Best Ski Pants for Women of 2021
|Price||$348.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Comfortable, flexible fabric, affordable, lots of features||Comfortable, warm, RECCO, great price, ideal for novice to intermediate skiers||Spacious pockets, color and size options, weatherproof, versatility, ventilation, built to last||Comfortable, high-performing, pocket space, 'core' look||Roomy pockets, great weather resistance, comfortable, good value|
|Cons||Not completely weatherproof, gets dirty easily||Not great for backcountry use, waterproofing||Price||Narrow upper thigh, cuff guard||Zipper construction, limited style and color options|
|Bottom Line||Technical yet comfortable and affordable, we recommend these pants for backcountry use with occasional resort days in between||This pant offers resort style with comfort and warmth at an approachable price point||A do-anything ski pant that is as ready for your next adventure as you are||A comfortable and high-functioning bib for sidecountry missions and resort laps||A comfortable, protective, high-performing shell pant at a surprisingly reasonable price point|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Recon...||Patagonia Insulated...||Arcteryx Sentinel AR||Flylow Foxy Bib||Outdoor Research Sk...|
|Weather Resistance (25%)|
|Fit And Comfort (25%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Recon...||Patagonia Insulated...||Arcteryx Sentinel AR||Flylow Foxy Bib||Outdoor Research Sk...|
|Measured Weight||1.5 lbs||1.4 lbs||1.1 lbs||1.4 lbs||1.3 lbs|
|Waterproofing||3-layer BD.dry||2-layer H2No Performance Standard||3-layer Gore-Tex||3-layer Intuitive stretch stormshell||3-layer AscentShell|
|Vents||External thigh||Inner thigh||Outer thigh||Inner and outer thigh||Outer thigh|
|Insulation/Lining||None||100% polyester taffeta||Brushed liner||None||None|
|Main fabric||84% nylon / 16% elastane, 4-way stretch||75D 100% polyester||70D nylon||3L Stretch Stormshell Intuitive||88% nylon, 12% spandex|
|Waistline construction||Button and zip fly with removable belt||Button & zip fly||Button & zip fly w/ integrated belt||Bib||Button and zip fly|
|Pockets||2 zippered thigh||2 zippered hand||2 zippered thigh||2 mid thigh, 2 chest||2 zippered hand, 2 zippered thigh|
Best Overall Women's Ski Pants
Arcteryx Sentinel AR Pants - Women's
For a pant that will work for everything from groomer laps to the harshest storm days, our top choice is the Arcteryx Sentinel AR. This pant earns its high marks for a handful of reasons. With bomber construction and high-performing weather resistance, fleece lining for comfort, and just a bit of warmth, as well as pocket space for your essentials, this pant is ready for whatever you may throw at it. There's space to layer up underneath them for cold resort laps while also featuring large external leg vents to dump heat while ski touring. We also loved the sleek and tailored look.
The catch? You pay for what you get. The price is high for a pant without many techy features, but we appreciate the minimal, less frivolous approach to ski pants. If it's performance you want, you're likely to be happy with the results that the Sentinel provides. Put it this way — investing in high-quality pants now may mean you don't have to buy ski pants again for several seasons. As far as women's ski pants go, we haven't found anything that checks all the boxes as well as this model.
Read review: Arcteryx Sentinel AR Women's Pant
Best Overall Ski Bib
Flylow Foxy Bib
It's rare to find a product that lives up to the hype built around it, but that was our experience with the Flylow Foxy Bib. This bib has everything you'd typically want for everyday use while still excelling in a variety of conditions. With thoughtfully placed pockets (the kangaroo pocket quickly became a favorite), a drop seat for easy relief in the backcountry, and a variety of color options, this bib did not disappoint. We expect this pant to handle on-snow abuse with the best of them, too, potentially providing multiple seasons of use. This bib also has the most efficient ventilation system of all pants we tested, with leg vents on the interior and exterior of the legs to shed heat quickly.
