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Best Ski Pants of 2022

We compare men's ski pants from Arc'teryx, The North Face, Spyder, Patagonia, and others to find the best for your needs
Best Ski Pants of 2022
Wednesday March 23, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

We have been buying and comparing ski pants for the last 8 years, having tested 46 pairs along the way. This review covers 15 of the best ski pants available, based on in-depth testing in wintery ski climates from Jackson Hole to Lake Tahoe to the Colorado Rockies. Sometimes the powder gods delivered, and other times we made tracks on corduroy. The ideal ski pants should function to fit comfortably, keep you dry, vent excess heat, keep you warm on the lifts, and have handy features, all while offering style points, preferably. We score each pair on these merits, resulting in a detailed assessment to guide you to your next pair.

See our detailed assessment of women's specific models here that was authored by our expert female testing team. If you need a new jacket to go with your ski pants, our review can help. We've tested a multitude of ski categories to take the guesswork out of your purchases, whether it's a new pair of ski goggles or a brand new pair of skis.

Related: Best Ski Pants for Women

Top 15 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 15
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $438.93 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$650 ListCheck Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$399 List
$318.93 at REI
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
77
76
74
74
72
Star Rating
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Pros Immaculate weather protection, excellent fit, fleecy liningExtremely weather resistant, stylish cut, good freedom of movement, vents wellGreat performance at a low price, tons of features, weather resistant, breathableBreathable, comfortable, stylish, excellent for touringGood weather resistance, fits great, plenty of ventilation, inexpensive
Cons Expensive, light on featuresNot warmLacks good style and warmth, average comfortNot waterproof or warm, expensiveNot warm, short on features, muted style
Bottom Line This model is perfect for those who demand the best from their ski pantsThis refined model are the best ski bibs that money can buyAn affordable hardshell that provides great weather resistance, ventilation, and featuresThese softshell pants breathe well and fit comfortably, making them perfect for backcountry skiingThese are great bibs that keep the weather out and fit well, at an affordable price
Rating Categories Arc'teryx Sabre AR... Arc'teryx Micon Bib Outdoor Research Sk... Arc'teryx Procline... Outdoor Research Ca...
Weather Resistance (25%)
9.0
10.0
8.0
4.0
8.0
Fit and Comfort (25%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
10.0
8.0
Ventilation (20%)
7.0
7.0
9.0
10.0
8.0
Warmth (10%)
5.0
4.0
4.0
3.0
4.0
Features (10%)
4.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Style (10%)
9.0
8.0
6.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Arc'teryx Sabre AR... Arc'teryx Micon Bib Outdoor Research Sk... Arc'teryx Procline... Outdoor Research Ca...
Main fabric N80p-X Gore-Tex with Cordura Nylon 3L cuff fabric 80-denier plain-weave nylon 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex Nylon 100% nylon 40D
Insulation Laminated fleecy lining None None None None
Waterproofing N80p-X Gore-Tex (3-layer) 3-layer Gore-Tex AscentShell Gore-Tex Infinium Pertex Shield 3L
Waistline construction (elastic? snaps?) Snaps. Built-in elastic belt Zipper fly, belt loops Snap/zipper fly with external velcro adjustment, belt loops Snaps with elastic belt Bibs
Weight (in pounds) 1.32 lbs 1.28 lbs 1.32 lbs 1.46 lbs 1.64 lbs
Weight (in grams) 599 g 581 g 599 g 662 g 744 g
# of Pockets 3 3 4 3 3
Vents? Exterior thigh zips, no mesh Outer thigh zips Inner thigh zips Outer thigh zips Exterior thigh
Ski-specific features Key/pass clip inside pocket, touring cuff, scuff guards Scuff guards, powder cuffs, barn door seat access Scuff guards, powder cuffs, articulated knees, beacon clip Scuff guards, elastic powder cuffs Bibs, power strap-compatible cuffs, beacon pocket, scuff guards
Recco? Yes No No No No


Best Overall Ski Pants


Arc'teryx Sabre AR Pant


77
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 9.0
  • Fit and Comfort 9.0
  • Ventilation 7.0
  • Warmth 5.0
  • Features 4.0
  • Style 9.0
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex | Pockets: 3
Protective in all weather
Fuzzy lining
Amazing fit
Price
Few pockets
Stiff shell fabric

The Arc'teryx Sabre AR is a formidable hardshell pant that we recommend to anyone who skies frequently enough to justify their high price. These pants assemble top-shelf materials like Gore-Tex, waterproof zippers, and sealed seams to produce a waterproof and durable shelter from inclement weather. They excel at everything from long days charging at the resort to posh cocktail bars in Aspen. Their 3-layer shell construction with a brushed fleece lining is unique in the market and very comfortable. They fit like a glove and ventilate well, making them suitable for backcountry skiing in addition to resort riding.

