Ski pants are a critical barrier between you and the elements, and there’s a pair to fit every type of skier and budget. Resort-goers typically opt for a classic hardshell design with some light insulation to stay warm on the lift rides up. Backcountry skiers have plenty of softshell and stretch-infused options for improved range of motion and breathability. Of course, some of our recommended ski pants toe the line for those who like to do a little of both. Below are the best ski pants for the 2023 season, along with our comparison table and buying advice after the picks. For more on outerwear, see our article on the best ski jackets.

Our Team's Ski Pant Picks

Best Overall Ski Pant

1. Arc’teryx Sabre Pant ($550)

Arc'teryx Sabre ski pantsBest for: Resort and backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No (thin fleece backer)
What we like: Fantastic build quality, weather protection, and versatility.
What we don’t: Latest model has a polarizing fit; very pricey.

If we were to pick one ski pant for anywhere on the mountain, for conditions from bluebird to overcast and wet, it would be the Arc’teryx Sabre. These pants nearly have it all: 3-layer Gore-Tex for bomber protection from the elements, a lightweight fleece backer for comfort and a touch of warmth, and a solid feature set with plenty of storage. Attention to detail is also a Sabre hallmark—these pants are built to last—and the light-yet-burly construction is a nice break from the overly heavy feel that you get with most ski pants. As with most Arc’teryx gear, price is the biggest obstacle, and it’s a significant investment if you don’t plan to get out a lot (one of the budget options below will be better for occasional riders).

For best uses, the Sabre is an excellent choice for active resort skiers and those who like to get beyond the ropes. It won’t be out of place during quick trips in the backcountry either, with fantastic range of motion (as long as it fits you—more on this below), along with big side vents for dumping heat. That said, Arc’teryx tweaked the fit for 2023, and, unfortunately, we don’t think it’s for the better. Both of our testers complained of a short rise and shorter-than-expected inseam. Neither issue was a dealbreaker—and Arc’teryx does offer a “tall” inseam option—but they were notable complaints for a brand we usually peg as having consistently great fits. But if they work for you, the Sabre is a true winner.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Sabre  See the Women's Arc'teryx Sentinel


Best Insulated Pant for Resort Skiing

2. Helly Hansen Legendary Pant ($200)

Helly Hansen Legendary ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: Yes (60g synthetic)
What we like: Just-right warmth, stretchy and comfortable fit, and a great price.
What we don’t: Pants are prone to showing wear over time.

For a super clean resort pant with a great fit and just-right warmth, give the Legendary Pant from Helly Hansen a look. The 2-layer waterproof shell is ideal for those who aren’t frequently working up a sweat—and helps keep costs in check—and the Legendary has a touch of PrimaLoft in the butt and knees for cold rides on the lift. We also like the lightweight feel and simple design from the Norwegian company, which comes in a variety of colors and should go with just about any jacket combination.

In terms of movement, the Legendary incorporates a mechanical stretch fabric that offers extra "give," which is great for both sidecountry hikes and downhill travel. The fit also hits a great middle ground for many riders: It’s not overly bulky like many options in its price range, but there’s still plenty of room for most folks to layer underneath. Our main issue is with the durability of the fabric. The relatively thin materials and price-conscious build aren’t quite up to par with Patagonia’s Storm Shift below or Arc’teryx’s Sabre above, and the pants will show more wear over time. But the Legendary costs far less than those alternatives, and its blend of comfort, price, and performance earn it our top resort pick.
See the Men's Helly Hansen Legendary  See the Women's Helly Hansen Legendary


Best Budget Ski Pant

3. The North Face Freedom ($149)

The North Face Freedom ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No (available)
What we like: Excellent price for a proven and tough resort design.
What we don’t: Baggy fit isn’t for everyone.

For weekend warriors and those that don’t want to spend a ton on ski gear, no pant is more popular at the resort than The North Face Freedom. We love the value here: For well under $200, you get a thick 2-layer construction that is super durable and blocks out wind and snow effectively. The venting system is surprisingly good for a budget pant, and Velcro adjusters at the sides of the waist are a simple but effective tool at dialing in fit. Another plus is that the pant is offered in a very wide range of sizes (XXS to XXL) and three different inseam lengths. To be clear, the Freedom is a noticeable step down in quality from our top pick—and even the Helly Hansen above has a more premium look and feel—but it covers the bases for resort skiers at a reasonable price.

Keep in mind that although the Freedom pants will do the trick for skiing laps and long chairlift rides, performance-minded skiers likely will be left wanting more. To start, the fit is pretty generic—there isn’t any stretch built into the fabric, and they’re quite baggy around the thighs and lower legs. Moreover, it’s fairly easy to overheat with the cheap waterproofing technology, and while we like the zippered vents, their placement along the inner thigh creates extra bulk. But we keep coming back to value: The Freedom pants are a proven choice with a surprisingly long lifespan and undercut most of their competition by $30 or more. And for those that prefer an insulated pant, there’s a Freedom Insulated that’ll run you $169 (there's no non-insulated option for women)... Read in-depth review
See the Men's The North Face Freedom  See the Women's TNF Freedom Insulated


Best Backcountry Ski Pant

4. Outdoor Research Skyward II ($329)

Outdoor Research Skyward II ski pantBest for: Backcountry and resort
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: AscentShell fabric balances stretch, breathability, and waterproofing.
What we don’t: Can’t match Gore-Tex in all-out protection.

The Outdoor Research Skyward II is one of the most well-balanced designs on our list, but it really excels in the backcountry. Credit goes to the proprietary AscentShell 3-layer fabric, which stretches like a softshell, is air-permeable for excellent breathability, and fully waterproof with taped seams. We’ve found the pant moves very nicely with you whether high-stepping to break through fresh snow or going into a deep telemark turn. Further, a total of four pockets provides useful storage, and the breathable fabric and side vents keep you cool and comfortable even into the spring.

