The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

The Best Ski Pants for Men of 2018

Grey on grey on white. Winter monochrome  courtesy of Spyder clothing and flat Wyoming light. Lead Test Editor Jediah Porter gives it all some depth with an ounce of hard work  testing gear just for your information. No fun was had at all.
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor
Wednesday January 24, 2018
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We took the best ski pants available and put them in side-by-side and run-by-run tests both at the resorts and the backcountry. To get our final field of 9, we started by researching over 30 models before selecting the finalists for our hands-on tests. Our findings surprised us as there was no one dominant pant across all metrics. Instead, most pants excelled in a few conditions and applications. Look at all the award winner to find the one that best matches your skiing style and clothing preferences.


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January 2018 Update
We just added a new ultralight option and award winner: The Patagonia Cloud Ridge. It's an ultralight ski pant that doubles as a rain pant. We used this pant bike commuting, boating, resort skiing and more. That said, it lacks the ski specific features of many other pants.

Best Overall Ski Pants


Arc'teryx Sabre Pants


Editors' Choice Award

$374.25
(25% off)
at Amazon
See It

Insulation: None | Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
Our favorite look
Burly and durable
Protects against inclement weather
Feels a bit stiff
Price

While the Arc'teryx Sabre didn't dominate any one category, it had the most consistent performance across all metrics. For each specific attribute, there is likely a better choice, but the Sabre is unbeatable as an all-arounder. This award winner, with its uninsulated construction, solid design, comfortable fit, excellent materials, and classic styling, is the highest scoring, most versatile, all-around product in our review.

Read review: Arc'teryx Sabre Pants

Best Bang for the Buck


The North Face Freedom Pant


The North Face Freedom Pant
Best Buy Award

$139.95
at Backcountry
See It

Insulation: None | Waterproofing: DryVent
Price
Built to last
Comfy fit
Vent zippers congest crotch area
Bland looks

The North Face Freedom Pant are comfortable, weather resistant, and their fit is impeccable. Their price point is competitive, especially considering that the seams and fabric are durable, and the style is neutral and long-lasting. The fit isn't too baggy or too tight. The cozy fleece liner means you don't need long underwear on warm or long days, and the inner leg vents shed steam. The design is simple, with sparse features and solid boot-sealing cuffs.

Read review: The North Face Freedom Pant

Top Pick for Insulated Pants


Spyder Dare Athletic Fit


The 2018 Spyder Dare Athletic Pant
Top Pick Award

$250.00
at MooseJaw
See It

Insulation: 40g Thinsulate | Waterproofing: Xt.L
Warm
Comfortable fit
Protects from wind, snow, and rain well
Less versatile
New Version
Spyder updated the ventilation on the latest version of this pant, moving the vent pockets to the inner thighs. This should improve ventilation overall. We detail all the updates to this model in the individual review.
In general, we caution against insulated ski or snowboarding pants for most people. You're better off owning multiple thicknesses of long underwear and layering underneath your uninsulated pants to adjust for different temperatures. However, some skiers require insulated pants. If you dislike long underwear, get cold, or ski in frigid climates, adding some insulation to your pants might be important. So if you must have insulated pants, the Spyder Dare Athletic Fit is the Top Pick. The insulation is carefully tuned, and the fit and styling are modern and clean.

Read review: Spyder Dare Athletic Fit

Top Pick for Weather Protection


Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants


Top Pick Award

$599.20
(20% off)
at Backcountry
See It

Insulation: None | Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
Bomber protection from nuking weather
Top quality materials and craftsmanship
Tight in the bib area for larger riders
Price

When worn with the matching jacket, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants create the most weather-protective two-piece suit we have ever used. Short of an admittedly unstylish one-piece, the zipped-together Norrona Lofoten pair guards best against the gnarliest winds and precipitation. The construction of each piece is clean and made from the best possible materials. The price reflects this quality, but for those looking for the best outerwear for skiing in wild weather, the Norrona set up is at the top of the list. Pair these pants with the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell, our Top Pick shell-only jacket, for the ultimate weather protection.

Read review: Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Pants

Featherweight and Versatile


Patagonia Cloud Ridge Pants


Cloud Ridge Pant
Top Pick Award

$179.00
at Backcountry
See It

Insulation: None | Waterproofing: H2No
Can be used as rain pants or ski pants
Incredibly light and pack down small
No pockets
No durability features around angles

If you mainly backcountry ski or just love lightweight gear that's a good value, check out the Patagonia Cloud Ridge. It's a cross between a rain pant and a ski pant and weighs less than half of most of the competitors. It's also only $190. We used it skiing at the resorts and the backcountry. We went boating, hiking, backpacking and used it for our daily bike commutes. It lacks pockets and any fancy features. But we love that simplicity and weight savings.

