Updated November 2017
As the mountains fill with snow in preparation for an epic winter season, we updated our review women's ski pants to reflect the latest changes in the market. As common throughout the industry, some manufacturers switched up their colors offered without changing any elements of design or materials. For example, our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Sentinel, is offered in a new array of colors, but that's all that's new.
Best Overall Ski Pants
Arc'teryx Sentinel Pants
Perfect pocket size and placements
Buttery soft fabric
Leg vents are small
Waist belt can be difficult to use with cold or gloved fingers
It can be difficult to narrow down the attributes and ratings to just one pair of pants. That's why many of us have more than just one or even two pairs. However, if we were forced to only have one pair for single quiver, we would choose the Arc'teryx Sentinel
. Since it is minimally insulated, you can choose how warm or cool you want them to be. This fact, along with the exterior thigh zippered vents, makes the Sentinel more versatile than any other. The Gore-Tex fabric is the most reliable waterproof fabric on the market; the cherry on top is that Arc'teryx combined it with a 3L softshell construction, giving it a soft and flexible feel. The pockets alone made us fall in love with the Sentinel. Perfectly placed and generously sized, the pockets are everything we need. The sleek and slimming fit of this award-winner nailed the resort and backcountry style we were seeking. The Sentinel is the most expensive pant we tested, but we think that in this case, you get what you pay for. You can wear these anywhere in the winter, for any amount of time, for any reason, and you will never be disappointed.
Read review: Arc'teryx Sentinel Pants
Best Bang for the Buck
The North Face Freedom LRBC Insulated
Great style and warm
Comfortable and ventilated
Not the best thigh pocket
You don't have to be a certified ski bum to want to save some cash when ski season rolls around. You can spend the majority of your paycheck on a pair of pants, sure, but do you need it? Resort skiers and riders who run cold and shop on a budget, the Freedom LRBC Insulated
is your match. They performed solidly across all metrics and are half the cost of many of the pants in this review. Combine those factors with the $160 price tag, and you get the most competitively priced model in our review. It offers plenty of room to move, and space for extra layers if you need them. While it is affordable, warm and stylish, it is hard to size.
Read review: The North Face Freedom LRBC Insulated
Top Pick for Flattering Fit and Movement
Salomon Iceglory - Women's
Super flattering cut
Not enough pockets
Less warm than other contenders
When ski wax meets freshly groomed snow, you want to be wearing pants that perform well and look snazzy. You want to be wearing the Salomon Iceglory
. These offer the most flattering fit and movement due to the 4-way stretch weave that Salomon uses. And they didn't skimp on the waterproofing either, with their Advanced Skin Dry rating second only to Gore-Tex. The Iceglory is a cooler insulated pant and costs $225, both things that gave us pause when considering its overall greatness. It also does not have excellent ventilation systems. However, Salomon's fabric is the most breathable and comfortable fabric we touched, and the flattering fit won us over every time. We felt that the positives greatly overruled the downsides. If looking good and staying comfortable in warmer resort temps is appealing to you, then the Iceglory is what you want. It's what we wanted.
Read review: Salomon Iceglory
Analysis and Test Results
We recruited several lady snow sports enthusiasts. With their help, we assessed each product's key components, which ranged from functional pockets to water-proofed seams and stylish cuts. These garments can be expensive, and unless you ski on a regular basis, it's highly possible that you'll only have one pair
and if you're like us, you'll want them to perform for multiple seasons. These factors can make purchasing a pair a relatively big decision. In this review, we will help you decide upon factors which to base your purchase. So whether you ski once a year, hit the slopes every weekend, guide professionally, or are a seasoned backcountry enthusiast, we have picks for you.
The high stretch factor of the Iceglory kept us comfortable all day in the snow.
Ski pants are made for long days in winter weather; they are higher performing than inexpensive "snow pants" that do not have the technology and performance to keep you protected from ultracold, wet winter weather. When selecting the pair that's right for you, it's important to first think about how you'll be using them — Do you live near a mountain with bitterly cold winters? Will you be chasing pow during big storms? Do you plan to use these pants in the backcountry? Or do you usually just hit the slopes for a week-long vacation in late April?
An excellent day to be wearing stretchy, comfortable pants
With the answers to these questions in mind, consider the technical attributes and features like warmth, ventilation, and weather resistance that will best serve you. From there, look at style, fit, and comfort because if your pants aren't going to keep you warm and dry, you won't be able to enjoy yourself. Many skiers and winter enthusiasts will only buy one pair of ski pants and then pair it with different ski jackets for women
and base layers, so it's important that you select a product that will effectively serve you whether you're hoping to get in 60 days this winter, or you're planning a a quick visit over spring break. For more information on purchasing the right product, be sure to read our buying advice article.
Types of Women's Ski Pants
We tested two different types of pants: insulated and uninsulated. In general, we find that a well-insulated pant is superior to uninsulated on bitterly cold days in the mountains. That said, uninsulated pants offer much greater versatility since you can customize the weight of your base layers depending on weather and activity.