While its performance in wet conditions has been admirable, the Skyward still can’t match a premium Gore-Tex alternative like the Sabre above in outright protection. Its relatively thin 50-denier face fabric and the air-permeable nature of the AscentShell membrane mean it doesn’t isolate you completely from harsh wind. As such, there are better options out there for frigid, bad-weather days at the resort. But on the move, the Skyward is hard to beat—and so is the price at a very competitive $329. One final note here: OR also offers the Skytour Bib, which utilizes a similar AscentShell construction but with extra coverage and organization from the bib design... Read in-depth review
See the Men's Outdoor Research Skyward  See the Women's Outdoor Research Skyward


Best Ski Bib

5. Flylow Gear Baker Bib ($430)

Flylow Gear Baker ski bibBest for: Resort and backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: Bomber protection in wet and deep snow.
What we don’t: Burly build is overkill for mild conditions and high-output use.

For maximum protection when skiing in wet snow and deep powder, it’s hard to beat a bib. And among the many options on the market, Flylow’s Baker is a standout. It has a long track record of waterproof performance from its 3-layer build and DWR coating, is super tough with panels of reinforced Cordura, and has an easily adjustable fit with Velcro tabs on the sides. The Baker also performs well for sidecountry hikes and backcountry tours with a ventilation system that features both massive side vents and zippered openings along the inner thigh.

What do you give up with the Baker’s bib design? The extra waterproof layer around the stomach and lower back does make it run hotter than a comparable pant like the Skyward above, and it’s overkill on mild-weather days. Additionally, the Flylow’s substantial construction and moderately baggy fit can inhibit range of motion for skinning uphill. But the Baker is a perfect match for its namesake hill: It's built to handle anything from wet, unruly conditions to bottomless powder days. Interestingly, Flylow doesn’t offer an equivalent female version, although their women’s Foxy Bib is a favorite of ours and features similar coverage, organization, and build quality. The key difference is its Tactic 3L construction, which is stretchier, lighter, and thinner than the Baker’s 3L Intuitive build.
See the Flylow Gear Baker Bib


Best of the Rest

6. Patagonia Storm Shift ($379)

Patagonia Storm Shift ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No (available)
What we like: Good looks, durable materials, and impressive sustainability measures.
What we don’t: Fit a little big; expensive for a 2-layer design.

Taking the place of the popular Powder Bowl for winter 2023 is Patagonia’s Storm Shift. In many ways, the design sticks to its predecessor’s game plan: solid weatherproofing from its Gore-Tex membrane; a 100% recycled face fabric and lining; and very clean, technical styling that gives it good all-around looks. It’s also built to withstand abuse at the resort with a durable 150-denier shell and high-quality stitching, zippers, and buttons throughout. Fit-wise, the Storm Shift falls slightly on the big and baggy end (with a 31-in. waist and size medium, we had the side elastic tabs as tight as they would go), but its articulated cut and two inseam options should keep most skiers happy.

Like a lot of Patagonia gear, the Storm Shift is rather pricey at $379. It’s also not a backcountry-ready piece with its heavy 2-layer build and hanging mesh/polyester lining (although the vents along the outer leg do a decent job dumping heat). But it’s hard to beat the new design’s sustainability chops: The Gore-Tex construction is completely PFC-free (including the membrane, DWR finish, and fabric), recycled materials are used throughout, and it’s Fair Trade Certified sewn. For a more affordable alternative from Patagonia, check out their $249 Powder Town Pant, which has a simplified design and in-house H2No waterproofing instead of Gore-Tex.
See the Men's Patagonia Storm Shift  See the Women's Patagonia Storm Shift


7. Trew Gear TREWth Bib ($439)

Trew Gear TREWth ski bibBest for: Resort and backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: Fantastic quality, weather protection, and breathability.
What we don’t: Organization could be a little better; runs warm in the torso.

Still a young brand, Trew Gear has really broken through in the ski and snowboard markets thanks to their high-quality and clean-looking outerwear designs. The TREWth Bib here is one of their best all-rounders: The proprietary 3-layer PNW construction is reminiscent of premium Gore-Tex in both look and feel, and you get full seam taping with reinforcements, smooth-operating water-resistant zippers, and bomber coverage that keeps even the wettest of snow at bay. Tack on a high-quality fit and finish and generous side vents that run from knee to chest, and the TREWth Bib is the full package for both resort and backcountry skiers.

How does it stack up to the legendary Flylow Baker above? Both designs offer fantastic coverage for deep conditions, and their 3-layer builds and feature sets make them viable options for 50/50 resort and backcountry use. At $430, the Flylow gets the slight edge in price, and we also prefer its organization layout. Rather than a large kangaroo pocket at the chest, the TREWth Bib has three small pockets—none of which are large enough for a beacon or phone. The TREWth does get the advantage in weight by a few ounces, and it’s a little more streamlined in general, which is a plus for hiking and touring. But the burly and proven Flylow gets the nod from us in the end. Finally, for a step down in price, check out Trew's Jefferson (men’s) and Astoria (women’s) bibs, which feature more affordable 2-layer constructions.
See the Men's Trew Gear TREWth Bib  See the Women's Trew Chariot Bib


8. Arc’teryx Macai ($575)

Arc'teryx Macai ski pantsBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: Yes (80g synthetic)
What we like: Our favorite insulated resort pant.
What we don’t: Ultra pricey.

Arc’teryx is known for their backcountry prowess, but they can make a sweet resort pant, too. Take the Macai, which is insulated and tough but doesn’t give up the fantastic fit and detailing we love from the British Columbia brand. The pant is bombproof with a 3-layer Gore-Tex shell, provides warmth when temperatures really drop with 80-gram synthetic fill, and includes impressively large side zips (at least for a resort pant) for staying cool. As expected, the Macai's mobility is fantastic with a streamlined shape, articulated cut, and strategically placed gussets.