Read review: Patagonia Cloud Ridge Pants


Analysis and Test Results


We ask a lot of our ski and snowboarding pants. We need them to protect us from wind, cold, snow, and abrasion. We need them to be comfortable, fashionable, and durable. We also appreciate versatility and value. We may own many layers and jackets, but typically people only own one pair of ski or snowboard pants. We will mix and match these upper layers to tackle everything from storm days at the resort to hot days in the backcountry, and we expect our one pair of pants to perform in all of these conditions.

Virtually every skier owns little more than a pair of shell pants and a pair of long underwear. Very dedicated skiers may have something more specialized. Maybe. But in general, we demand a lot of our pants. Fortunately, the market has excellent leg protection, and our legs are resilient. If our legs become a little cold, or wet, or hot, it's not the end of the world. Therefore, our pant selection can be more forgiving than our jacket selection.

An OutdoorGearLab selection of ski pants.
An OutdoorGearLab selection of ski pants.

Value


Putting together a full kit of snow gear isn't cheap. In addition to the boots, bindings, skis/snowboard, you've got all the clothing, layers, and accessory items. With this in mind, we compared overall score and retail price of each item to help you get the most for your men's ski pant dollar.

In general, it will cost you an additional $100-$350 to take a step up from the low to high end of performance. For a solid pant at a low price, look at the Freedom Pant from The North Face. For $499 you can get into a pair of our favorite all-arounder, the Arc'teryx Sabre. Or, for significantly more, consider the Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Pants - the most expensive option, but one to consider if weather resistance is important to you.


Types of Ski Pants


Uninsulated Pants


The most versatile pants are not insulated, as they allow you to customize your system depending on the temps. Uninsulated ski or snowboarding pants come in two different types of construction. Both types join three sheets of material but are named for the number of these layers that are laminated together.

"Three-layer construction" sandwiches a waterproof/breathable membrane between a burly face fabric and a lighter mesh or fleece lining textile. Pants constructed this way, like the Arc'teryx Sabre, Norrona Lofoten Pants, and Flylow Baker Bibs, feel durable and a bit stiff. They go on smooth and vent well. They don't feel all that comfortable against the bare skin and therefore pair well with long underwear.

In our testing, the most versatile and highest rated pants use "two-layer construction." The face fabric and waterproof membrane are laminated together, but the inner layer of fleece or mesh hangs free. The pants are softer and more flexible as a result. These pants, like our Best Buy Freedom Pants from The North Face and high-scoring Patagonia Powder Bowl, are more comfortable and slightly warmer than the previous style, especially when worn without long underwear. The Patagonia SnowShot Pants are also a two-layer construction.

Insulated Pants


The Columbia Bugaboo II Pants, and Spyder Dare are insulated. Essentially, in between the lining fabric and the waterproof membrane, the manufacturers add a layer of synthetic "puff" insulation. These pants work well if you will be in cold climates or get cold legs.

Some will want insulated pants as a second pair in their quiver. For the coldest of days, this can be a good idea as layering underneath shell pants is bulky. For users that get out often enough to justify owning multiple pants, an insulated pair to complement your daily driver is worth consideration. For these folks, the less expensive Columbia Bugaboo is a good choice. If cost is no issue, the Spyder Dare is, as we've noted above, the best-insulated ski pant in our review.

Bibs


In our review, only the Flylow Baker Bibs had full-bib construction. The Baker Bibs are made using three-layer construction and bridge the lower-body/upper-body gap, especially for tall people. The Norrona Lofoten Pants can be used as bibs or as regular pants, and zipped together with a matching jacket, the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell, to form a one-piece suit. The Spyder Dare pants have a rear bib panel to add weather protection. The rest of the pants in our test are waist-high design.

Criteria for Evaluation



Fit and Comfort


Fit is paramount. And very subjective. Individual fit matters, and it varies. So try your pants on. That being said, we were able to have multiple body types assess the pant selection. Certain themes came up, and the reviews of each product note these observations. We tested size medium pants. For the most part, every pair of pants we tested fit, someone, well. All were usable for our lead tester, a self-described "extra medium" (always wears a size medium).


Additionally, we took fabric texture into account. Thick, stiff pants with no hanging liner, like the FlyLow Baker, aren't as comfy as the lighter, more flexible Patagonia Powder Bowl.