We recognize that not everyone needs such an expensive and high-performing ski pant, and there are plenty of other options that come close to matching the Sabre AR's performance at a much lower price. The brushed fleece insulation is barely noticeable, so they aren't super warm, though most skiers prefer to layer underneath their ski pants anyway. But if you're willing to fork over the cash, these pants are excellent, and they'll last a long time. In short, they are the total package in a pair of ski pants.

Read review: Arc'teryx Sabre AR Pants

Best Overall Ski Pants
Lead editor Jeff Dobronyi ripping some pow turns on a cold day in the Primo Puff on top and Sabre AR pants on bottom.

Best Ski Bibs


Arc'teryx Micon Bib


76
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 10.0
  • Fit and Comfort 7.0
  • Ventilation 7.0
  • Warmth 4.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Style 8.0
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex | Pockets: 3
Weather-proofing
Stylish
Comfortable
Well-ventilated
Not warm
Expensive

The Arc'teryx Micon Bib uses Gore-Tex, waterproof zippers, sealed seams, and an "overalls" design to provide the pinnacle of weather resistance. Our legs bear the brunt of winter weather, from snowy wet chairlift rides to slushy spring turns to the deepest powder you can imagine, and these bibs protect your lower body better than any other pant on the market. These bibs are well-tailored to provide a comfortable fit and freedom of movement that we rarely find in hardshell bibs. And they do it all with great style. Many bibs on the market are thick and heavy, but the Micon bucks this trend with its thin material, leading to more comfortable mobility.

Bibs have their downsides, like a more confined fit due to the overall design, and they are harder to take off when going to the bathroom. And since they cover the torso with hardshell fabric, bibs can get hot, but the Micon has long outer thigh vents to ditch heat when you need to. These pants have no insulation, so they won't keep you warm on their own, and you'll have to layer underneath if you need more warmth. And, these pants carry a hefty price tag, which only the most discerning and expert users will find justifiable. But, if you charge hard no matter the weather and believe in bibs, this is the best pair on the market right now.

Read Review: Arc'teryx Micon Bib

Best Ski Bibs
We love the look of the Micon, which has a contoured cut and good color options.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Best Bang for the Buck


The North Face Freedom Insulated


65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 6.0
  • Fit and Comfort 7.0
  • Ventilation 5.0
  • Warmth 9.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Style 7.0
Waterproofing: DryVent| Pockets: 3
Awesome performance-per-dollar
Lots of color options
Protective enough
Warmth
Unsealed zippers and some seams
Small vents

The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants are the best bargain on the market. They are highly weather resistant, warm, durable, and stylish. And they do it all for a fraction of the price of the Arc'teryx Sabre AR. If you're looking for a great pair of pants for almost any day of the ski season, these are a bargain that gets the job done, and then some. Across the board, they perform adequately for most needs at the resort while looking and feeling great.

Our primary issue with the Freedom Pants is that the pockets and some seams are unsealed. The main lower leg seams are taped, but the pocket and vent zippers are not waterproof. The seams that secure these zippers are not waterproof either. This will not be a concern for most casual skiers, but for hardcore chargers and everyday users like ski instructors and patrollers, we'd opt for a completely weatherproof alternative. None of the pants with fully sealed seams and waterproof zippers are as affordable as the Freedom Insulated.

Read review: The North Face Freedom Insulated

Best Bang for the Buck
The North Face Freedom Insulated pant looks great while shredding hard on the ski hill.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Best Bargain for Shell Pants


Outdoor Research Skyward II AscentShell


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
  • Fit and Comfort 7.0
  • Ventilation 9.0
  • Warmth 4.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Style 6.0
Waterproofing: AscentShell | Pockets: 4
Supremely breathable for a hardshell
Good weather resistance
Great features
Comfortable and stretchy
Not warm
Lacks style

The Outdoor Research Skyward II is a hardshell pant that uses a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane to keep wind and water out. With sealed seams and waterproof zippers, it has great weather resistance, and the material is stretchy and more comfortable to wear than any other hardshell pant. It has plenty of pockets to make life at the resort easy, as well as a useful avalanche transceiver pocket that adds versatility for backcountry skiing and riding. But perhaps our favorite attribute is how well ventilated these pants are, with two long outside thigh vents and astonishingly breathable fabric.