Despite the impressive performance, the Macai strikes us as a very hefty investment considering its cold-weather focus. If you have a closet full of ski pants, the $575 price probably isn’t a deterrent, but the lightly insulated Sabre above is more adaptable and useful for the entire season. That said, if you want a warm pant without compromising on performance, the Macai is as good as it gets.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Macai  See the Women's Arc'teryx Andessa


9. Flylow Gear Chemical ($365)

Flylow Gear Chemical ski pantsBest for: Resort and backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: A bomber pant that does just about everything well.
What we don’t: Fit is still a little baggy for our tastes.

Flylow Gear flies a little lower under the radar than some of the bigger outdoor gear brands, but the Chemical pants are a solid offering. Like their Baker Bib above, this is a super tough design with a 3-layer build, Cordura patches in high-wear areas like the knees, and waterproof zippers. Given the impressive level of protection, they ventilate well and you can release hot air in four places: two zippered vents along the inner thigh and two large vents along the outside of your legs. It all adds up to a formula that has generated a cult-like following.

How does the Flylow Chemical stand up against the competition? It has a premium price, which is on par with the Patagonia SnowDrifter below. That model wins out in breathability of the fabrics (remember the Chemical has more actual vents), but the Chemical is a more rugged pant that should be able to take plenty of use and abuse. If you ski hard and want a pant to match, this is a great choice.
See the Men's Flylow Gear Chemical  See the Women's Flylow Gear Nina


10. Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Bibs ($629)

Outdoor Research Hemisphere II bibsBest for: Backcountry and resort
Type: Hardshell w/stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: Uncompromised waterproofing, breathability, and freedom of movement.
What we don’t: Expensive.

The Skyward above gets our pick for the top backcountry pant due to its combination of mobility, weather protection, and value, but it’s not Outdoor Research’s premier touring kit. That designation goes to the Hemispheres II here, which ups the ante in terms of waterproofing with 3-layer Gore-Tex w/ C-Knit and patches of stretchy 2-layer Gore-Tex at the gusset and lower back. The result is a fairly uncompromised design: While the Skyward makes some sacrifices in terms of protection, the Hemispheres is the full package with a fully waterproof and seam-sealed construction, ample venting, and greater durability. We’ve worn the first-gen Hemispheres throughout a full season of backcountry and resort skiing and took the new II on the North Cascades’ Isolation Traverse last spring and can confidently say that it’s OR’s most well-rounded bib to date.

What pushes the Hemispheres Bib down our list is its steep price. At $629, it’ll cost you only $10 less than Patagonia’s premium PowSlayer below, which features a more breathable Gore-Tex Pro build. What’s more, a bib like the Flylow Baker above offers a significant boost in durability (150D) for almost $200 less. But neither has the stretchy Gore-Tex panels of the Hemispheres, which add a significant amount of comfort and mobility for backcountry travel (note: These are smaller on the II but still add noticeable performance). Finally, while we were disappointed with the limited pocket storage on the prior Hemispheres, Outdoor Research added a second chest pocket to the latest version, along with an avalanche beacon clip. It all adds up to a formidable backcountry bib for those who consistently get out in harsh and unpredictable conditions.
See the Men's OR Hemispheres II Bibs  See the Women's OR Hemispheres II Bibs


11. Black Diamond Recon Stretch ($350)

Black Diamond Recon Stretch ski pantBest for: Backcountry and resort
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: Good balance of comfort, protection, and breathability.
What we don’t: Not a standout in durability.

Black Diamond hasn’t been in the ski apparel game for long, but their collection is filled with some quality options for backcountry use. Like Outdoor Research’s Skyward II above, BD’s Recon Stretch Pant puts an emphasis on comfort and mobility with a woven softshell-like face fabric. Combined with a smooth jersey backer and easily accessible side vents, the Recon is a nice pairing for long stretches on the skin track. Importantly, the Recon also features a waterproof membrane (BD’s in-house design) and full seam sealing, so you don’t have to leave it behind on stormy days.

The Recon Stretch strikes us a nice one-quiver pant for those who split their time fairly evenly between the backcountry and resort. It’s not going to match Gore-Tex in all-out weatherproofing (those riding in especially wet climates may want to steer clear), but otherwise there’s little to complain about in terms of performance. Durability is a concern, however, due to the moderately thin fabric. There are reinforcements around the instep, but it’s noticeably less burly than the cuff protection in a pant like Arc’teryx’s Sabre. But if you take care around sharp ski edges and boot buckles, the Stretch Recon is a versatile pant and a decent value at $350.
See the Men's BD Recon Stretch  See the Women's BD Recon Stretch


12. Columbia Bugaboo IV ($120)

Columbia Bugaboo IV ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: Yes (60g synthetic)
What we like: Affordable and tough for occasional resort use.
What we don’t: Not fully waterproof and pretty cheap materials overall.

Columbia’s Bugaboo Pant has been a long-time favorite among beginner skiers. The price is right at $120, which includes a durable and hardwearing exterior, waterproof lining, and a healthy dose of warmth with its 60-gram synthetic insulation. In addition, Columbia incorporates a surprising number of useful features: The adjustable waistband makes it quick and easy to customize the fit (it secures with Velcro), and the hand pockets are nicely sized for storing essentials like a lift pass and keys. Totaled up, the Bugaboo Pant is everything a first-timer or occasional skier needs and nothing they don’t.

