Which women’s ski pants are best?
Hitting the slopes can be the highlight of cold weather for many people, but waiting for the right skiing conditions can leave you on the edge of your chairlift. It’s a good idea to have all your gear ready before ski season hits so that when there’s a perfect powder day, all you have to think about is you and the snow.
Ski pants are essential equipment, but finding the right ones can take time and effort. Consider the excellent Columbia Women’s Bugaboo II Pant for a high-quality overall pick.
What to know before you buy ski pants
Pants vs. bibs
Many think of just pants and jackets when picking out ski gear, but bibs, the ski-pant equivalent to overalls, can be a useful alternative to ski pants for various reasons. Snow bibs for women do a better job of keeping snow out, as the material is brought up to the shoulders, so a tumble to your bum won’t mean snow in the pants.
Bibs also tend to have more storage options. Furthermore, snow bibs for women rest on the shoulders, allowing for greater mobility and comfortably fitting more body types. However, it is important to remember that bib straps can interfere with backpack straps and that wearing a bib instead of pants can make going to the bathroom and changing layers a hassle.
Insulated vs. shell
Whether you choose pants or a bib, you’ll need to decide whether you want a shell or extra insulation.
- Shell pants: Shell pants and bibs are composed of a few layers of waterproofing material with little to no additional insulation. This might seem like it would leave you feeling cold, but many skiers find it a more versatile option. For warmer climates or skiers that like to walk to runs, shell pants are often preferred because they allow you the room and flexibility to layer underneath.
- Insulated pants: Insulated snow pants and snow bibs for women have extra insulation in at least a few key areas. These are certainly warmer, but they can feel heavier and restrict movement. If you live in a frigid climate or ride chairlifts frequently, you may prefer an insulated option.
Consistency and type of use
Before you pick out a pair of ski pants, it’s essential to consider what type of skiing you’ll be doing and how frequently. If you are a consistent or competitive skier, or if you find yourself skiing in remote areas, you won’t regret dishing out more money for top-of-the-line products. But if you ski once or twice a year and primarily ski at resorts, you will be fine paying less for something that has just what you need. The frequency and type of skiing you do will also affect how important the weight, breathability and storage options are for you.
While fit often comes down more to preference, it is a good rule of thumb to have pants that aren’t very tight or very loose since you want enough room to move but not for snow to climb inside. If you have difficulty finding pants that fit you well in all the right places, maybe look into getting a snow bib instead. Many brands will also offer “tall” or “long” ski pants designed to fit lankier body types, so keep an eye out for that.
What to look for in quality ski pants
One of the primary purposes of ski gear is to keep you as dry and warm as possible. That said, women’s snow pants have a quantitative metric for determining how waterproof they are. It’s technically called the water column rating, but what you need to know is that a higher number is a more waterproof material. For most people, 10,000 to 15,000 is a good level of waterproofing, but some skiers may want 20,000 or more if they ski in especially wet conditions.
Measured similarly to waterproofing, breathability is an important and often underestimated aspect of women’s snow pants. Skiing is an athletic activity, meaning you are likely to sweat. If that sweat has nowhere to go, it will condense on your body, making it even colder. Once again, 10,000 is a good breathability rating for most users, but those who sweat a lot or do incredibly intense skiing should look for ratings closer to 20,000. Also, be aware that sometimes an increase in waterproofing can lead to a decrease in breathability and vice versa.
Some women’s snow pants will have zippered vents for additional breathability, allowing you to unzip and open up the mesh material to air out and then zip them back up when you need that waterproofing. If you expect to ski multiple runs in a day, consider pants with added vents.
Taped seams keep moisture from seeping in through your snow pants. Critically taped seams mean that only the most important seams have been taped. This usually suffices but means there’s more chance of leaks. Pants with fully taped seams have had every seam taped. This is more expensive but more effective.
Your hands are very occupied while skiing, and you aren’t likely to have a purse on hand, so it is important to look for ski pants or bibs with a good variety of pockets. If you’re preparing to go out on the slopes, the last thing you want is to realize that you only have room in your pocket for a tube of chapstick.
Think about how your ski day will go and what you will want to have with you. Consider pants with different amounts and configurations of pockets accordingly. Also pay attention to whether pockets have any zippers, snaps or other closures. Without these, it’s easier for items to fall out of your pockets, especially if you take a tumble.