Insulation varies by grams. In this review, the Patagonia Snowbelle
, Salomon Iceglory
, Burton Society
, The North Face Freedom LRBC
, and Spyder Winner
were our insulated pants. With 40-60 grams of insulation, these are in between a shell (20 grams) and down jackets (100 to 600 grams). Our testers agreed that insulated pants are great for resort skiing during mid-winter or cold weather. Come spring, they tended to be too hot. However, the great thing about insulated pants is that with an effective ventilation system, they are useful in various weather conditions. Across the board, they tended to be too hot for hiking in the backcountry when you are generating quite a bit of body heat.
Cruising the backcountry in the Skyline.
Uninsulated: Two-Layer vs. Three Layer
Two-layer construction is when the face fabric and outer laminate are sealed together and a liner hangs freely on the inside. The Columbia Women's Bugaboo
and the Flylow Gear Nina
are made of two-layer construction. This design often feels less bulky than an insulated pant, although current technology is allowing insulated pants to feel light as well.
Using the excellent ventilation system to blow off some heat while touring in the Flylow Nina.
An example of three-layer construction is the Arc'teryx Sentinel
pant. This is when all three layers - the face fabric, weatherproofing membrane, and inner liner - are laminated together. This type of garment can often feel less pliable than the two-layer systems.
Criteria for Evaluation
Comfort & Fit
Ladies! We have different body types! Women's ski pants are similar to jeans - between different brands, styles, inseam lengths, tall, short, regular, loose fit, and fitted fit, it can certainly be overwhelming. We had several women varying from size 2-6 try on these pants, which range in size from extra small to small. Every brand and style was a bit different, so we highly recommend trying on several pairs. Even if you have to order a few online and send some back, it is worth being comfortable when skiing!
The most comfortable pair of pants we tested were the Salomon Iceglory
. The 4-way stretch used to make these pants exceeded all other pants stretchiness and
added the surprising benefit of feeling like you're wearing your most comfortable pair of yoga pants. The Arc'teryx Sentinel
, while being a technical and aggressive pant, also provided a great comfortable fit with a supple and soft fabric that moved with you.
Here's a Quick Run-Down of How Each Pair Fit:
Freedom of movement is necessary while skinning in the backcountry. We loved the gussetted fit, fabric, and ventilation the Arc'teryx Sentinel provides.
In our fitting session, The North Face LRBC Insulated to be snug across the hips and bum
. On the other hand, the Columbia Bugaboo
was roomy and baggy throughout (all models were tested using a size small). The Flylow Gear Nina
and Arc'tery'x Sentinel
have a relaxed fit through the hips and thighs, with the Nina
being on the short side in length. The Patagonia Snowbelle
, Spyder Winner
, and Burton Society
were all roomy through the thighs, bum, and waist. Initially, we thought of downsizing on the Flylow Gear Nina, Burton Society, Patagonia Snowbelle
, and Columbia Women's Bugaboo
The Arc'teryx Sentinel Pants really shine in the backcountry whether you are working hard uphill or skiing down through powder.
However, when our tester (size 4-6) tried the x-small of all those pants, they were too small and restricted movement with a tight waistband. In the end, we tested size small of all pants, and while those four above mentioned pants are on the roomy side, we needed that room for athletic movement. The Burton Society
, in particular, has a large waist and we needed the adjustable pulls tabs and a belt to make it fit. The Salomon Iceglory
runs the smallest of all pants tested, but with the 4-way stretch, we never felt our mobility was limited.
The Burton Society scored an average 5 out of 10 for Comfort and Fit due to its larger waist.
Although we found comfort to be inseparable from fit, once you find a pair or two that are well-suited to your body type, you can start to consider which features will most benefit your individual comfort. For max comfort and fit, look for pants with fleece-lined waistbands, adjustable waistbands, and supple fabrics.
The relaxed fit of the Patagonia Snowbelle allows for easy range of motion.
For this metric, we looked at each piece's overall construction, assessing seam-taped zippers, waterproofing materials, and membranes, and the various types of DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finishes and coatings used. Most of the garments we tested offered adequate protection against the elements; however the pants that withstood rain, wet snow, damp chairlifts and sideways blizzards the best were the Arc'teryx Sentinel Pant
and the Salomon Iceglory
. These pants both have 100% fully taped seams, which means that the tiny holes made by the needle in the sewing process of the seams are fully covered with tape. Not only is the fabric waterproof, but because of the taping, the seams are too. Both of these models are waterproof to 20,000 mm, the highest waterproof rating given.
The Arc'teryx Sentinel
uses Gore-Tex and the Salomon uses AdvancedSkin Dry and scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in this metric. Gore-Tex is a tried and true waterproof material used in all the best and most durable outdoor goods, as well as medical equipment. It is expensive, but it is widely accepted as the gold standard in waterproofness as well. The Sentinel
uses N70p Gore-Tex with a three-layer softshell construction. This means the pant is made with the highest degree of durable, waterproof, and breathable performance material available. It also has a lofted backer to the membrane for added warmth. The soft shell construction creates a quiet and supple fabric, soft to the touch.