The Columbia gives The North Face’s Freedom above a run as our favorite budget ski pant but comes up short in a few key areas. First, the Bugaboo is only is critically seam taped, which means that it’s less weather-worthy and can succumb to extended moisture more readily. This likely only will be an issue on especially wet snow days, but it’s something to take note of. Further, you miss out on zippered vents for dumping heat, and the material quality is a step down and likely won’t hold up as well in the long run as the Freedom. That said, for around $50 less (comparing the insulated models) and with a similar feature set, it’s hard to knock the Bugaboo’s bang for buck. 
See the Men's Columbia Bugaboo IV  See the Women's Columbia Bugaboo


13. Patagonia SnowDrifter Bib ($379)

Patagonia SnowDrifter ski bibBest for: Backcountry and resort
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: Creative mix of weather protection and comfort.
What we don’t: The Skyward II above is a little better for touring.

Patagonia’s backcountry pant and jacket collection has gone through a number of major revamps over the past few years, but they’ve landed on a real winner with the SnowDrifter Bib. The design essentially has two parts: A 3-layer waterproof fabric protects you below the belly, while a stretchy softshell covers the upper body. This provides a nice balance of weather resistance (the upper portion isn’t waterproof but does have a DWR coating) and range of motion for steep uphill sections and extended bootpacks. Along with creative two-way zippers at the back that double as a drop seat and large venting system, the SnowDrifter is a formidable season-long option.

How does the SnowDrifter Bib compare with the Skyward II Pant above? Beyond the obvious added protection around the torso, the SnowDrifter’s waterproof lower uses a burlier 75-denier fabric (the Skyward’s is 50D), which helps with both wind-proofing and tear resistance. This makes the Patagonia a bit more appealing for resort days, although the tradeoff is less breathability and stretchiness around the legs. All things considered, we give the edge to the better venting and more mobile Skyward II for touring, but the SnowDrifter is a great all-rounder for those who prefer to wear bibs.
See the Men's Patagonia SnowDrifter  See the Women's Patagonia SnowDrifter


14. REI Co-op First Chair GTX ($259)

REI Co-op First Chair GTX BibBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: Gore-Tex protection at an excellent value.
What we don’t: Step down in performance from the FlyLow Baker above.

REI Co-op’s First Chair is proof that you don’t have to spend upward of $400 for a quality ski bib. At a much more palatable $259, you get great coverage, a durable and waterproof 2-layer Gore-Tex build, and functional organization with zippered chest storage and two thigh pockets along the front. REI also incorporated some mechanical stretch into the face fabric, which is a nice touch for everything from sidecountry hikes to getting on and off the lift, and we think they nailed the styling with a clean and modern look. It doesn’t hurt that you get REI’s excellent warranty to back up the purchase either.

In many ways, the First Chair GTX is a budget alternative to the Flylow Baker above. Both offer good waterproofing overall and have a moderately loose fit that’s easy to layer underneath. But the Baker’s 3-layer construction is a better breather and it’s easier to dump heat with vents on both the outside and inside of the thighs (the REI’s are only at the back). You also get more fit customization with the Baker to maximize protection and comfort on the move—the REI lacks belt loops and you can’t tighten the top of the bib under the arms. As a result, we think serious skiers and those dabbling in the backcountry will be better off with the proven Flylow. Those planning on sticking to the resort, however, will find a lot to like with REI’s First Chair.
See the Men's REI First Chair GTX  See the Women's REI First Chair GTX


15. Arc’teryx Beta AR ($499)

Arc'teryx Beta AR ski pantsBest for: Backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: Bomber Gore-Tex Pro build, light and packable, and a fantastic performance fit.
What we don’t: Missing a few ski-specific features.

Arc’teryx’s Beta AR hardshell pant is an absolute classic among alpinists and serious backcountry skiers. Its premium Gore-Tex Pro fabric (recently upgraded to their extra-durable Most Rugged construction) is super tough yet light and packable, and the fit and finish are simply a step ahead of everything else on the market. In addition, the sizing is spot-on for making it easy to swap layers underneath without inhibiting mobility, and despite weighing just 1 pound, you still get functional touches like generous thigh zips, powder cuffs, and reinforced patches at the instep. Some will bemoan the loss of the full-length side zips with the latest Beta AR, but for most backcountry specialists, you can’t ask for much more.

What drops the Arc'teryx down our rankings is that it’s more of an all-rounder intended for various activities, including mountaineering, so it’s a little short on ski-specific features. For one, you only get a single zippered pocket, which isn’t great for organizing items like an avalanche beacon, map, keys, or gloves. Further, the stiff 80-denier fabric that covers a good portion of the pant lacks the stretchiness of the designs above. The flip side is that the Beta easily outperforms its competitors in truly nasty conditions without weighing you down. In the end, if you’re planning on going out for extended missions deep in the backcountry, the proven AR pant is the one you want.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Beta AR  See the Women's Arc'teryx Beta AR


16. Obermeyer Force ($219)

Obermeyer Force ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: Yes (40g synthetic)
What we like: Upgraded features and a more tailored cut than The North Face Freedom.
What we like: Not a standout in terms of value.

The $200 price range is chock-full of ski pant options, but the Obermeyer Force makes its case with a nice fit and modest upgrades from many budget models. To start, the smooth-operating water-resistant zipper on the front pocket is a surprising addition for a mid-range design, and it gives the pant a premium, technical look. Additionally, you get a more tailored fit around the legs than The North Face Freedom above, and reinforcements at high-wear areas like the seat and knees make it fully resort-ready.

One notable downside is that all of the extras don’t hide the budget-oriented waterproof construction, which is comparable to pants costing much less (including the aforementioned Freedom). The same goes for the zippered vents, which are located along the inner leg—like most cheap options—and add bulk. For $19 less, Helly Hansen’s Legendary above offers a nice boost in comfort with its stretchy shell and comparable warmth with 60-gram synthetic fill (the Force has 40g). That said, if you like the fit and styling, the Force is a very serviceable resort choice.
See the Obermeyer Force


17. Patagonia PowSlayer Bib ($639)

Patagonia PowSlayer ski bibBest for: Backcountry
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: Supreme protection and very lightweight.
What we don’t: Costs nearly as much as your powder skis.

