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.
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How to choose the best ski pants for you
In your hunt for the best ski pants, there are a few key things to look for. 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
Topping our ranking of the best ski pants is the Helly Hansen Legendary (opens in new tab). These provide a nice mix of essential features and understated good looks, and at 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 (our best ski base layer guide can help you out here), 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. The only potential downside to be aware of is that we think the women's version comes up quite long; they were slightly on the long side for our 5'8" tester.
The Pordoi is essentially designed as a ski touring/mountaineering pant, but will work fine for other types of skiing, especially more demanding stuff. That's 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. These ski trousers 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.
If you're on a tight budget, the best ski pants for you might well be the Wedze 580, which manage to squeeze pretty much everything you need in a pair of ski trousers, for an extremely low 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.
The Picture Folder is the most technical, eco-friendly ski pant in the Picture range, featuring durable and stretchy three-layer fabrics made from bio-sourced polyesters derived from sugar cane waste. They offer great weather protection and great comfort thanks to a mix of two types of strategically placed materials – a tough textured fabric at the knees and a stretchy fabric to enhance freedom of movement elsewhere. A nanoporous membrane made of recyclable material provides excellent waterproofing and breathability while zippered thigh vents provide optimal thermoregulation. Add to this a Teflon EcoElite durable PFC-free water repellent treatment, fully waterproof seams and waterproof YKK zippers and you have a pair of great-looking, bombproof pants.
If you don't want bib style pants but do want plain, well-specced 'regular' ski pants the Helly Hansen Rapid is worth checking out. The Primaloft lining is warm and soft, and the Helly Tech Professional outer fabric offers a good level of stretch for comfort as well as being breathable, waterproof and windproof and having sealed seams. There are stretch Velcros waist adjusters, , two zippered hand pockets and a zippered rear pocket, vent zips on the inner thighs, reinforcements on the inner ankles for protection against ski edges, boot gaiters with stretch silicone grips and an integrated Recco beacon – basically everything you need and nothing you don't. Oh, and you also get a 'Ski Free' promotional day pass for selected ski resorts.
Keels' Munro salopettes are super-tough, full of features and really excellent value; and they have plenty of outdoor credibility, being used by mountain rescue teams and tactical forces around the world. Keela's unique 'SDP' (System Dual Protection) system is waterproof, windproof and highly breathable thanks to a built-in layering system which effectively keep you dry from both the inside and the outside in the worst of conditions. You also stay comfortable thanks to articulated and reinforced knees and adjustable braces and ankles, whilst two-way, full-length zippers on the outside of the pants help you regulate your temperature on warmer days or when skinning. There are no hand pockets but you do get a decent sized chest pocket on the bib.
If you're heading off on a backcountry tour, you'll need a pair of ski pants that will let you get a sweat on, and won't restrict your freedom of movement. The Arc'Teryx Procline (opens in new tab) (for men, above left) / Sashka (for women) (opens in new tab) ski pants are designed for just that. Much fuss is made about the downhill part of skiing, but the Arc'teryx Procline Pants are built to take you uphill with equal enthusiasm. Part of the brand's 2021 Ski Touring Collection, these stretchy ski trousers have zippable side vents to cool you down on punishing ascents, a specially designed cuff for easy buckle management, and ultra-tough Keprotec insteps to guard against edge abrasion. The N70p GORE-TEX INFINIUM fabric is designed to blocks wind, resist rain and snow, yet remain breathable. We tested out the Sashka and were very impressed, although note that the fit is on the narrow side around the thighs.
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.
If it's a women's cut you're after, the Arc'teryx Sentinel AR ski pants are well worth a look. Reviews praise the fit and freedom of movement, as well as the handy inclusion of a belt to make minor adjustments – say, if you've had too much fondue the night before. GORE-TEX keeps the water firmly out while letting the air in, double side zips provide as much ventilation as you'd like, while powder cuffs stop the snow from making its way into your trouser legs. The Arc'teryx Sentinel AR ski pants aren't insulated – although they do have brushed inner designed to provide a comfy amount of warmth – so these are for milder ski locations or anyone who tends to overheat on the slopes. Finally, there are 'Slide'n'Loc attachments that enable you to link these pants with compatible jackets to create one unified snow suit.
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 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.