As a shell pant, they don't provide any warmth, and the breathable fabric means that warm air escapes easily. They don't have a refined, contoured fit, which means they end up baggy in the thighs and crotch for some users, and look straight and boxy. We also aren't huge fans of the color options. But these minor gripes are all we have to complain about here. These shell pants are an excellent, more affordable choice for anyone who doesn't want to compromise on performance.

Read review: Outdoor Research Skyward II AscentShell

Best Bargain for Shell Pants
The Skyward II pants are affordable, comfortable, and weather resistant enough for most days on the slopes.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Best for Backcountry Skiing


Arc'teryx Procline Pant


74
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 4.0
  • Fit and Comfort 10.0
  • Ventilation 10.0
  • Warmth 3.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Style 9.0
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Infinium | Pockets: 3
Extremely comfortable
Highly breathable
Stylish
Good features
Not warm
Limited weather protection

Backcountry ski pants are used very differently than their inbounds relatives. They need to be lightweight, breathable, and possess thoughtful features, often doing so at the expense of weather resistance and warmth. The Arc'teryx Procline Pant uses an impressive Gore-Tex Infinium softshell membrane to allow plenty of breathability while retaining the ability to repel consideration precipitation. In a rainy deluge, these pants will soak through, but in the frozen environment of backcountry skiing, these pants are adequate for all but the stormiest days. They are stretchy and comfortable, have a perfectly tailored fit, and are stylish to boot.

The breathable nature of the softshell fabric means warm air can escape easily, so these pants don't provide much warmth. But the biggest downside to these pants is the price. For a pair of ski pants that aren't waterproof, these pants come with a huge price tag. They fit like a glove and breathe perfectly, so frequent backcountry skiers might think the price is worth it. But for occasional backcountry skiers and those who don't need a pair of pants to fill the niche of fair-weather ski touring, the price isn't worth it. In their niche, though, these pants are exceptional.

Read review: Arc'teryx Procline Pant

Best for Backcountry Skiing
The Procline pants are comfortable and breathable on the skin track, and they look great too.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Best Insulated Pants


Spyder Dare GTX


68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weather Resistance 8.0
  • Fit and Comfort 6.0
  • Ventilation 5.0
  • Warmth 10.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Style 6.0
Waterproofing: AscentShell | Pockets: 5
Toasty
Fit well and comfy
Good features
Plenty of weather resistance
Zippers aren't sealed
Snug fit isn't for everyone

Insulated ski pants can't offer the same versatility as their uninsulated brethren. Some skiers prefer cozy built-in insulation, but the market trend is towards very light insulation or hardshell-only designs. Some skiers do opt for a second pair of insulated pants on the coldest of days. For those searching for an insulated pair to fill their "pant quiver," the Spyder Dare GTX is our top choice. These pants are warm, comfortable, and fit very well. Despite being thick due to their insulation, we didn't experience any drawbacks in our range of motion. The weather resistance is great, minus one minor drawback mentioned below. The racer style isn't for everyone, but we have to concede that in certain contexts, it looks good.

We have some minor issues with the venting (we prefer externally located vents for maximum airflow — those on the Dare are along the inseam). But, these are designed for cold days when you're unlikely to want to give up any heat. Also, we wish all of the pockets were waterproof. Overall, though, these are our favorite insulated pants for skiing that we have tested in a while. When it gets super cold, the Spyder Dare is our go-to model.