For backcountry skiing and deep powder in particular, you won’t find better lightweight protection than the Patagonia PowSlayer Bib. First, you get a top-of-the-line Gore-Tex Pro shell that’s as good as it gets in brutal conditions. Combined with the raised cut of the bib and a high-quality 40-denier nylon face fabric, and it’s extremely difficult for snow to enter. Second, the PowSlayer comes with just about every feature that Patagonia offers, from side zips and gaiters to a RECCO reflector. Third, the bib is impressively lightweight given all that it is and does, weighing in at around 1 pound 4 ounces.

What are the shortcomings of the PowSlayer Bib? The most obvious is the price—$639 is as much as many people spend for their skis. The bib also is overkill for those who don’t plan on utilizing the backcountry-specific design and features (on-piste skiers need not apply). And the 40-denier fabric is on the thin side and requires added care around sharp equipment and gear (for reference, the Sabre above uses 80D). But if you want to keep things light without sacrificing performance on both the up- and downhill, the PowSlayer is an excellent choice.
See the Men's Patagonia PowSlayer  See the Women's Patagonia PowSlayer


18. Strafe Capitol 3L Pant ($499)

Strafe Capitol 3L ski pantBest for: Backcountry
Type: Hardshell w/ stretch
Insulated: No
What we like: Breathable, stretchy, and comfortable.
What we don’t:
Not as wind- or waterproof as a hardshell.

Based in Aspen, Colorado, Strafe Outerwear has a strong following among the backcountry ski crowd. Their most popular pant is the Capitol 3L, which features the brand’s in-house Recon Elite 3L waterproof construction. Like Outdoor Research’s AscentShell, the air-permeable face fabric and membrane are highly breathable and have a lot of stretch that moves with you nicely on the uphill, but the pant doesn’t block out wet snow and frigid wind as well as a standard Gore-Tex hardshell. Overall, the Capitol should be a good pairing for the dry snow of the Rocky Mountains as well as mild days in spring.

Among backcountry-focused models, Outdoor Research’s Skyward above consistently is a best seller and a strong competitor to the Strafe. Both excel for touring, and we like that the Capitol includes extras like removable suspenders and has a slightly thicker construction (63D vs. 50D). But the softshell-inspired fabric is prone to soaking up moisture, which is a notable downside on wet and warm days. And the clincher for many will be price: At $499, the Capitol is significantly more expensive than the $329 Skyward, plus it’s only available in men’s sizes. In the end, it’s hard to pass up the value of the OR, but the well-made Strafe should continue to be a favorite in the Colorado backcountry.
See the Strafe Capitol 3L Pant


19. REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated ($149)

REI Co-op Powderbound Insulated ski pantBest for: Resort
Type: Hardshell
Insulated: Yes (40g polyester)
What we like: Great value; design includes thigh vents.
What we don’t: Only critically seam sealed.

REI’s in-house outerwear continues to impress when it comes to bang for your buck, and their Powderbound ski kit is no exception. Overall, we think they’ve put together a solid product with the insulated pant: The 2-layer Peak waterproofing holds up to most winter weather, and a moderate level of insulation (40g) adds a nice layer of protection from a frozen chairlift. Tack on a thoughtful set of ski-specific features—inner thigh vents, boot gaiters and scuff guards, Velcro waist adjustments, and a nice assortment of fleece-lined pockets—and the Powderbound is well suited for season-long use at the resort. 

Like the Columbia Bugaboo above, the Powderbound is critically seam sealed, which keeps costs low but isn’t great for staying dry in sustained and wet snowfall. But while the Bugaboo forgoes all vents, the Powderbound features zip openings on the inner thighs (for a $30 bump in price). Along with the thinner insulation, these make it a better option than the Bugaboo for mild climates or those who overheat easily. Neither can overtake The North Face’s Freedom as our budget pick, which is far more proven and worth the extra $20 (for the insulated model). But for a casual resort pant that also gets the job done for general snow use, the Powderbound is an affordable choice from a trusted brand.
See the Men's REI Powderbound Insulated  See the Women's REI Powderbound Insulated


20. Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II ($225)

Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II ski pantBest for: Backcountry
Type: Softshell & hardshell
Insulated: No
What we like: Mixed construction offers a nice combination of protection, mobility, breathability, and comfort.
What we don’t: Not enough waterproofing for wet days.

Outdoor Research’s Skyward II above offers stretchy hardshell protection for backcountry skiers, but the Trailbreaker II takes uphill performance to the next level. This pant is business at the bottom and comfort on top, with supple softshell fabric around the waist and thighs and a burly 3-layer Pertex Shield from the knees down. The result is waterproof protection where you need it (for the most part) and a stretchy and breathable pant everywhere else, which is great news for heated sessions on the skin track. And with removable suspenders, outer thigh vents, plenty of storage (including a beacon pocket), and zip cuffs for easy on and off, the Trailbreaker sets itself apart from generic softshell designs as a fully featured ski pant.