The clean lines and tailored fit of the Sabre suit users of all shapes and objectives.
The clean lines and tailored fit of the Sabre suit users of all shapes and objectives.

Of the three-layer pants, the Arc'teryx Sabre pleased the most users, while the Norrona Lofoten made up for stiff fabric with careful tailoring. The Columbia Bugaboo II pants have the softest fleece lining, but the thick insulation hampered the range of motion. The Spyder Dare is as comfortable as any of the other award winners. Regarding fit and comfort, there is nothing notable about the Patagonia SnowShot or The North Face Freedom.

Cold smoke  cold air  and pants for this cold weather. The Spyder Dare is the best insulated ski pant we've tested  for that narrow part of the market that needs such a thing.
Cold smoke, cold air, and pants for this cold weather. The Spyder Dare is the best insulated ski pant we've tested, for that narrow part of the market that needs such a thing.

Weather Resistance


Fit and weather resistance have top importance when evaluating ski or snowboarding pants. Weather resistance is a function of both the shell fabric and garment design. All tested pants had adequately waterproof and windproof outer fabric. However, to maximize the weather protection of this outer fabric, effective construction is key.


Pants must have separate and tight inner cuffs, solid zippers and flaps, and an adequate water repellant (DWR) finish. The 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 helps maintain the breathability of the fabric laminate. All of the tested pants have adequate weather resistance.

You can't see them in there  but the Arc'teryx Sabre does all it needs to do to keep out precip of all kinds.
You can't see them in there, but the Arc'teryx Sabre does all it needs to do to keep out precip of all kinds.

If you spend a great deal of time skiing in stormy weather, the Patagonia Powder Bowl, Arc'teryx Sabre, Norrona Lofoten Pants, Spyder Dare, and Flylow Baker Bibs have excellent protection.

In deep snow  the protection afforded by any of the configurations of the Lofoten pants is appreciated. Here  Lead Tester tries the Lofoten pants in bib mode with the Spyder Leader jacket.
In deep snow, the protection afforded by any of the configurations of the Lofoten pants is appreciated. Here, Lead Tester tries the Lofoten pants in bib mode with the Spyder Leader jacket.

The Patagonia SnowShot and The North Face Freedom have a weakness that takes away from their weather protection. Each is ready for average ski conditions, but when pressed, the fabrics might get overwhelmed. For the SnowShot and Freedom, the catch is in the less-breathable construction. In humid of conditions, condensation can appear on the inside, making it feel like the weather is getting through.

Finally, the Columbia Bugaboo II lacks seam sealing and is less protective as a result. In our shower test, we observed external moisture getting through the seams. This pair is the only product that exhibited this attribute. However, the insulated design is best suited to cold climates and conditions where there will be no liquid precip to breach the pants.

Testing for waterproofness. The Columbia pants  shown here  proved to have excellent water repellency  but one of the vulnerable seams leaked.
Testing for waterproofness. The Columbia pants, shown here, proved to have excellent water repellency, but one of the vulnerable seams leaked.

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. In cold conditions, layering underneath 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 were hands-down the Columbia Bugaboo II Pants.


The Bugaboo II pants in action. In high energy skiing  only on the most cold days will the insulation of the Bugaboo be appropriate. On average to warm days of high exertion like this shown here  the Bugaboo pants are too warm.
The Bugaboo II pants in action. In high energy skiing, only on the most cold days will the insulation of the Bugaboo be appropriate. On average to warm days of high exertion like this shown here, the Bugaboo pants are too warm.

We granted a Top Pick award to the insulated Spyder Dare. This product is the best-insulated pant in our test, and we recommend it for those looking for warm ski pants. Finally, the one-piece pants like the Arc'teryx Sabre, Norrona Lofoten, and FlyLow Gear Baker Bibs had the least insulation.

The insulated Bormio pants are a possible choice for those in cold climates like Wyoming's Grand Targhee resort in December. Here  lead test editor in this western Wyoming ice box  in the Bormio pants.
The insulated Bormio pants are a possible choice for those in cold climates like Wyoming's Grand Targhee resort in December. Here, lead test editor in this western Wyoming ice box, in the Bormio pants.

Ventilation


Not every ski day or ski climate is equal. Changes in latitude, exertion, and weather all require versatility from your clothing. While you may choose from some upper body layers, you will likely own just one pair of pants. That pair of pants must be versatile and well ventilated to accommodate the entire range of temperatures and exertion. If you use your pants for backcountry use as well, pay close attention to ventilation. (Our testing team included backcountry ski guides which recommend well-venting resort pants for occasional backcountry use but noted that if you are an avid backcountry skier, dedicated backcountry pants will be well worth the investment in regards to comfort.)