Read review: Spyder Dare GTX

Tester Jediah Porter showing off the Spyder Dare. While we tested...
Tester Jediah Porter showing off the Spyder Dare. While we tested these pants in all conditions, as we do all pants, we don't recommend them for ski touring use. We DO recommend them for frigid resort days.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
77
$549
Editors' Choice Award
Excellent ski pants in every regard, and you'll pay for it
76
$650
Editors' Choice Award
Excellent ski bibs for a high price
74
$299
Best Buy Award
These pants provide great weather resistance and ventilation at a great price
74
$399
Top Pick Award
Great for touring or hard-charging resort days when the weather is clear, these stretchy pants fit and breathe well
72
$300
Not the most stylish bibs, but they are very comfortable and keep weather out
70
$299
Great ski pants for a variety of applications and a wide range of skiers and riders
69
$420
Rugged, weather-ready hightop pants that shout “I love skiing, and I do it a lot"
69
$500
These bibs are great for weather resistance and ventilation, but they fit poorly
68
$300
Top Pick Award
If warmth is a primary concern, check out these ski pants
65
$170
Best Buy Award
Other insulated pants might do a bit better, but none at a price like this
65
$225
Snug fitting softshell pants for regular use on the skin track
62
$360
These rugged pants are made for heavy users that require stout protection and baggy style
61
$140
These pants are warm and moderately weather resistant, but not very stylish
59
$300
These pants have great breathability but not so great tailoring, and not much weather resistance or warmth
58
$199
They won't stop the most brutal winter storms, but they're good enough for light use on the ski hill

The Sabre AR pants during testing in the Wyoming backcountry.
The Sabre AR pants during testing in the Wyoming backcountry.
Credit: Tom Causley

Why You Should Trust Us


Our test team was led by Mountain Guide, avalanche forecaster, and OutdoorGearLab Contributor Jeff Dobronyi. Jeff lives, skis, and guides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, one of the coldest and snowiest places in the country. He skis almost every day of the winter, only taking days off when his legs are begging for a break. Jeff's gear has to work day in and day out because he puts it through the wringer, both recreationally and professionally. These demands and years of experience make him an informed and discerning judge of ski apparel.

For us, finding the best pair of ski pants begins with considerable market research, which eventually yielded the top models discussed here. Testing was largely done in the field at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Arapahoe Basin, Kicking Horse, and backcountry trips in the Tetons. We tested each pair of pants in different climates, from windy Sierra storms to frigid, clear days in Jackson Hole. We often took one run per day in each pair, changing pants in the gondola between runs to get comparable side-by-side comparisons between the products. Since we can't always count on rain during the testing period, we observed each pair's water resistance by wearing them in the shower for 5 minutes and checking for water penetration. Throughout the testing process, we paid attention to important attributes like warmth, ventilation, comfort, and features.

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Click to enlarge
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Analysis and Test Results


We ask a lot from our ski and snowboarding pants. They need to resist wind, snow, and maybe even rain. They should be comfortable, fashionable, and durable. On top of all that, they need to provide versatility for all the conditions winter might throw at us. We assess each model on these key performance areas and discuss the best performances below.


Value


Our selection of pants covers a huge price range, from budget options to pants that command a serious premium. The good news is that there is great value to be found in many of the less-expensive options. Except in the gnarliest of weather, the least expensive products we tested perform adequately at the resort. Weather resistance is what really sets the more expensive products apart. To fully guard against every drop of water, every snowflake, and every whisper of wind, well-sealed pants almost always cost more. The more expensive products also feature durability improvements, increased ventilation, fashion upgrades, and general refinement. That said, all of the pants in this review will protect against most weather that you encounter on the slopes, and the extra features and style found in the more expensive options are nice additions, but not necessary.

If you don&#039;t think we enjoyed testing these pants...you might not...
If you don't think we enjoyed testing these pants...you might not get it.
Credit: Jediah Porter

We found the greatest value per dollar in the The North Face Freedom Insulated pants, which are a warm, well-fitting, and comfortable pair of pants that are a bargain, considering that they feel like pants that go for twice the price. The REI Powderbound Insulated pants also provide warmth, moderate weather resistance, and useful features for a rock bottom price. The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II provides good value if you are in the market for a backcountry-specific softshell pant. It has plenty of features, great comfort, awesome breathability, and a decent fit, at a price that is much lower than top-of-the-line options. If you are looking for a pair of affordable bibs, the Outdoor Research Carbide performs nearly as well as the top products, but at a much lower price.

The Carbide is at home on the resort slopes or deep in the...
The Carbide is at home on the resort slopes or deep in the backcountry, in fair or foul weather.
Credit: sam willits

Weather Resistance


Weather resistance is our top priority when evaluating ski pants. This attribute is a function of both the shell fabric and garment design. All the pants we tested have adequate, weather-resistant outer fabrics for bluebird day usage, and many feature completely waterproof fabrics. However, the fabric is meaningless without thoughtful design.