Of course, there are a number of tradeoffs when opting for such a trimmed-down model. Firstly, the lack of waterproofing across the rear limits your ability to take trailside breaks or lounge in a backcountry snow kitchen. Further, with no coverage across the thighs, we don’t recommend these pants for deep powder conditions or particularly wet days out. And finally, the fairly snug fit doesn’t allow room for much more than a thin baselayer underneath, which means you’ll need to stay moving in frigid temps. But for softshell lovers who want a little extra protection, the aptly named Trailbreaker is a purpose-built option and a great value at $225.
See the Men's OR Trailbreaker II  See the Women's OR Trailbreaker II


Ski Pant Comparison Table

Pant Price Best for Type Insulated Fabric Weight
Arc'teryx Sabre $550 Resort/backcountry Hardshell No (light) 3-layer 1 lb. 6.8 oz.
Helly Hansen Legendary $200 Resort Hardshell w/stretch Yes 2-layer 1 lb. 3.5 oz.
The North Face Freedom $149 Resort Hardshell No 2-layer 1 lb. 9.4 oz.
OR Skyward II $329 Backcountry/resort Hardshell w/stretch No 3-layer 1 lb. 6.9 oz.
Flylow Baker Bib $430 Resort/backcountry Hardshell No 3-layer 2 lb. 1.4 oz.
Patagonia Storm Shift $379 Resort Hardshell No 2-layer 1 lb. 10.2 oz.
Trew Gear TREWth Bib $439 Resort/backcountry Hardshell No 3-layer 1 lb. 15 oz.
Arc'teryx Macai $575 Resort Hardshell Yes 3-layer 1 lb. 8.7 oz.
Flylow Gear Chemical $365 Resort/backcountry Hardshell No 3-layer 1 lb. 14 oz.
OR Hemispheres II Bibs $629 Backcountry/resort Hardshell w/stretch No 3-layer 1 lb. 6.1 oz.
Black Diamond Recon $350 Backcountry/resort Hardshell w/stretch No 3-layer 1 lb. 9 oz.
Columbia Bugaboo IV $120 Resort Hardshell Yes 2-layer Unavailable
Patagonia SnowDrifter Bib $379 Backcountry/resort Hardshell w/stretch No 3-layer 1 lb. 4.6 oz.
REI Co-op First Chair GTX $259 Resort Hardshell w/stretch No 2-layer 1 lb. 14 oz.
Arc'teryx Beta AR $499 Backcountry Hardshell No 3-layer 1 lb. 0 oz.
Obermeyer Force $219 Resort Hardshell Yes 2-layer Unavailable
Patagonia PowSlayer Bib $639 Backcountry Hardshell No 3-layer 1 lb. 4.6 oz.
Strafe Capitol 3L Pant $499 Backcountry Hardshell w/stretch No 3-layer 1 lb. 10.6 oz.
REI Co-op Powderbound $149 Resort Hardshell Yes 2-layer 1 lb. 9 oz.
OR Trailbreaker II $225 Backcountry Soft & Hardshell No 2 & 3L 1 lb. 9 oz.


Ski Pant Buying Advice

Best Uses: Resort and Backcountry

Ski pants are designed for use at the resort, deep in the backcountry, or a mix of the two, so we’ve included a “best for” specification in our product descriptions and table above. Starting with inbounds skiing, these pants are built tough—you typically get strong face fabrics, fully waterproof and windproof constructions, and generous fits for layering. If you ski consistently in frigid temperatures, it may be worth considering an insulated design, although we sometimes prefer the flexibility of a thick, non-insulated shell for season-long use.

Ski pants (Outdoor Research Skyward II)
The Outdoor Research Skyward is a great option for mixed backcountry and resort use

Traveling uphill breaking trail or on the skin track has an impact on your pant needs. First off, mobility and freedom of movement are very important for backcountry use, so you’ll often find some form of stretch built into the fabric and an athletic fit. Additionally, breathability is essential—the materials are thinner and you get large zippered side vents for staying cool. Finally, all-out weather protection can sometimes be compromised in the quest to keep you from overheating (whether or not this is a good idea for you will depend on your local weather and snow conditions). For those looking for a single pant for mixed use, we still recommend a substantial waterproof design, such as the Outdoor Research Hemispheres II.

Fabric Types

In general, modern ski pants are built with one of three types of shell fabric: hardshell, hardshell with mechanical stretch, or softshell. The type of fabric you opt for will depend on where you're skiing (we favor hardshells for resort use) and how much mobility you need (stretchy designs are great for mogul skiers and uphill enthusiasts). The vast majority of skiers will opt for a pant that uses hardshell or hardshell with integrated stretch, but we've also included a softshell model on our list above.

For most resort days, it’s hard to beat a traditional hardshell pant. Hardshells provide a reliable barrier against wet snow and harsh winds (great for long chairlift rides), and pricier options can have impressively long lifespans. Due to their burly constructions, hardshells aren't particularly breathable, and you'll have to put up with their more rigid feel. But resort skiers generally don’t need an especially breathable or supple pant, and the good news is that most hardshells here have side vents to dump heat on warmer days. Our top-rated Arc’teryx Sabre is a standout example, with bombproof 3-layer Gore-Tex protection, a substantial 80-denier face fabric, and long side vents.

Ski pants (Arc'teryx Sabre resort)
At the resort in the Arc'teryx Sabre hardshell pant

Hardshell with Stretch
Hard-charging resort skiers, sidecountry enthusiasts, and most backcountry skiers will want a waterproof pant, but a little extra stretch is an appreciated feature. Designs like the Patagonia SnowDrifter Bib and Outdoor Research Skyward II feature a hardshell construction with built-in stretch, which is a lot more supple than a standard hardshell—you don’t get that rigid and crinkly feel—and places a premium on freedom of movement and breathability. However, you do compromise a bit in the way of all-out protection: Stretchy fabrics allow more air to flow than a hardshell, so they feel less impervious in strong gusts. Additionally, they’re more prone to wetting out after extended exposure. But it doesn’t get much better for most backcountry skiers, and it’s for good reason that we see more stretch-infused hardshell pants hitting the market each year.

