Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
Seeking the best women's ski pants? Combined with nine years of testing over 37 unique models, this 2023 review includes the 15 top options of the season, tested and assessed side by side. Spending hundreds of hours on the slopes, our lady testers had sweet powder turns, faced biting cold weather, and grunted through slushy, wet conditions. We evaluated each ski pant based on six performance metrics to score each comparatively. Whether you're looking for a pant that'll go from the resort to the backcountry, keep you dry when the weather turns foul, or leave a little more change in your pocket, we've outlined the best options available for you to consider.
Editor's Note: Spring and summer deals are a great way to save on last season's ski gear. You may even be able to find some of the high-end products we tested available for a fraction of the retail cost. We updated this review on May 4, 2023, with a focus on ensuring product availability.
If you want a pant that works for everything from bluebird groomer laps to the harshest storm days in the backcountry, our top choice is the Arc'teryx Sentinel. We love these pants for many reasons — with bomber construction and incredible weather resistance, pocket space for your essentials, and fleece lining for comfort and just a bit of warmth, the Sentinel is ready for whatever you throw at it. There's space to layer up underneath them for cold resort laps, and large external leg vents dump heat when you're ski touring. We also love their 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 years. As far as women's ski pants go, we haven't found anything that checks all the boxes as well as this model.
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 excelling in various conditions. With thoughtfully placed pockets (the kangaroo pocket quickly became a favorite), a drop seat for easy relief in the backcountry, and several fun 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, 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, allowing the external fabric to saturate quickly, although no water penetrated our legs. Using a waterproofing wash to re-up the DWR treatment is suggested. If you're looking for a great resort bib, this is our top recommendation.
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 and 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 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 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 and would prefer to save a few dollars rather than have a fully feature-loaded piece of gear.
The REI First Chair GTX Bib is an extremely comfortable and well-designed bib that boasts a tough 2-layer Gore-tex membrane. We love the features loaded into this pant, particularly the large leg vent openings and the drop tail essential for backcountry bathroom breaks. However, our favorite element of this bib is the extremely reasonable price.
We could only find a few drawbacks with this bib, but some concessions are expected from a solid pant at such a great price. We wish the First Chair featured waterproof zips on the pockets and vents, as we found this a weak point for water saturation. We also want all the pockets to be zipped, as we found the hook and loop closure of the exterior thigh pocket limited its usefulness. These small critiques aside, we found this bib to be a great performer in its lower price range.
The Outdoor Research Skyward II is filled with thoughtful features that backcountry skiers or riders are sure to appreciate. Lightweight, with a stretchy, 3-layer fabric, this pant is incredibly comfortable and weather-resistant during our testing. We were impressed that such a stretchy material could fight off the elements.
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 it offers, especially 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.
Our team of skiing and snowboarding friends spent hours researching the top pants and bibs on the market, doing lots of deliberating before finally narrowing down the selection to the top 12 featured here. Pants were purchased and worn while sliding and riding for two months throughout California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, from Mammoth Mountain to Palisades Tahoe to Sierra-at-Tahoe, and 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 pair was put through a shower test for waterproofing. And throughout it all, notes were taken on their various attributes.
Our testing of women's ski pants is divided into six specific rating metrics:
Weather Resistance (25% of total score weighting)
Fit and Comfort (25% weighting)
Ventilation (15% weighting)
Warmth (15% weighting)
Features (10% weighting)
Style (10% weighting)
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.
Reviewer Jackie Kearney is a snow and avalanche professional who calls the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado home. For the last decade, she has been skiing in and out of bounds here as much as one human could. Professionally, she has worked as a ski patroller in Lake Tahoe, California, and Telluride, Colorado, and as a ski guide in the San Juan Mountains. With so many hours on skis, she certainly knows a thing or two about what gear does and doesn't work.
Analysis and Test Results
Each pair of pants and bibs was tested and ranked using our six rating metrics. Be sure to pay attention to each rating and reasoning as you go along, as certain metrics may be of more importance to you than others. For example, if you want a pant for ski touring, you won't mind if a pant earned lower marks in the warmth metric, as you probably want an uninsulated one.