Pants must have separate and tight inner powder cuffs, protected zippers and flaps, and a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. This DWR is what makes water "bead" on the surface of the fabric. It blocks light weather and keeps the face fabric dry. This is important for weather protection, but it also ensures that the fabric laminate remains breathable.

The Sabre AR pants easily fended off snow and precipitation during...
The Sabre AR pants easily fended off snow and precipitation during our test.
Credit: Tom Causley

If you spend a lot of time skiing in stormy weather, the Arc'teryx Micon and the Backcountry Cardiac bibs are the most protective pants money can buy. In addition to the impenetrable Gore-Tex membranes, waterproof zippers, and sealed seams of other protective pants, these bibs are like waterproof overalls that keep all weather on the outside where it belongs. They eliminate the waist opening, which is a major weak point in weather-resistant ski clothing systems. Bibs are hands down the most protective ski pants. The Patagonia Powder Bowl, Arc'teryx Sabre AR, Flylow Baker Bibs, and OR Carbide Bibs also supply excellent protection.

Like all bibs, the Arc&#039;teryx Micon reach well above the waist...
Like all bibs, the Arc'teryx Micon reach well above the waist, sealing the body from the snowy ground.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Some pants in our review forego waterproof technology in favor of more breathable and flexible softshell fabric. These pants aren't designed to withstand stormy weather, but they still provide resistance against light weather and snow. The Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II and the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid are both softshell pants that add panels of waterproof fabric in the seat and in the lower legs to bolster weather resistance without impeding breathability, but in our experience, this addition doesn't work as advertised.

The burly fabric and DWR coating keep all precipitation on the...
The burly fabric and DWR coating keep all precipitation on the outside of the Flylow Baker Bibs.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

Fit and Comfort


Good ski technique is important to both our enjoyment of the sport and to reduce the risk of injury. If we can't move freely, our technique could be limited or altered, leading to less fun on the slopes and a potentially dangerous experience. Well-fitting and comfortable ski pants don't hinder our motion at all, while poorly fitting ski pants feel restrictive and limiting. Of course, fit and comfort depend on body type. Some pants feature a slim fit through the thighs and knees, while others are baggy and loose. In our experience, the perfect fitting ski pant sits somewhere right in the middle-- not too tight and not too loose. Everyone is different, so pay close attention to our photos, and see if our testers have the same body type as you. In our testing period, we were able to have multiple body types assess all the pants. We tried to test size Medium pants, but in a couple of cases, we had to return them and get size Large.


Fit goes hand in hand with comfort. A well-cut pair of pants will be more comfortable to wear because they will conform to the contours of the body. Additionally, we took fabric texture into account. Thick, stiff pants with no hanging liner, like the Flylow Baker Bib, aren't as comfy as the lighter, more flexible OR Carbide Bib, Patagonia Powder Bowl, or Arc'teryx Sabre AR. On the top shelf of mobility and comfort are the light, softshell fabrics of the backcountry models. They occupy an entirely different realm of comfort.

The Arc&#039;teryx Procline pant is a great backcountry skiing pant...
The Arc'teryx Procline pant is a great backcountry skiing pant, offering breathability, comfort, and style.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

The backcountry pants in our review feel like pajamas compared to all the other options. That's a good thing because you'll spend a lot of time hiking uphill in these pants, so they need to be super comfortable. The Arc'teryx Procline was the most comfortable of these options, owing to a well-tailored fit that melds to most athletic body types perfectly. In a close second, the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II is slightly looser but still comfortable on the skin track.

The Trailbreaker II pants hard at work on the skin track.
The Trailbreaker II pants hard at work on the skin track.
Credit: sam willits

Of the three-layer pants, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR and the OR Carbide Bibs are the most comfortable. These pants flex and move with body movement very well, lacking any stiff or rigid fabrics. The Flylow Chemical and Flylow Baker Bibs, in contrast, feature stiff fabric and somewhat cumbersome tailoring. The North Face Freedom Insulated and Spyder Dare pants both have synthetic insulation, which is very comfortable, although the Freedom offers a slightly looser and less constricting cut.