Cuffs and kick patches
The easiest place for your pants to wear out and for snow to get on your body is where your pants meet your boots, so many ski pants have developed specialized solutions for these issues. Cuffs are fitted with an elastic and rubber grip on the inside of your pants to create a seal when you pull your pant leg down over your boot and keep snow out.
Kick patches are material reinforcements at the bottom of the pant leg to keep the material from being worn out by the tops of your boots. In both cases, these are designed for your pant legs to be worn over top of your boots, not underneath. Wearing quality ski socks underneath your pants won’t make a difference in how the cuff or kick patches work, but it will leave you feeling more comfortable.
It might not be the most important thing about your pants, but you’ll find them in various colors. You can find everything from classics, such as black, gray and white ski pants to bolder hues, such as pink and yellow. You might want to match them to ski gear you already have. For instance, if you already have a white ski jacket, you may want white ski pants, too. Alternatively, choose a neutral like black or gray that will go with almost anything.
How much you can expect to spend on ski pants
Depending on your needs and budget, you can spend less than $100 or more than $500 on ski pants. For average skiers, pants costing less than $200 will be more than sufficient, as they tend to have good waterproofing and breathability. If you are a backcountry skier, a professional skier, or you ski very regularly, you may want to invest in a pair costing between $300-$500, as they will have top-notch function and features and will keep you from having to buy a new pair each season.
Ski pants FAQ
Should ski pants be tight or loose-fitting?
A. They should be somewhere in between. You want your pants to be loose enough that your movement isn’t restricted but tight enough that snow can’t get in. Always remember the type of base layers you’ll be wearing when determining pant size. The more you wear underneath your women’s snow pants, the larger they’ll need to be to fit well and give you a full range of motion.
Are snowboard pants different from ski pants?
A. Not really. There are pants marketed as one or the other, but generally, if your pants work for skiing, they’ll work for snowboarding and vice versa. You’ll also sometimes find them referred to as snow pants. Whatever name they go by, they’re equally suitable for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and simply walking around in cold and snowy conditions.
What is RECCO?
A. RECCO is an avalanche safety system that ski teams and rescue personnel use to help find people trapped in an avalanche. The two-part system consists of a reflector and a detector, though some ski products will only have a reflector. The reflector reflects light so you can be easily spotted in the snow, while a detector will actually transmit an active signal for rescue teams to latch onto to find you.
What are the best women’s ski pants to buy?
Top women’s ski pants
Columbia Women’s Bugaboo II Pant
What you need to know: At the top of many buyers’ lists, these women’s snow pants combine the best of everything you want in ski pants.
What you’ll love: With durable construction that feels like it would stand up to anything, you can trust these pants to last through anything you can throw at them. They’re comfortable with warm polyester insulation. They’re waterproof yet breathable, with taped seams and convenient pockets.
What you should consider: Some buyers found them larger than expected and others found them smaller than expected, so check the measurements carefully before buying.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top women’s ski pants for the money
The North Face Freedom Insulated Pant – Women’s
What you need to know: These comfortable, warm women’s snow pants perform well in every category compared to others in their price range. They’re perfect for less committed skiers and resort use.
What you’ll love: The perfect combination of high performance and low price, these ski pants offer a good amount of pockets, effective two-layer weatherproofing and light insulation. There are also vents on each leg for breathability.
What you should consider: Customers had difficulty finding the right fit. They’re not meant to withstand extreme weather or backcountry skiing.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry
Best ski bib for women
What you need to know: This top-of-the-line snow bib for women is made by skiers for skiers and has everything, including a bit of a cult following. This is perfect for high-intensity skiers who love to have the best.
What you’ll love: The high-chested, streamlined design of this fan-favorite bib is comfortable and flattering. This bib is packed with multiple pockets, long thigh vents, 20,000 ranking, a side zipper and a cuff guard. It feels like a dream. It also comes in a ton of beautiful colors.
What you should consider: Because it’s a shell, this bib isn’t very warm. It’s also pricey.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Backcountry
Swiss Alps Women’s Water Resistant Breathable Ski Bib
What you need to know: If you’re looking for an affordable ski bib that you can layer underneath, this is an excellent choice.
What you’ll love: As a shell, it’s ideal for anyone who wants to do their own layering under their ski outerwear. It’s fully waterproof yet breathable. The pockets are zippered, making them safer for storing items in than those without zippers or snaps. It comes in sizes from XS-XL and four colors: rich black, deep black, gray and white.
What you should consider: Some buyers would prefer a wider range of color options.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Collette Bliss writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.