trying these on in person when possible.
Read review: The North Face Freedom Insulated - Women's
Best Bargain for Backcountry Ski Pants
Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pant - Women's
If you're trying to save some bucks while kitting out your backcountry adventures this season, the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pants might be just what you're looking for. A 4-way stretch fabric makes up this incredibly comfortable shell pant, utilizing Black Diamond's BD.dry technology to shed water. On top of that, the pants feature a removable belt, a beacon pocket with clip, zippered leg bottoms for boot access, and RECCO technology for occasional days at the resort. Whether you just signed up to take your AIARE 1 course or are familiar with backcountry missions, these pants are a great technical option for most conditions. The relaxed fit allows space to add base layers underneath without getting tight.
During our testing process, we did identify some areas where we could imagine improvement. For example, the beacon-specific pocket of the Recon Stretch Pants does not fully zip shut, creating a small area for water to intrude into the pocket, which lowers its weatherproofing score. The leg vents are adequate for most days, but we wish they were larger for really warm days and intense activity. The pants also come in very limited color and size options, reducing their marks in style. But overall, when looking at performance-per-dollar, these pants bring technical shell aspects at a lower price than most comparable models and should be considered by anyone who does not want to pay a premium for high performing touring pants.
Read review: Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pant
Best for Backcountry Skiing
Outdoor Research Hemispheres Bib - Women's
If the price isn't a variable in your decision making, treat yourself to the Tesla of ski touring pants. The Outdoor Research Hemispheres Bib are a comfortable and weatherproof bib with all of the features one could want while remaining lightweight and not fussy. Strategically placed three-way stretch Gore-Tex means that they provide freedom to move when you're working to get uphill. To top it off, they come equipped with ample pocket space—including an avalanche beacon specific pocket—plenty of venting, and top of the line waterproofing to be ready for any adventure.
So, why weren't they the overall favorite? While they come fully loaded with features and tech specs to match, the Hemispheres are one of the more expensive pants we tested. And while they certainly deliver for the price, many of the features are unnecessary for the average resort skier. These bibs are designed with a backcountry skier or rider in mind—if you're the one who sets the skin track, day after day, check these out.
Read review: Outdoor Research Hemispheres Bib - Women's
Best for Warmth
Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pants
Insulated pants are not for everyone, but if they are for you, then the Patagonia Snowbelle Insulated Pant should be high on your list for consideration. From first wear, these pants felt buttery smooth, light, and toasty warm. The adjustable waistband allowed for a personalized fit that maintained comfort while testing on the mountain, and its inner-thigh vents meant that when conditions got warmer during testing, it was easy to increase airflow to regulate temperature. The Snowbelle is a clear upgrade in quality from our insulated budget recommendation.
But, other than their incredible comfort, there are few truly stand-out features on the Snowbelle Insulated Pants. Featuring only two pockets, these pants are designed to simply keep you warm and comfortable while out skiing or riding. If you're looking for a pant with all of the bells and whistles, we recommend looking at more technical pants. However, if you are commonly too cold while sliding around the resort, this is our favorite option.
Read review: Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pant
Why You Should Trust Us
For the past six years, Sarah Sherman has worked in the ski and snowboard industry as a ski and snowboard instructor, marketing professional, photographer, and journalist. Regularly spending more than 100 days a season on snow and a self-proclaimed "gear nerd," there are few things she enjoys more than shop talk and helping others find the right gear for their needs. Throughout her experience, she has learned what makes a product great or bad, as well as which products suit different kinds of skiers and riders. She aims to provide all of the necessary information to get the right product in your hands so that you can have the best days out there, ever.
To accomplish this lofty goal, Sarah and a team of skiing and snowboarding friends spent hours researching the top pants and bibs on the market, finally narrowing down the selection to the top 10 featured here. Pants were purchased and worn while sliding and riding for two months throughout California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Mammoth Mountain to Squaw Valley to Sierra-at-Tahoe, experiencing the whole gamut of skiing conditions. There were spring-like days, powder days, and days where the snow fell more like rain. To ensure each pant received a thorough inspection, specific tests were also conducted. For example, every single pair was put through a shower test for waterproofing. And throughout it all, notes were taken on their various attributes such as warmth, ventilation, comfort, features, and style.
Related: How We Tested Ski Pants for Women
Analysis and Test Results
To effectively rate and test each pair of pants and bibs, each one was tested and ranked via six different categories: style, weather resistance, fit and comfort, warmth, ventilation, and features. Be sure to pay attention to each rating and its reasoning as you go on, as different metrics may matter more or less to you. For example, if you know you want a pant for ski touring, you will not mind that a pant scored low on the warmth metric, as you probably want an uninsulated pant.
When it comes to ski pants, it can be hard to discern what justifies such a range in price. What is the difference between a low priced product and a top-shelf, high dollar one? We dove into the question in our testing, trying out pairs across the price spectrum, and analyzing what made them great or not.