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. The REI Powderbound Insulated Bib might serve you well in that situation. It may not 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. We recommend the Arc'teryx Sentinel Pant if you want a more long-term investment. Though it is on the high side of the price spectrum, 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 very few surprises during this testing process—we typically found that the higher-end pants generally performed better than the rest. The Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell Pant came out on top. 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 Arc'teryx Sentinel, the Outdoor Research 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 water absorption.
The Flylow Foxy Bib had no water leakage inside, but the external material seemed to absorb water and felt heavy to wear, taking on liquid. Similarly, the Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Pant had a supple face fabric that quickly absorbed water. The Burton Avalon Bib did not bode well during testing, with water seeping through its zippers. Finally, and notably, the REI Powderbound Insulated Bib and REI Co-op First Chair GTX Bib held up well for their price points with no leakage and minimal water absorption on the outer fabric and non-waterproof zippers.
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.
The Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, the Arc'teryx Sentinel, Flylow Foxy Bib and the REI Co-op First Chair scored high in the fit and comfort category, 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, allowing 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 noted that she would probably size up as the material tapers at the hips into the waist.
The REI Co-op First Chair GTX Bib impressed us for similar reasons. The wide suspender straps were comfortable and stayed snuggly in place throughout testing. The stretch of the pants and a thoughtful, stretchy, knit back panel meant that this bib never felt too restrictive on our torso.
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 skiing. On the other end of the spectrum, the Burton Avalon Bib scored fairly low. The bib material 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 than 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 felt bulky at times. The Columbia Bugaboo Pant and Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Pant both ran a little large in the waist. Still, the hook and loop adjustments remedied this fit issue.
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 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 on 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 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 a must-have. However, testers who preferred high ventilation levels noted that the inner and outer leg vent combo was awesome. 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 up the side of the pant. This is complemented by two-way zippers, allowing a customizable vent size. The Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib also ranked highly, with large outer vents that dual zippers, similar to the long and sufficient vents on the Sentinel and the Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, can also adjust.
Finally, it is worth noting that many insulated pants come with basic venting and score lower in this category. Ventilation openings on the inside of the leg, like in the Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Pant, provide less airflow than on the outside. Those vents covered with a mesh lining inhibit airflow as well. Those mesh linings keep snow from entering deep powder or a tumble, but most of our testers 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 various conditions, including early cold mornings when temperatures reached well below freezing, windy chairlifts, and during hike sessions to get fresh powder.
The North Face Freedom Pant, the REI Powderbound Bib, and the Patagonia Powder Town all perform well in colder temperatures thanks to their insulation. We liked the sleeping bag style baffled insulation of the Powder Town, which helped to keep the insulation evenly distributed in the pant. 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 Arc'teryx Sentinel is lined with a thin, fleece-like fabric that adds 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 metric, such as the lightweight, 3-layer Outdoor Research Skyward II Pant, which 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 this is certainly the case when it comes to ski pants. 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 its practicality.
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 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 Arc'teryx Sentinel 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 Patagonia Powder Town had notably functional gaiters, with lace loops and a lace hook that truly kept snow out on various boot types. 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 liked.
The Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib comes with RECCO technology, and the bib design allows drop seat access from either the left or right side, but they're otherwise fairly simple. 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. For similar reasons, the single non-zippered pocket on the REI Co-op First Chair Bib detracted from its pocket functionality. 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 more than we often acknowledge in buying decisions. 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 and the The North Face Freedom Pant 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.
Recently, taped and contrasting zippers have made quite a splash in the market, and we are seeing them on more and more products. Pants like the Norrona Lofoten and the Arc'teryx Sentinel have a more modern and streamlined look, giving them extra credit in this category.
On the other side, some pants like the REI Powderbound Insulated Bib Snow Pant and the Patagonia Snowdrifter Bib come in very limited color options, so scored lower.
Ultimately, your personal preferences should take precedence in your purchase decision. However, we hope our detailed review can help you make the best-informed decision. Not everyone can be expected to rigorously test each pair of pants before buying to find out what is best for them, 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.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.