When thinking about ventilation, look for thigh vents. Vents on the inside are more effective than those on the outside. The Flylow Baker Bibs earn special notice because of their inner and outer leg vents.

The almost-full-length size zips of the Lofoten allow donning of pants with boots on and encourage significant venting potential.
The almost-full-length size zips of the Lofoten allow donning of pants with boots on and encourage significant venting potential.

The long, non-mesh backed vents of the Arc'teryx Sabre and Norrona Lofoten are effective, but a touch immodest. The Patagonia Powder Bowl, The North Face Freedom, and Patagonia Snowshot vents, while different from one another, function to the same standard. The Columbia Bugaboo II pants do not have any vents.

The wide-opening  inner thigh vents of the Mammut Bormio are turned every so slightly toward the rider's leg fronts. For this reason  the Bormio pants vent better than most.
The wide-opening, inner thigh vents of the Mammut Bormio are turned every so slightly toward the rider's leg fronts. For this reason, the Bormio pants vent better than most.

Style


Style is subjective. However, certain characteristics and considerations stand out. Unlike ski jackets, it is less likely that you will wear your ski or snowboarding pants to the bar. But if you do end up there in your full kit—and our testing team loves those nonstop days when you head straight from last chair to partying down—you are unlikely to care too much about what sort of statement your pants make when not on skis.


Ski pants don't need to look like anything other than ski pants. You will likely own far fewer ski or snowboarding pants than you do ski jackets. Choose your colors carefully. It is tempting to go for one of the many colorful pants available, but this limits your jacket selection. If you mix and match jackets, grey or black pants are most versatile.

The exterior look of the Lofoten pants and jacket  in the colors we tested.
The exterior look of the Lofoten pants and jacket, in the colors we tested.

Regarding style, fit varies. A baggy fit is in but fading. The degree of bagginess varies. Snowboarders can get away with more "sag" and extra fabric. Skiers require a little more range of motion and therefore less fabric. Backcountry users, whether on skis or snowboard, need even more range of motion than skiers at the resort.

Highlighting the changes in style, the Arc'teryx Sabre has slimmed down in the years we have been testing. The latest iteration has a closer fit than its ancestors. The Spyder Dare has a sophisticated look and is offered in more colors than in the past. The Patagonia SnowShot and Patagonia Powder Bowl have looks that are virtually indistinguishable from The North Face Freedom and Columbia Bugaboo II. The smooth, rugged fabrics of the FlyLow and Norrona pants are sleek.

Features


Important features are integrated belts, pockets, key or pass clips, and Recco technology. (Consult our ski pant buying advice article for more information on Recco). None of these features are make-or-break attributes, but the sum of a carefully designed feature set adds value.


The Spyder Dare and Arc'teryx Sabre pants are the best equipped, while the Norrona Lofoten and Columbia Bugaboo offer the most sparse features. In between, The North Face Freedom, Patagonia SnowShot, Flylow Gear Baker Bibs, and others have usable features that barely deserve mention.

The Arc'teryx Sabre is suited to all around ski life. Whether a cold day in the backcountry  or a hot day on the resort  or anything in between  the Sabre will serve you well.
The Arc'teryx Sabre is suited to all around ski life. Whether a cold day in the backcountry, or a hot day on the resort, or anything in between, the Sabre will serve you well.

Conclusion


Loading the car after a great day in The North Face Freedom Pants and some deep winter snow. Also shown is the Patagonia 3-in-1 SnowShot jacket  tested in our Men's Ski Jacket Review.
Loading the car after a great day in The North Face Freedom Pants and some deep winter snow. Also shown is the Patagonia 3-in-1 SnowShot jacket, tested in our Men's Ski Jacket Review.

It can be a daunting task to select the perfect pair of pants for you. With the many options available, how do you choose? Weather resistance, comfort, and durability are just a few of the important features to consider. Like any purchase, it is the balance of all these attributes, alongside cost and style, that informs your decision. With ski pants, factor in the amount of time you'll use them and with what ski jacket you will pair them. Where you ski, how you ski, and what your overall exertion level will factor in too.

We speak to this "meat of the business." We know you need awesome gear to maximize your time on snow. That time is precious, and our recommendations can make or break an entire season's ski trips. We take that seriously, and carefully consider all the variables when making our recommendations. We believe this review will give you the details that you need to make an informed decision. To learn more about the important features, consult our Buying Advice article.


Jediah Porter