The results were pretty straightforward. If you are looking for a pair of pants to get you through a couple of days a season that will keep you warm and function well, then it usually doesn't make sense to spend a ton. In that situation, the The North Face Freedom Pants will do you well. They might not be the most durable long term, but what you get for the price will allow you to enjoy most days at the resort you might encounter. For a small increase in price, the Patagonia Snowbelle provides a slight upgrade with a stylish design and warm insulation for resort skiing. If you are looking to make a more long-term investment, we recommend the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR Pant. Though it is on the high side when it comes to price, the durability provides value in the long run. These are a pair you can expect to put through the wringer and still get quality performance season after season.
Weather resistance was the most important metric we considered during testing, meaning it significantly affected a pant's score. No matter what kind of day you plan on having on the mountain, staying dry is a key factor in your overall comfort and happiness. Nothing ruins a fun day quicker than soggy pants.
To test weather resistance, we not only wore the pants out in all kinds of conditions (sun, very wet snow, and cold powdery days), but put each pair through our "shower test"—two minutes of constant water exposure in the shower, testing zippers, seams, and overall waterproofing.
There were few surprises during this testing process—we typically found that the higher-end pants generally performed better than the rest. Coming out on top was the Noronna Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell Pants. These pants seemed to shed water like an umbrella and, even after two minutes in the shower, felt almost completely dry after a good shake off. Following close behind were the technical, high-end pants, including the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR, OR Hemispheres Bib, and the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bibs. These pants all received strong scores for weather resistance with zero leakage during testing and limited absorption of water.
The Flylow Foxy Bibs had no water leakage on the inside, but the external material seemed to absorb water and felt heavy to wear taking on liquid. The Burton Avalon Bibs did not bode well during testing, with water seeping through its zippers. Finally, and notably, The North Face Freedom Pant held up well for its price point with no leakage and minimal water absorption on the outer fabric.
Fit and Comfort
When you're on the mountain, the last thing you want to be bothered by is the way your outerwear fits and feels. You want something that feels like an extension of yourself, isn't fussy, and gets the job done. This was kept in mind throughout our testing, as well as mobility and adjustability. While this metric is inherently subjective, multiple women tried on each pair of pants, comparing how they fit different body types, how the pants moved on and off the hill, and noting how often they needed adjusting.
Scoring high in the fit and comfort category were the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pant, Arc'teryx Sentinel AR, Flylow Foxy Bib, and the Patagonia Snowbelle Insulated Pant, though all for different reasons. As stated in their name, the Recon Stretch Pant provided incredible stretch and mobility during testing, which allowed for unrestricted movement both up and downhill. They also come with an unobtrusive belt, which allowed for a customizable fit that required minimal fuss throughout the day.
The Foxy Bibs were not only simple to get on with easily adjusted straps, but once they were on, it was easy to forget they were there. The straps remained in place throughout rigorous testing and did not need constant adjusting, as other bibs sometimes did. The legs were roomy with plenty of space for layering, and the material felt comfortable and soft. One tester with wider hips did note that she would probably size up as the material tapers at the hips into the waist.
The Patagonia models also ranked high in fit and comfort, thanks to their super soft, buttery, inner lining. Putting these pants on felt like putting on a cloud, and they remained comfortable throughout the day of skiing. On the other end of the spectrum, the Burton Avalon Bibs scored fairly low. The material of the bibs felt stretchy and comfortable, even with the legs of the bibs being a slimmer fit, but they ultimately scored low due to sizing and mobility. The pants fit longer compared to others tested and consistently unzipped on the sides when testers bent at the waist.
The Norrona Lofoten Pant scored in the middle of the ranks—it remained comfortable with a baggy fit, but its stiff material meant that it felt bulky at times. The Columbia Bugaboo Pant was large at the waist, but thanks to its Velcro adjustable straps, we were able to adjust them to fit as needed.
Ventilation, similar to warmth, is a metric that matters depending on your preference. Those who ski tour or hike inbounds to less-traveled objectives should pay attention more attention to ventilation. While some pants are designed to provide added heat to escape the elements, many are designed to provide merely a layer of protection from wind and precipitation while allowing you to regulate your body heat with vents. This is especially important while ski touring or days when temperatures are warmer and the sun is out. To test the ventilation of different pants, we measured each pair of pant's vents and tried them out in practice.
The Flylow Foxy Bib ranked highly in this category, as they have inner and outer leg vents, allowing for maximum airflow through the pants. Some skiers may never need this level of airflow, so we don't consider vents on both sides of each leg to be a must-have. However, testers who preferred high levels of ventilation noted that the inner and outer leg vent combo was awesome. Note that the Foxy Bib's upper body portion doesn't vent very well, though.
This is followed by the Norrona Lofoten Pants, which have vents that begin at the boot and go almost all the way up the side of the pant. This is complemented by two-way zippers, which allow for a customizable vent size. The Patagonia SnowDrifter Bibs also ranked highly, with large outer vents that can also be adjusted by dual zippers, similar to the long and sufficient vents on the Sentinel AR.