On the far end of the spectrum are pants that feature softshell construction, such as the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II, which has softshell fabric above the knees. This material is stretchy, air-permeable, and soft against the skin, which makes it great for high-output pursuits. On the flip side, softshells absorb moisture much more readily than hardshells, and many options lack a waterproof membrane. As a result, a softshell pant is a bad pairing in wet weather—even sitting on snow for an extended period can be a problem—so we don't recommend them for particularly soggy days or resort use.

Ski pants (descending)
Softshell pants can be an option in dry snow and mild weather conditions

Ski Pant Insulation and Warmth

In terms of warmth, ski pants fall into two basic categories: models with built-in synthetic fill and uninsulated shells. Resort skiers, and especially those that stick to groomed runs, will be best off with an insulated model. The boost in warmth is useful to fend off the chill, and the thicker construction provides an additional barrier between you and a frigid chairlift seat (or when sitting on snow). As mentioned above, the vast majority of insulated ski pants use synthetic fill due to its affordability and that it continues to insulate even when wet (unlike goose or duck down). The amount of warmth offered doesn’t vary too widely, and most use somewhere between 40- and 80-gram fill. The ideal amount for you will depend on your local conditions, skiing style (aggressive or casual), and if you’re prone to running hot or cold. Opting for a pant with 60-gram synthetic is a safe bet, and a design like the Helly Hansen Legendary is often the sweet spot for many skiers.

Ski pants (standing above run in The North Face Freedom)
The insulated version of The North Face's Freedom (60g) offers great warmth for chilly resort days

That being said, an uninsulated pant makes a lot of sense for hard chargers or those that plan to ski the side- and backcountry. A shell pant won’t be as prone to overheating if you’re a mogul rider, spend a lot of time off-trail in soft snow, or if you do any extended hiking. And if you’ll be ski touring, a shell pant is a must-have to stay as cool as possible. A final benefit of foregoing insulation is that you can tune your baselayer depending on conditions: For spring-time or active use, you can opt for a lightweight model, and mid or heavyweight baselayers are great in the cold. Again, those planning on lapping the resort will most likely prefer the extra isolation and comfort of an insulated design, but there are a number of situations where a shell is the preferred option.

Fabric Layers: 3L vs. 2L

Most premium ski pants have a 3-layer construction, which incorporates three separate pieces of fabric: an outer shell, the actual waterproof and breathable membrane, and an inner lining. This makes it less bulky compared to a 2-layer design (these require a separate, hanging mesh liner along the interior), and also improves breathability and next-to-skin comfort. 3-layer pants are more expensive than 2-layer models and often involve big names like Gore-Tex and eVent. As a result of their strengths, 3-layer pants are popular among serious downhill and backcountry skiers.

Many mid-range and budget ski pants have a 2-layer construction. These are less breathable than 3-layer designs, although the simple designs often use thick fabrics that are quite durable. We’ve found that 2-layer pants are perfectly suitable for resort use where ventilation and mobility aren't as important (those skiing moguls or prone to overheating are exceptions). Further, you can save by going this route as some 2-layer ski pants run around $100 (the Columbia Bugaboo IV costs $120, for example). For comparison, the cheapest 3-layer waterproof pant on this list is $329.

Ski pants (3 layers)
3-layer ski pants are common for backcountry use


Quality water resistance in a ski pant is an absolute must. They come in contact with snow on nearly every run and really put the membrane and outer fabric to the test. For ultimate waterproof protection, look for a burly hardshell pant made with Gore-Tex, eVent, or NeoShell. Mid-range and entry-level options utilize manufacturer’s in-house laminates that are still fully waterproof but most likely won’t have as long a lifespan. Seam taping and a DWR coating also are important for hard chargers to keep moisture from sneaking through. In terms of waterproofing, spending a little more does get you a nice upgrade in quality and longevity.

Ski pants (Gore-Tex waterproofing)
Gore-Tex waterproofing provides top-notch protection against the elements

Backcountry skiers have a different set of priorities, so they do not always require full waterproofing. Less time sitting on a chair and more time on the skin track means that some backcountry skiers only need waterproofing in specific areas or a very water-resistant construction (especially for riders in regions known for dry snow like the Rocky Mountains). Your needs will vary, but don't automatically discount a partially waterproof or non-waterproof pant—including the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker II from our list above—for backcountry use.

Ski pants (waterproof)
Deep snow will expose weaknesses in a waterproof design


As we touched on above, breathability needs are closely aligned with your intended use(s). Resort riders, and especially those that plan to stay on groomed runs, don’t require a light and airy design. Most standard 2-layer constructions will offer sufficient breathability, and you can always select one with zippered vents to dump a little excess heat as needed. If you venture into the sidecountry, however, plan to mix in some touring days, or are a backcountry enthusiast, breathability then becomes an important consideration. Among waterproof builds, lightweight 3-layer constructions are the best ventilators (including Arc’terx’s Beta AR), and many softshell-inspired designs are even more impressive. You make compromises in all-out protection in harsh wind and wet snow, but air-permeable options like the Strafe Capitol and Black Diamond Recon Stretch are great performers when working hard.

Ski pants (Black Diamond Recon Stretch bootpacking at resort)_0
Breathability is a top consideration for skiers that frequent the side- and backcountry


Ski pants see a lot of rough use—everything from boot buckles, metal edges, and chair lifts can wreak havoc on the materials. As a result, they’ve a tough bunch overall. The most common way of determining ski pant durability is the fabric denier (D), which measures the thickness of the threads used for the shell material. Most resort-oriented designs are pretty substantial, including the Patagonia Storm Shift (150D) and The North Face Freedom (140D x 160D). On the other end of the spectrum, touring-focused pants like the Outdoor Research Skyward II (50D) make the most compromises in durability to maximize comfort, mobility, and performance on the go. Our top-rated pant, Arc’teryx’s Sabre, does an excellent job of balancing needs for both activities with its high-quality 80D shell. Finally, it’s worth noting that many pants include a reinforced patch along the inside of the cuff (sometimes referred to as a scuff guard) for additional protection from ski edges.