Not everyone wants bibs, though, so even this fantastic pair might not pull you over to the bib side. After extended use, the DWR coating on the Foxy Bib wore off from the pair we bought, which allowed the external fabric to saturate quickly, although no water penetrated to our legs. Using a waterproofing wash to re-up the DWR treatment is suggested. If you're looking for a resort bib, this is the first place to look.
Read review: Flylow Foxy Bib
Best Bang for Your Buck Ski Pant
Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pants
Whether you're looking to save a few bucks or just getting started with skiing or snowboarding, it's comforting to know you can get a pair of ski pants that won't break the bank while still performing. The Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pant steps up to the plate in this category, offering solid, base-covering performance at a reasonable price. This pair hits the sweet spot of performance that most beginner to intermediate skiers want. It looks good, is very comfortable and allows great mobility, has zippered pockets, keeps you warm on frigid chairlifts, and even has RECCO location technology.
This pant is best for someone who tends to get cold at the resort—they're insulated to keep you toasty, but wouldn't be ideal for backcountry touring or hitting double blacks regularly. Additionally, with just average waterproofing, this model may not be your best choice if you ski in wetter areas like the Pacific Northwest. That being said, it comes in a myriad of different colors, is warm, easy to move in, and you can rest easy knowing that you didn't over-pay on a great pair of ski pants.
Read review: Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pant - Women's
Best Bargain Ski Bib
REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib - Women's
When testing the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib we were impressed with how much there was to love at such a reasonable price. Simple yet functional, this bib offers most of what an average skier or rider might want while lapping a resort. Utilizing a Bluesign approved 2-layer nylon shell with a DWR finish, this bib kept us dry during weather resistance testing as well as warm on cold, long chair rides. Articulated knees and hips left room to move, and the adjustable shoulder straps allowed a customizable fit.
But, here's the catch. At such a reasonable price point, this pant doesn't include many of the bells and whistles that more expensive, technical models do. We would not recommend wearing this model for extended periods of time in wet climates as the 2-layer DWR finished fabric is not designed to withstand heavy rain or snow. Its small chest pocket doesn't leave much room for storing gear, though the two thigh pockets each easily fit a phone. Finally, the Powderbound Insulated Bib is only available in two colors, limiting available options for those who value style. This bib is a great option for someone wanting a great basic model, who would prefer to save a few dollars than to have a fully feature-loaded piece of gear.
Read review: REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib - Women's
Best for Backcountry Touring
Outdoor Research Skyward II AscentShell - Women's
The Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant is filled to the brim with thoughtful features that backcountry skiers or riders are sure to appreciate. Lightweight, with a stretchy, 3-layer fabric, we found this pant to be both incredibly comfortable and weather-resistant during our testing. We were impressed that such a stretchy material could also fight off the elements so well.
The Skyward II Pant scores high in the features category as well, having four pockets with ample space, one of which is beacon-specific, an adjustable waistband, booster strap compatible boot gaiter, and long, large outer thigh vents to easily dump heat when you work up a sweat on the boot pack. This pant is an easy choice when looking for a backcountry adventure option, and the fact that it is reasonably priced for all that it offers, especially when compared to comparable options, is the icing on the cake. If you prefer bibs to pants, check out the higher-priced but similarly high-performing Outdoor Research Hemisphere Bib.
Read review: Outdoor Research Skyward II AscentShell
Why You Should Trust Us
Since 2014, Sarah Sherman has worked in the ski and snowboard industry as a ski and snowboard instructor, marketing professional, photographer, and journalist. Regularly spending more than 100 days a season on snow and a self-proclaimed "gear nerd," there are few things she enjoys more than shop talk and helping others find the right gear for their needs. Throughout her experience, she has learned what makes a product great or bad, as well as which products suit different kinds of skiers and riders. She aims to provide all of the necessary information to get the right product in your hands so that you can have the best days out there, ever.