Finally, it is again worth noting that many of the insulated pants come with very basic venting and score lower in this category. Ventilation openings on the inside of the leg provide less airflow than on the outside of the leg, and those vents covered with a mesh lining inhibit airflow as well. Those mesh linings keep snow from entering in deep powder or a tumble, but most of our testers found they preferred the free and open vents. Unless it's a particularly warm day, we generally zip up any vents when heading downhill. The Columbia Bugaboo Pant came with no venting.
On a cold, winter day, having a pair of pants that will keep your legs warm can make all the difference. However, not all pants are designed to be warm. Shell pants are meant to be lightweight and paired with base layers for warmth when needed. With that in mind, it's worth noting that insulated pants will inherently score higher in this category, and shells will score lower. We recommend considering the typical temperatures at your favorite resorts or ski locale when deciding what level of insulation and warmth you need. A low warmth score does not necessarily indicate a poor performing pair of pants. To measure warmth, we tested pants in a variety of conditions, including early cold mornings when temperatures reached well below freezing, windy chairlifts, and during hike sessions to get fresh powder.
The Patagonia Snowbelle Insulated Pants ranked the highest in this category, with its 100% polyester taffeta insulation providing warmth even in freezing conditions. This is followed up by the other insulated pants tested, The North Face Freedom Pants and Columbia Bugaboo Omni-Heat, both of which perform well in colder temperatures thanks to their insulation. The Burton Avalon Bibs are listed as a shell product but are lined with a thick material that still provides some warmth, earning a higher score than other shell options. These models listed above would be best for those looking for added warmth on a cold resort day.
The Arc'teryx Sentinel AR is lined with a thin, fleece-like fabric that adds just a touch of warmth to this shell pant. Testers noted that this made the pants feel less cold and more comfortable when worn without a pair of long underwear underneath. It is worth noting that, again, most technical shells scored low in this product, such as the 3-layer Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pants, which are lightweight and have no insulation. Warmth is up to the layering ability of the user for these shells, which many skiers and snowboarders prefer.
Sometimes it's the little things that separate a great product from a mediocre one, and when it comes to ski pants, this is certainly the case. A thoughtfully placed pocket, an added buckle, a key clip, RECCO technology — these are all features that can make a difference in your overall experience when wearing a pair of pants or bibs. To rate this, each pair of pants was thoroughly inspected to note each feature offered and how practical it is.
One pair of pants that ranked scored well was the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pants. Coming with a removable belt, an avalanche beacon-specific pocket, RECCO technology, gussets and leg gaiters, these pants are filled with features for those looking for an out-of-bounds adventure. Similarly, the backcountry designed Outdoor Research Hemispheres Bib ranked high in the features category, with all of the pockets one could want (both thighs, a kangaroo pocket, and a chest pocket), including an avalanche beacon specific space. They also notably have a drop seat for necessary breaks in the backcountry (or making resort bathroom breaks easier), an easily overlooked but much appreciated feature.
The Hemispheres also feature a ski strap slot to adjust your boots without having to take off the internal gaiters—a thoughtful touch that was also found in the similarly ranked Arc'teryx Sentinel AR. The Sentinel Pant additionally comes equipped with a key clip and large, articulated pockets. Finally, it has a low profile, removable belt that some of our testers really liked.
Both the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bibs and the Snowbelle Insulated Pant come with RECCO technology, and the bibs allow drop seat access from either the left or right side but are fairly simple other than that. The Norrona Lofoten Pants come with a zip-on attachment that allows them to be work as bibs, but they do not come with a drop seat, which many bibs now feature.
The Burton Avalon Bibs have a chest pocket and two thigh pockets, but the thigh pockets do not come with zippers, which resulted in a lower score since testers felt uncomfortable storing valuables in them. The Flylow Foxy Bibs came fully equipped with plenty of pocket space, featuring a chest pocket, kangaroo pocket, and two roomy thigh pockets that could easily fit a beacon, a beer, or a phone for music. The other pants' features are generally basic, with sometimes an extra pocket or two for aesthetic purposes.
Feel good, ski good—or something like that. Style is part of the game when purchasing a pair of ski pants and matters in buying decisions more than we often acknowledge. While this is inherently a subjective opinion, we consulted with friends and current trends to identify pants that can take you from the slopes straight to the après scene and beyond, considering colors, sizing options, and the pant's overall look.
Topping the charts in this category is the Burton Avalon Bibs. These pants were designed with style in mind, looking casual and similar to regular everyday overalls. The Flylow Foxy Bibs, The North Face Freedom Pant, and the Patagonia Women's Snowbelle Pant all come in a variety of different colors as well as different length options (short, regular, tall), meaning that there is sure to be an option for anyone's preference or need.
In the end, your personal preferences should take precedence in your purchase decision, but we certainly hope that by providing you with our detailed review, we can help you make the best-informed decision. Not everyone can be expected to rigorously test each pair of pants to find out what is best for them when buying, but we are happy to do it for you and share the results. We hope these reviews allow you to spend less time in the fitting room and more time on the mountain.
— Sarah Sherman