In previous posts, I have looked at the various items of essential ski clothing which is required for all conditions that are experienced in the mountains. These include thermal under layers, mid layers, ski gloves, ski hats and ski socks.
Probably the most important purchase you make when choosing garments for skiing is the outer layer. A Skiing Jacket and Skiing pants combine to provide the first line of protection against the elements.
Whatever level of skier you are, your ski pants will need to offer a combination of features to ensure your comfort and safety on the snow. Your ski pants should be waterproof, wind-proof and breathable. This means not letting moisture in but allowing moisture (in the form of sweat) to escape. This is possible by using micro porous materials which allow the fine water vapour to escape out of the fabric.
The breathability of your garment is essential. With a combination of thermal base layers any sweat will be ‘wicked’ away from the body and not allowed to form on the inside of your ski pants. As skiing is an active sport, sweating naturally occurs and once you stop (ie, on a ski lift) the cold weather will quickly cool the water vapour inside your ski pants and this will cause obvious problems.
Even if the weather is dry and sunny, it’s possible to fall in the snow and therefore a good pair of ski pants is still required. Occasionally you might see people trying to ski in jeans or light trousers in the spring time. If these get wet then they will not dry and might freeze causing great discomfort.
As skiing is a dynamic sport, it is also essential that your ski pants are relatively light weight and are made of flexible material. Most ski pants are just an outer ‘shell’ without any insulation material at all. This means you should wear them in conjunction with a thermal inner layer. This offers a combination of warmth, breathability and light weight fabrics. If you choose a ski pant with insulation then they will be warmer but you may lose some movement.
In normal skiing conditions (ie, not below -15 degrees c) a thermal under layer and a ‘shell’ ski pant will be sufficient enough to keep your legs warm. Personally, I would rather put on 2 thermal layers than a ski pant with insulation. Still, there are plenty of insulated ski pants on the market and if you prefer some extra warmth then they might be a good choice in cold weather (anything between -5 and -30 degrees).
Another feature which is worth looking for when choosing any outer layer is ‘taped seams’. This is where the stitching is covered by a waterproof tape to ensure water does not leak through. You don’t want to pay good money for a waterproof fabric and then let moisture leak through the seams. Most good quality outer layer garments include taped seams.
You should also look out for some kind of extra protection at the bottom of the pants to stop wear and tear occurring, especially from your ski boots. Ski pants should have at least a reinforced piece of fabric on the inside of each leg at the bottom or possibly a light weight piece of plastic.
Most ski pants also have straps which help to hold them up whilst skiing. This is important. If your ski pants do not have straps then they could easily slide down your backside. This might be a current fashion for 17 year old boys in the snowpark, but it’s really not advisable for anyone else. I don’t have the largest shoulders and many people like me have the annoying problem of the straps falling off the sides of the shoulders. This is easily remedied by crossing the straps over the head to ensure this cannot happen.
Many good quality skiing pants also come with side zips. Some side zips are full length and others are half length. These side zips can be used for extra ventilation in warmer weather or if ski touring. When ski touring the body quickly becomes warm as you walk up hill and being able to ventilate your legs is essential. The zips then be closed again for descending. For longer ski tours, a full length zip can be helpful to enable removal of the pants without taking off boots (handy in huts and going to the toilet outside). Make sure the zips are protected to insure water does not leak in.
If you are a UK skier, I would always advise buying equipment in the UK before your skiing trip. There are many excellent ski clothing retailers both on the high street and online in the UK, that stock good quality brands. You can expect to pay from £80 for good quality ski pants in the UK, although you can pay up to £350.
What you should look for in a ski pant:
Beginner: Waterproof, Breathable, Comfortable, Good Value, Strong, Good Shoulder Straps.
Recreational skier: Waterproof, Breathable, Comfortable, Good Shoulder Straps, Best affordable quality, Lightweight but strong fabric, Possible side half zip ventilation.
Expert skier / off piste / ski tour: Waterproof, Breathable, Comfortable, Good Shoulder Straps, Best affordable quality, Lightweight but strong fabric, Side half or full zip ventilation.