To accomplish this lofty goal, Sarah and a team of skiing and snowboarding friends spent hours researching the top pants and bibs on the market, finally narrowing down the selection to the top 10 featured here. Pants were purchased and worn while sliding and riding for two months throughout California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Mammoth Mountain to Squaw Valley to Sierra-at-Tahoe, as well as in Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon, experiencing the whole gamut of skiing conditions. There were spring-like days, powder days, and days where the snow fell more like rain. To ensure each pant received a thorough inspection, specific tests were also conducted. For example, every single pair was put through a shower test for waterproofing. And throughout it all, notes were taken on their various attributes such as warmth, ventilation, comfort, features, and style.
Related: How We Tested Ski Pants for Women
Analysis and Test Results
To effectively rate and test each pair of pants and bibs, each one was tested and ranked via six different categories: style, weather resistance, fit and comfort, warmth, ventilation, and features. Be sure to pay attention to each rating and its reasoning as you go on, as different metrics may matter more or less to you. For example, if you know you want a pant for ski touring, you will not mind that a pant scored low on the warmth metric, as you probably want an uninsulated pant.
When it comes to ski pants, it can be hard to discern what justifies such a range in price. What is the difference between a low-priced product and a top-shelf, high-dollar one? We dove into the question in our testing, trying out pairs across the price spectrum, and analyzing what made them great or not.
The results were pretty straightforward. If you are looking for a pair of pants to get you through a couple of days a season that will keep you warm and function well, then it usually doesn't make sense to spend a ton. In that situation, the Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle Pant or the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib might serve you well, depending on if you prefer a pant or bib. Neither may be the most durable long-term, but what you get for the price will allow you to enjoy most days at the resort you might encounter. For a small increase in price, the Patagonia Snowbelle provides a slight upgrade with a stylish design and warm insulation for resort skiing. If you are looking to make a more long-term investment, we recommend the Arcteryx Sentinel AR Pant. Though it is on the high side when it comes to price, durability provides value in the long run. These are a pair you can expect to put through the wringer and still get quality performance season after season. If you're looking to explore the backcountry, we recommend the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, which we found to be both reasonably priced while also fully loaded with features to keep you dry and comfortable both up and downhill.
Weather resistance was the most important metric we considered during testing, meaning it significantly affected a pant's score. No matter what kind of day you plan on having on the mountain, staying dry is a key factor in your overall comfort and happiness. Nothing ruins a fun day quicker than soggy pants.
To test weather resistance, we not only wore the pants out in all kinds of conditions (sun, very wet snow, and cold powdery days), but put each pair through our "shower test"—two minutes of constant water exposure in the shower, testing zippers, seams, and overall waterproofing.
There were few surprises during this testing process—we typically found that the higher-end pants generally performed better than the rest. Coming out on top was the Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell Pant. This model seemed to shed water like an umbrella and, even after two minutes in the shower, felt almost completely dry after a good shake-off. Following close behind were the technical, high-end pants, including the Arcteryx Sentinel AR, the OR Hemispheres Bib, the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, and the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib. These pants all received strong scores for weather resistance with zero leakage during testing and limited absorption of water.
The Flylow Foxy Bib had no water leakage on the inside, but the external material seemed to absorb water and felt heavy to wear taking on liquid. The Burton Avalon Bib did not bode well during testing, with water seeping through its zippers. Finally, and notably, the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib held up well for its price point with no leakage and minimal water absorption on the outer fabric.
Fit and Comfort
When you're on the mountain, the last thing you want to be bothered by is the way your outerwear fits and feels. You want something that feels like an extension of yourself, isn't fussy, and gets the job done. This was kept in mind throughout our testing, as well as mobility and adjustability. While this metric is inherently subjective, multiple women tried on each pair of pants, comparing how they fit different body types, how the pants moved on and off the hill, and noting how often they needed adjusting.
