Ski pants tend to be one of the most overlooked items in the ski arsenal. Whilst you’re charging through the trees or lapping the mountain, your ski pants are working hard to keep your lower body warm and dry.
Most ski pants will have a waterproof rating between 5,000 and 20,000 mm (5-20K), the higher the number, the more waterproof the ski pants will be. Be aware that not having a rating doesn’t necessarily mean your ski pants are less waterproof than a 20,000mm pair; high end fabrics, such as Gore-Tex, eVent and Black Magic don’t post specific waterproof ratings. Your ski pant waterproof rating depends on your skiing ability, location and the time of year you’re planning on going.
How warm a ski pant needs to be varies from person to person. Even insulated pants feature a light, low-profile synthetic insulation to add some extra warmth; it’s not as crucial to keep your legs warm as it is your core, so there’s naturally less padding.
The most versatile type of ski pant is an uninsulated shell with some type of lining for a little extra warmth and comfort. If you’re the type of person who gets cold easily, you can wear base and mid layer thermal leggings. Backcountry skiers will be doing far more aerobic exercise than your average piste skier, so ski pants designed for touring are generally lightweight and unlined.
There are a few features common to your average ski pant, beyond similarly waterproof outer shells. These include snow gaiters at the bottom of the pant, vents along the thigh and zip up pockets, the number and size of which will depend on which style ski pant you choose.
A waterproof gaiter designed to seal around your ski or snowboard boot, these are a feature on almost every ski pant you might want to buy. Ski pant gaiters sometimes have hooks that connect to buckles, and when worn correctly they’ll even keep the wettest spring slush out of your boots.
Unlike snowboard pants, ski pants are reinforced where the inner edge of the ski is likely to wear the fabric of the ski pant down. A stiff, extra durable fabric is used to protect against contact with ski edges and crampons, where snowboard pants will often be reinforced along the knees.
Almost every ski pant today has vents on the inside of the thigh, designed to promote air circulation and temperature regulation. These vents can range from mesh lined to unlined zips along the leg. Technical backcountry ski pants will often have full length side zips for maximum ventilation.
This might seem like something of an obvious inclusion, but different types of ski pants will have different pocket styles. These range from baggier salopettes with cargo pockets to the smaller pockets, just about big enough for a ski pass or a hand, that you might find in stretch fit ski pants.
A key area that contributes to the waterproofness of a ski pant is the seam taping; seams that are not covered with tape will allow moisture seep through. There are two type of seam taping that a ski pant will have.
This is the least waterproof option when it comes to ski pant seam protection. Critical taping means that only the seams most commonly exposed to moisture are taped; so long as you don’t spend too much time in wet weather, critical taping should be more than enough to keep you dry.
As is implied by the name, fully taped ski pants have every seam taped for additional waterproofing. Waterproof tape is glued to the interior and exterior of the seam, preventing moisture seeping through. A fully taped seam is the best option if you’re on the mountain in extreme weather conditions.
Style and Fit
Gone are the days when the only real choice you had in your ski pant was what colour it was; these days, there are a range of styles and fits that will suit any skier or snowboarder. The main fits can be broken down loosely into three categories; slim, regular and loose.
Fitted with the newest technical material, these ski pants have a close fit without compromising on warmth and waterproofing. Slim fit solves all your latent worries about looking like the Michelin Man while out on the ski slopes.
This is the middle ground between the more stylish options at either end of the scale, the classic option. These ski pants are loose enough that you can fit layers underneath, but aren’t as bulky as the baggier, loose fitting option.
Popular amongst freestyle skiers and snowboarders, a loose fit gives you a range of movement and flexibility that means you can complete that all important 720 grab. Many of the seasonaires and locals you’ll see around will be wearing loose fit ski pants.