Best ski pants 2021: The best threads for your legs this winter

We've tried and tested the best ski pants to tackle everything from piste to powder

best ski pants: skiiers walking
(Image credit: Curt Nichols on Unsplash)

Welcome to T3's guide to the best ski pants. Ski pants come in as many styles as ski jackets, with specific design features depending on where you intend to use them – obviously it will be on snow, but the requirements of recreational skiers looking to cruise the blues and reds will be different from those of backcountry freeriders or ski tourers.

Not surprisingly, the less demanding your skiing the less you'll have to shell out – one-week-a-year skiers can save their hard-earned for the après-ski action with a perfectly acceptable pair of budget strides such as Decathlon's Wedze 580, whilst the more choosy backcountry brigade will probably prefer something like Picture's eco-friendly Demain or Ortovox's hard-core Pordoi, despite the premium pricing.

Read on for some expert advice on the features to look for, followed by our pick of the best ski pants around right now. Pair any of these with one of the best ski jackets (or the best women's ski jackets), stay cosy with the best ski base layers, and hit the slopes in style.

How to choose the best ski pants for you

Check out the basics first – you need to ensure your ski pants are constructed from fabrics that are waterproof, windproof and breathable for obvious reasons, as well as deciding whether you want insulation (bulkier, heavier and warmer) or just a shell (lighter, looser but cooler – you'll need a decent base layer too with shell pants).

Then you'll need to consider the features – a bib-and-brace can be warmer and more versatile than 'regular' pants but not so convenient when nature calls, whilst pockets with zips are essential to stop your stuff from falling out and snow from getting in. But how many do you need? Some ski pants may have just a couple, others might have several including cargo pockets.

If you're an energetic skier you'll probably prefer the typically looser fit of freeride pants to the usually more snug styling of pants designed for piste skiing, and if you plan to head out into the backcountry vent zips are useful to help you keep your cool. Zippered bottoms make it a lot easier to get the pants over the top of your ski boots, whilst an elasticated boot gaiter is essential to keep snow out of your boots.

The best ski pants you can buy right now

best ski pants: Helly Hansen Legendary ski pants

(Image credit: Helly Hansen)

1. Helly Hansen Legendary ski pants

The best all-round ski pants

Insulation: Primaloft Black 60g/m2
Material: Helly Tech Performance breathable, waterproof, windproof
Vent zips: Yes
Reasons to buy
+All the essential features+Not too expensive+Men's, women's and junior versions
Reasons to avoid
-No cargo pockets-Too plain for some

The Helly Hansen Legendary provides a nice mix of essential features, understated good looks and a price that won't break the bank. The 60g/square metre Primaloft Black insulation provides warmth without bulk and at the same time the cut is loose enough that you can easily wear a thick base layer under them on really cold days, whilst the pants' outer fabric keeps the elements at bay at the same time as providing breathability. Features include a Velcro-adjustable waist with belt loops, three zippered pockets, vent zips on the inside of the legs and elasticated boot gaiters – essentially all you need and nothing you don't, and all at a pretty reasonable price.

best ski pants: Ortovox Pordoi

(Image credit: Ortovox)

2. Ortovox Pordoi pants

The best premium ski pants

Insulation: Merino wool
Material: 4-way stretch breathable, waterproof, windproof
Vent zips: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Lots of features+Highly technical construction
Reasons to avoid
-Style won't suit everyone-High-end pricing

The Pordoi is essentially designed as a ski touring/mountaineering pant, but will work fine for other types of skiing, especially more demanding stuff, thanks to the combination of a merino wool lining and Schoeller 'C Change' membrane for moisture and temperature management (when it's cold, the membrane closes – as soon as the body becomes too hot, the pores open to release moisture) along with side ventilation zippers to help you stay comfortable whatever the conditions. They have a reasonably loose fit and a good selection of zippered pockets, all rounded off with useful features such as burly scuff guards and integrated boot gaiters, which are coated with silicone on the inside.

best ski pants: Decathlon Wedze downhill ski trousers 580

(Image credit: Decathlon)

3. Decathlon Wedze downhill ski trousers 580

The best budget ski pants

Insulation: Recycled 60g/m2 wadding
Material: Breathable, waterproof, windproof polyester
Vent zips: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Lots of features+Great price
Reasons to avoid
-Slim(ish) fit won't suit everyone-Quite plain looks

The Wed'ze 580 manages to squeeze pretty much everything you need into a pair of ski pants at a real budget price. They feature a breathable membrane with 8,000mm waterproofing and taped seams, plus recycled wadding for warmth, whilst you can also regulate your temperature with ventilation zips on the inner thighs. There are also several zipped pockets, Velcro waist adjusters and braces and elasticated boot gaiters, and other than the fit perhaps not being loose enough for some riders and a limited range of colourways the 580 really does offer great value for money.  

best ski pants: Picture Demain ski pants

(Image credit: Picture)

4. Picture Demain ski pants

The best eco-friendly ski pants

Insulation: None
Material: Bio-sourced stretch hardshell, breathable, waterproof, windproof
Vent zips: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good build quality+Eco-friendly+No built-in insulation
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Only two pockets

The first thing you need to know about the Picture Demain pants is that they provide no insulation, so you'll need a good ski base layer beneath them. However, they will make you feel worthy since they're constructed of the company's new Xpore nano-porous sustainable membrane made with recyclable polyolefin, and treated with a PFC-free and solvent-free DWR coating to give superior waterproofing and breathability. Their bib design gives added protection from the weather, and features on these loose-fitting pants include taped seams, generously-sized thigh zippers, hem adjusters, super-tough scuff protectors and elasticated boot gaiters with laces hooks. There are only two zippered hand pockets, however, but they are generously sized.

best ski pants: Dainese HP Hoarfrost

(Image credit: Dainese)

5. Dainese HP Hoarfrost

The best rugged ski pants

Insulation: Primaloft Silver 60g/m2
Material: Dermizax EV stretchable membrane, breathable, waterproof, windproof
Vent zips: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Rugged construction+Removable braces
Reasons to avoid

The Dainese HP Hoarfrost pants will go down well with skiers who give their kit a lot of stick – build quality is excellent and includes padded leg inserts for protection when things get hairy, whilst breathability and waterproofing are great and it's nice to see the combination  of braces, Velcro waist adjusters and belt loops which gives you loads of options for keeping them in place. Additional features include two zippered pockets, zippered thigh vents, zippered hems and elasticated boot gaiters in these well-insulated pants that will keep you warm on the coldest of mid-winter sessions.

Alf Alderson
Alf Alderson

Alf Alderson is a freelance adventure travel journalist and an 'ambassador' for the ski resort of Les Arcs.