Scoring high in the fit and comfort category were the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, the Arcteryx Sentinel AR, the Flylow Foxy Bib, and the Patagonia Snowbelle Insulated Pant, though all for different reasons. We were impressed with the incredible stretch and mobility found in the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant during testing—Outdoor Research has created something special with their stretchy 3-layer AscentShell fabric—which allowed for unrestricted movement both up and downhill.
The Foxy Bib was not only simple to get on with easily adjusted straps, but once they were on, it was easy to forget they were there. The straps remained in place throughout rigorous testing and did not need constant adjusting, as other bibs sometimes did. The legs were roomy with plenty of space for layering, and the material felt comfortable and soft. One tester with wider hips did note that she would probably size up as the material tapers at the hips into the waist.
The Patagonia models also ranked high in fit and comfort, thanks to their super soft, buttery, inner lining. Putting these pants on felt like putting on a cloud, and they remained comfortable throughout the day of skiing. On the other end of the spectrum, the Burton Avalon Bib scored fairly low. The material of the bib felt stretchy and comfortable, even with the legs of the bib being a slimmer fit, but they ultimately scored low due to sizing and mobility. The pants fit longer compared to others tested and consistently unzipped on the sides when testers bent at the waist.
The Norrona Lofoten Pant scored in the middle of the ranks—it remained comfortable with a baggy fit, but its stiff material meant that it felt bulky at times. The Columbia Bugaboo Pant was large at the waist, but thanks to its Velcro adjustable straps, we were able to adjust them to fit as needed.
Ventilation, similar to warmth, is a metric that matters depending on your preference. Those who ski tour or hike inbounds to less-traveled objectives should pay attention more attention to ventilation. While some pants are designed to provide added heat to escape the elements, many are designed to provide merely a layer of protection from wind and precipitation while allowing you to regulate your body heat with vents. This is especially important while ski touring or days when temperatures are warmer and the sun is out. To test the ventilation of different pants, we measured the vents on each pair and tried them out in practice.
The Flylow Foxy Bib ranked highly in this category, as they have inner and outer leg vents, allowing for maximum airflow through the pants. Some skiers may never need this level of airflow, so we don't consider vents on both sides of each leg to be a must-have. However, testers who preferred high levels of ventilation noted that the inner and outer leg vent combo was awesome. Note that the Foxy Bib's upper body portion doesn't vent very well, though.
This is followed by the Norrona Lofoten Pant, which has vents that begin at the boot and go almost all the way up the side of the pant. This is complemented by two-way zippers, which allow for a customizable vent size. The Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib also ranked highly, with large outer vents that can also be adjusted by dual zippers, similar to the long and sufficient vents on the Sentinel AR and the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant.
Finally, it is again worth noting that many of the insulated pants come with very basic venting and score lower in this category. Ventilation openings on the inside of the leg provide less airflow than on the outside of the leg, and those vents covered with a mesh lining inhibit airflow as well. Those mesh linings keep snow from entering in deep powder or a tumble, but most of our testers found they preferred the free and open vents. Unless it's a particularly warm day, we generally zip up any vents when heading downhill. The Columbia Bugaboo Pant came with no venting.
On a cold, winter day, having a pair of pants that will keep your legs warm can make all the difference. However, not all pants are designed to be warm. Shell pants are meant to be lightweight and paired with base layers for warmth when needed. With that in mind, it's worth noting that insulated pants will inherently score higher in this category, and shells will score lower. We recommend considering the typical temperatures at your favorite resorts or ski locale when deciding what level of insulation and warmth you need. A low warmth score does not necessarily indicate a poorly performing pair of pants. To measure warmth, we tested pants in a variety of conditions, including early cold mornings when temperatures reached well below freezing, windy chairlifts, and during hike sessions to get fresh powder.
The Patagonia Snowbelle Insulated Pant ranked the highest in this category, with its 100% polyester taffeta insulation providing warmth even in freezing conditions. This is followed up by the other insulated pants tested, The North Face Freedom Pant, the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib, and the Columbia Bugaboo Omni-Heat, all of which perform well in colder temperatures thanks to their insulation. The Burton Avalon Bib is listed as a shell product but is lined with a thick material that still provides some warmth, earning a higher score than other shell options. These models listed above would be best for those looking for added warmth on a cold resort day.