Ski pants (Patagonia Powslayer scuff guard)
Scuff guards protect against ski edges and other sharp equipment

Pants vs. Bibs

Another “either or” decision when choosing ski pants is if you should opt for regular ski pants or a bib. Ski pants are the traditional choice, and what most folks are familiar and comfortable with. They’re completely capable for resort or backcountry skiing and are much easier to slip on and off. The primary downside is felt when cold air or moisture finds its way up your back on the chairlift or after taking a fall.

Bibs are the remedy for these maladies as they offer better protection from the snow, wind, and wet. They also run a little warmer thanks to the extra layering that covers part of your upper body. While you don’t have to worry about any discomfort from a waistband, the straps that run over your shoulders can take some getting used to (and you’ll need to dial in the fit to keep them from moving around excessively or interfering with your backpack's shoulder straps). But deep powder explorers or those that are prone to good falls may prefer bib-style pants. The Flylow Gear Baker, Outdoor Research Hemispheres II, and Patagonia PowSlayer are a few of our favorite bib designs.

Ski pants (Outdoor Research Hemispheres bib)
Opening the kangaroo-style pocket on the OR Hemispheres Bib

Ski Pant Features

Typically, your jacket or backpack will be your primary place to store personal items, but it’s still worth checking the pocket situation on a pair of ski pants you’re eyeing. We recommend looking for a couple of zippered pockets that can fit snacks or personal effects. Unless you really need the extra capacity, we’re not huge fans of cargo pockets for resort skiing—filling them with larger items feels ungainly on the mountain. Backcountry-specific pants like the OR Hemispheres II put a greater emphasis on storage with dedicated pockets for items like a beacon.

Ski pants (pockets)
For backcountry use, look for pants that have an avy beacon clip inside one of the pockets

To aid in breathability, most ski pants offer a zippered ventilation system that amounts to pit zips for your legs. The most common locations for the zippered panels are along the inside of your upper legs or on the outside of your thighs. Either style will help dump a lot of heat, although the former design adds unwanted bulk and can occasionally impact comfort. Backcountry-specific pants often place the zippers on the outside of the legs in part for this reason. Flylow's Baker Bib has vents on both sides of the leg, which provides excellent cross ventilation.

Ski pants (Patagonia PowSlayer side venting)
Backcountry-focused pants like the Patagonia PowSlayer typically feature generous venting

You may run into RECCO listed as a feature on some mid-range and high-end ski pants. These are for skiers that make their way out of bounds or into areas where they may experience avalanche dangers. The RECCO reflector built into your ski jacket or pant is a passive unit that doesn’t require batteries and can be picked up by RECCO detectors often carried by resort search and rescue. They lack the technology and strong signal of a dedicated search and rescue beacon, but they do provide an additional safety measure should you venture off-trail. We've found the RECCO System website helpful if you want more information about the technology.

Ski pants (Recco technology)
RECCO reflectors are a common feature on mid-range and high-end pants

Ski Pant Fit

The best fit, no matter the type of skier or boarder you are, will come down to personal preference. There are, however, some helpful generalizations to be made. Most beginner and intermediate downhill skiers opt for a comfortable fit that is neither too tight nor too baggy. Backcountry touring types lean towards a slimmer cut for easier uphill hiking, and those that spend time in the park are inclined for a loose, relaxed fit. In the end, the most important thing is to find a fit that’s comfortable for you. Our preference is a bit of a more tailored cut as long as it doesn't negatively mobility. And it needs to have enough room to comfortably throw on a light or midweight baselayer underneath.

Ski pants (Trew Gear TREWth Bib fit)
We prefer a fit that nicely balances comfort and freedom of movement


In recent years, there’s been a noticeable shift in sustainable practices within the ski apparel market. Led by brands like Patagonia and REI Co-op, we’re seeing greater use of recycled materials, particularly in the shell and lining fabrics. Further, a growing number of products, including Patagonia’s latest Storm Shift and Powder Town collections, are using DWR coatings that are PFC-free (short for perfluorocarbons, which is a non-biodegradable chemical). And many brands utilize the bluesign system for sourcing materials responsibly and have Fair Trade Certified-sewn gear, which helps ensure the fair and ethical treatment of workers. One final way to purchase sustainably is to select quality products and repair old gear rather than buy cheap items that don’t last. Patagonia is a leader here as well, with an excellent repair program that’s managed both online and in their brick-and-mortar stores.

Layering Underneath Your Ski Pants

The layers you wear under your ski pants don’t get as much attention as those warming your core, but they remain an important consideration nevertheless. To start, it’s almost always a good idea to throw on at least a thin pair of long underwear both for resort and backcountry skiing. The extra layer not only provides insulation and protection from cold snow and freezing chairlift seats, but it also wicks moisture away from your skin. Further, the interiors of ski pants are often not very plush, with exposed mesh, zippers, and minimalist liners that become less comfortable as the day wears on.

Ski pants (Arc'teryx Rush LT hiking)
Quality baselayers wick moisture when you're working hard

In choosing a baselayer, it’s worth getting a soft and close-fitting design to maximize warmth. The best models are made with either synthetic or wool—cotton doesn’t insulate when wet, so it’s a bad idea even on a resort day. Synthetics are the cheaper option and efficiently wick moisture, but merino wool is our favorite. It’s very warm for its weight and naturally resists odor better than a polyester alternative. Baselayers are offered in a range of thicknesses, including lightweight designs for warm days or backcountry use, and mid and heavyweight options for cold days at the resort. And in particularly frigid conditions, you can always double up your baselayers to increase warmth.
Back to Our Top Ski Pant Picks  Back to Our Ski Pant Comparison Table

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