The Carbide&#039;s legs fit almost perfectly, not too loose and not too...
The Carbide's legs fit almost perfectly, not too loose and not too tight. They are cut with a bent leg in mind, making them more athletic and comfortable in motion. Most importantly, they are not stiff like most hardshell bibs.
Credit: Sam Willits

Ventilation


Each day on the ski slopes is different, from warm, sunny, and windless days to the brutally cold and stormy ones. Most skiers only own one or two pairs of ski pants, and these pants need to keep us warm on the coldest days of the season. The rest of the time, our pants may be too warm and need to be able to dissipate any excess heat from our legs into the outside atmosphere. Ideally, on the coldest days, our pants can keep all of our body heat on the inside, and on the warm days, our pants can ventilate to let some of our heat escape. Breathable, softshell fabrics let warm air escape every day of the year and aren't ideal for the coldest days. Zippered vents allow the user to choose when to let air escape and when to trap warm air inside. Some of the pants in this review are niche pants that are designed for either warm days in the spring or the coldest conditions possible, but most are somewhere in the middle.

Our testing team includes backcountry ski guides who recommend well-venting resort pants for occasional backcountry use. However, they noted that if you are an avid backcountry skier, dedicated backcountry pants are well worth the investment due to the benefits in comfort.


Most ventilation is supplied by zippered thigh vents. All of the pants we tested have vents of some sort. Vents on both the inside and outside of the thigh allow for maximum airflow. The next best are long, exterior vents with no mesh, then exterior vents with mesh. The least effective vents seem to be those that are mesh-backed and located on the inner leg. Unfortunately, this happens to be the most common ventilation scheme in our comparison. Mesh does keep some snow out, but it also inhibits airflow. We prefer no mesh, but most resort-oriented pants include mesh to guard the vents. If you ride hot and tumble a lot, mesh-lined vents are probably a good option.

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Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The Flylow Baker Bibs, Flylow Chemical, and Backcountry Cardiac Bibs earn special mention because of their inner and outer leg vents. These pants provide the best ventilation of the waterproof pant options. Dual vents on each leg create a swirling flow of air that not only goes across but also travels up and down the legs inside the pants. No other pants in our review have two vents on each leg.

Vents on both sides of each leg offer the most ventilation of the...
Vents on both sides of each leg offer the most ventilation of the waterproof pants in our review, as seen with the FlyLow Baker Bibs and Chemical pants.
Credit: Sam willits

The long, mesh-free vents of the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II, Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid, and Arc'teryx Procline are super effective. These pants all utilize softshell fabric, which is much more breathable than even the most ventilated hardshell pants. Even though the Flylow models offer greater airflow, the backcountry-specific models dumps heat more effectively overall to provide the most ventilation of any pants in the test bunch.

The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants have small, mesh-lined vents...
The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants have small, mesh-lined vents on the interior thigh, which is the least effective vent design.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Among the rest, the long vents on the Arc'teryx Sabre AR and OR Carbide provide adequate ventilation for resort and backcountry use. The Patagonia Powder Bowl has long vents on the exterior of the leg, but the mesh blocks the full flow of air. The North Face Freedom Insulated and Spyder Dare vents are located on the leg's interior and have a mesh backing. These provided the least amount of air exchange and heat dumping in our trial period.

Warmth


Just like in all cold-weather clothing, insulation matters. It is important to note, however, that most skiers give little thought to their pants' insulation because our lower bodies aren't as sensitive to cold as our upper bodies. In cold conditions, layering underneath usually works best. So we tested for warmth but didn't put a great deal of weight on this metric. The warmest pants in our test are the Spyder Dare and the Freedom Insulated.


Our favorite insulated pant is the Spyder Dare. This product performed highly in the warmth metric while also remaining relatively comfortable and weather resistant. When skiing in truly frigid conditions, we would reach for the Dare pants over the others. That said, they are too warm for most days at milder ski destinations.

The Spyder Dare pants don&#039;t look insulated. They don&#039;t even feel...
The Spyder Dare pants don't look insulated. They don't even feel insulated. But they are.
Credit: sam willits

Pants like Patagonia's Powder Bowl and Snowshot with "2-layer" construction offer just the right amount of warmth for most ski resort conditions in the US. Separate from the outer shell is a hanging lining, either mesh or fleece. The air space between the fabric layers adds just a touch of warmth without tipping them into "too hot" status.

The shell-only ("three-layer") pants like the Flylow Chemical Snow Pants and Flylow Gear Baker Bibs have the least insulation. The Arc'teryx Sabre AR is made with a three-layer construction, but the inner layer is fuzzy. This adds enough warmth to simulate the insulation value of the "two-layer" pants with three-layer construction.