The Arcteryx Sentinel AR is lined with a thin, fleece-like fabric that adds just a touch of warmth to this shell pant. Testers noted that this made the pants feel less cold and more comfortable when worn without a pair of long underwear underneath. It is worth noting that, again, most technical shells scored low in this product, such as the 3-layer Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, which are lightweight and have no insulation. Warmth is up to the layering ability of the user for these shells, which many skiers and snowboarders prefer.
Sometimes it's the little things that separate a great product from a mediocre one, and when it comes to ski pants, this is certainly the case. A thoughtfully placed pocket, an added buckle, a key clip, RECCO technology — these are all features that can make a difference in your overall experience when wearing a pair of pants or bibs. To rate this, each pair of pants was thoroughly inspected to note each feature offered and how practical it is.
One pair of pants that ranked scored well was the Black Diamond Recon Stretch Pant. Coming with a removable belt, an avalanche beacon-specific pocket, RECCO technology, gussets, and leg gaiters, these pants are filled with features for those looking for an out-of-bounds adventure. Similarly, the backcountry-designed Outdoor Research Hemispheres Bib ranked high in the features category, with all of the pockets one could want (both thighs, a kangaroo pocket, and a chest pocket), including an avalanche beacon specific space. They also notably have a drop seat for necessary breaks in the backcountry (or making resort bathroom breaks easier), an easily overlooked but much-appreciated feature.
The Hemispheres also features a ski strap slot to adjust your boots without having to take off the internal gaiters—a thoughtful touch that was also found in the similarly ranked Arcteryx Sentinel AR and another Outdoor Research product that scored high in this category, the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant. The Skyward II Pant comes with all but the bib-specific features of the Hemispheres. The Sentinel Pant additionally comes equipped with a key clip and large, articulated pockets. Finally, it has a low-profile, removable belt that some of our testers really liked.
Both the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib and the Snowbelle Insulated Pant come with RECCO technology, and the bib design allows drop seat access from either the left or right side but are fairly simple other than that. The Norrona Lofoten Pant comes with a zip-on attachment that allows them to work as a bib, but it lacks the drop seat that is now featured on many bib designs.
The Burton Avalon Bib has a chest pocket and two thigh pockets, but the thigh pockets do not come with zippers, which resulted in a lower score since testers felt uncomfortable storing valuables in them. The Flylow Foxy Bib came fully equipped with plenty of pocket space, featuring a chest pocket, kangaroo pocket, and two roomy thigh pockets that could easily fit a beacon, a beer, or a phone for music. The other pants' features are generally basic, with sometimes an extra pocket or two for aesthetic purposes.
Feel good, ski good—or something like that. Style is part of the game when purchasing a pair of ski pants and matters in buying decisions more than we often acknowledge. While this is inherently a subjective opinion, we consulted with friends and current trends to identify pants that can take you from the slopes straight to the après scene and beyond, considering colors, sizing options, and the pant's overall look.
Topping the charts in this category is the Burton Avalon Bib. This pant was designed with style in mind, looking casual and similar to regular everyday overalls. The Flylow Foxy Bib, the The North Face Freedom Pant, and the Patagonia Women's Snowbelle Pant all come in a variety of different colors as well as different length options (short, regular, tall), meaning that there is sure to be an option for anyone's preference or need.
On the other side, some pants like the REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated Bib Snow Pant and the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib come in very limited color options, so scored lower.
In the end, your personal preferences should take precedence in your purchase decision, but we certainly hope that by providing you with our detailed review, we can help you make the best-informed decision. Not everyone can be expected to rigorously test each pair of pants to find out what is best for them when buying, but we are happy to do it for you and share the results. We hope these reviews allow you to spend less time in the fitting room and more time on the mountain.
— Sarah Sherman
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