The thin, brushed fleece liner of the Sabre AR&#039;s shell fabric adds a...
The thin, brushed fleece liner of the Sabre AR's shell fabric adds a small amount of insulating power, as well as great next-to-skin feel.
Credit: sam willits

Backcountry pants and warmth require some further discussion. Backcountry skiing is both warmer (when going uphill) and colder (in the event of even a minor emergency with no lodge available) than regular resort skiing. We bring extra layers for emergencies, and we choose our primary ski pants for the uphill portion. Backcountry ski-specific pants are not nearly as warm as resort pants, for a good reason. The OR Tralbreaker II pants are made with a thick softshell fabric and are generally warm enough for most conditions while also dumping heat effectively when needed.

Features


Important features are integrated belts, pockets, key or pass clips, and Recco technology. None of these features are make-or-break attributes, but a full set of features makes a good pair of pants even better.


The Outdoor Research Skyward II has some of the best features in our review. It has tons of pockets in convenient locations, with waterproof zippers on all exposed pockets. It also includes an avalanche transceiver sleeve in the right waist pocket with a plastic clip for the beacon. This particular feature is becoming common in shell pants, which is a trend we appreciate.

The Skyward has four pockets. One waist pocket has a handy...
The Skyward has four pockets. One waist pocket has a handy transceiver sleeve and clip that keeps the beacon comfortably in place.
Credit: Jeff Dobronyi

We now look for a clip or tether located inside a pocket to attach an avalanche transceiver for backcountry-specific models. This allows the transceiver to be worn in a pocket, which is how most backcountry skiers prefer to wear their beacons, compared to the traditional chest harness. The beacon pocket is located in the right handwarmer pocket in the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II, Carbide Bib, and Arc'teryx Procline.

The right hip pocket of the OR Trailbreaker II also holds a clip for...
The right hip pocket of the OR Trailbreaker II also holds a clip for an avalanche transceiver.
Credit: Sam Willits

Style


Style is subjective. However, some rules generally apply. Many skiers prefer pants that blend in with the crowd and use their jackets to make a fashion statement. But if you end up at the watering hole at the end of the day, you'll probably take your jacket off, in which case your pants will be the centerpiece of your look. Furthermore, anyone who has ever skied at a resort knows a ton of thought that goes into the overall look of a ski get-up. And really, it's a shame to spend so much money on a pair of pants that look terrible.


Ski pants don't need to look like anything other than ski pants. You will likely own fewer ski pants than you do ski jackets. Choose your colors carefully. It is tempting to go for one of the colorful pants available, but this limits your jacket selection. If you mix and match jackets, grey or black pants are traditionally the most versatile. But nowadays, ski pants come in a variety of muted colors that branch out from the norms, like khaki and navy blue. Some products are still available in brighter colors, but not all.

Classy style from the Sabre AR pants.
Classy style from the Sabre AR pants.

Fit is also an important component of style. A baggy fit is fading in popularity. Snowboarders can get away with more "sag" and extra fabric, given that their legs remain a fixed distance apart. Skiers require a greater range of motion. Backcountry users, whether on skis or snowboards, need even more range of motion than skiers at the resort.

The loose and &quot;core&quot; style of Flylow Gear.
The loose and "core" style of Flylow Gear.
Credit: Sam willits

Highlighting these style changes, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR has slimmed down in the years we have been testing. The latest iteration has a closer fit than its ancestors without losing mobility. The backcountry-minded Arc'teryx Procline Pants are flexible and relatively form-fitting, but not skin-tight, in a way that looks good and improves performance on the skin track. The North Face Freedom Insulated pants are the most neutral pants in our review, and they look great. The Flylow Baker Bibs are a tad loose for our liking, but many skiers and riders prefer the baggy look.

The Arc&#039;teryx Procline pants are relatively form-fitting, but not...
The Arc'teryx Procline pants are relatively form-fitting, but not too snug, and we think they look great.
Credit: Jackie Kearney

Conclusion


It can be a daunting task to select the perfect pair of ski pants. With the many options available, how do you choose? Weather resistance, comfort, and durability are the most important factors for most skiers, but style and features are also important to some. There is a good pair of pants for every budget. Having the right pair of ski pants can make or break a trip. Our recommendations here will help you maximize your fun on the slopes.

Loading the car after a great day of ski pants testing.
Loading the car after a great day of ski pants testing.
Credit: Meagan Buck Porter

Jeff Dobronyi and Jediah Porter


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