The Sentinel is an incredible all-around pair of ski pants that won our Editors' Choice award.
Salomon uses its own proprietary waterproof breathable material called AdvancedSkin Dry in the construction of the Salomon Iceglory
. This is their ultimate protection against rain, snow, and wind and allowed the Iceglory
to achieve a near perfect score of 9 out of 10. Not only is the AdvancedSkin Dry material extremely waterproof, but it is also extremely breathable with a rating of 20,000 g/m squared. This means that the material allows moisture to escape from the inside at a very similar rating as it repels the moisture on the outside. Nothing can be more waterproof and breathable. Because Salomon is able to accomplish all that in their fabric along with a 4-way stretch and soft feel, we gave it our Best in Class award.
Useful in any conditions, the Nina delivers while in the backcountry.
Scoring the same score as the Salomon Iceglory
pants, the Flylow Gear Nina also was a high scoring contender in this metric
. Featuring a 3-layer waterproof design, the Nina
keeps all moisture out and is a great option for the coldest of days. Be sure to read our buying advice article for more information on what helps make a product more weather resistant.
The warmth of a pant can always be modified with base layers (long underwear), so keep in mind that warmth can be altered by choosing layers based on projected weather and activity level. For this reason, we didn't weight warmth as heavily in our metrics. The warmest pant we tested was the Arc'teryx Sentinel
, which scored a 7 out of 10 for warmth. It's a great piece for mid-winter resort skiing, or for those that are sensitive to the cold. If you're only planning to ski on cold days, these pants will keep you warm, happy, and enjoying your adventure!
The Marmot Skyline, keeping us warm wherever we go, scoring the highest in the Warmth metric.
The Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle also provides a high level of function
with the addition of vents and the Arc'teryx Sentinel
pull their weight, finishing second in the Warmth metric. Other pants we tested use the "two and three layer" uninsulated systems, such as the Flylow Gear Nina
and Burton Society
. Although models like the Flylow Gear Nina
pant are uninsulated, they still provide plenty of warmth with an effective layering system.
If you are planning to do most of your skiing in frigid, winter conditions at the resort, but also want to be able to use your pants for those inevitable spring trips to the mountains, we suggest purchasing a pant with a high degree of warmth and good ventilation. This way you have plenty of warmth along with a versatile pant that can change with the seasons.
We did everything in these pants (the Sentinel), including shoveling the driveway.
Although often overlooked, ventilation is a critical component of a well-designed ski pant. No matter what style of pant you choose, a sufficient ventilation system will allow you to adjust to varying levels of exertion and changing weather conditions. As your body heats up and sweats more, you don't want excess moisture to build up; once your body cools down, the sweat can make you extra cold, which is obviously not ideal. In our clothing reviews, we often talk about a garment's ability to control moisture regarding its breathability; however, since ski pants are highly weather resistant, their materials just aren't as breathable, which is why ventilation is so important.
About half of our testers preferred the inner thigh vent, but keep in mind that features such as these are yours to choose! Many of our pants tested did not have ventilation systems, which limits their range of temperatures where they will be most effective. However, if you are skiing mostly in the resort during the colder months, you probably won't mind a lack of vent systems. A pant that does not have vents but has a high degree of breathability is the Salomon Iceglory
. We didn't miss the vents in the resort.
Shredding in the Patagonia Snowbelle, which scored an average 5 out of 10 in this metric.
Both the Flylow Gear Nina
and Arc'teryx Sentinel Pants
have outer thigh vents, which make them the most breathable and user-friendly for ventilation. The Flylow Gear Nina
not only has the exterior vents but also has two small inner thigh vents, giving it the highest ranking ventilation system we tested, allowing for air to flow all the way through the pant.
The Sentinel has two large thigh vents we used while backcountry skiing and on warmer resort days.
The Spyder Winner
and Columbia Bugaboo
do not have any vents and had minimal breathability. These pants are best for colder weather when you don't need the venting options. The Patagonia Snowbelle, Burton Society
, and The North Face Freedom LRBC
all have inner mesh-covered thigh vents, which functioned well for both warmer resort skiing and some light backcountry use.
Using the inner thigh vent on the Freedom LRBC while skiing backcountry powder.
These nine pairs of pants came outfitted with a wide variety of features. Pockets are an important feature that we assessed — these aren't jeans, so we expected our pockets to be highly functional! We looked for zippered pockets that would hold everything from a wallet, phone, to avalanche beacon, to lip gloss. We also gave extra consideration to those pieces that had fleece-lined pockets and waistbands. We looked for well-placed pockets - those accessible on chairlifts and away from impact zones.
We were disappointed to find that several women's specific pants do not have large hand pockets — specifically The North Face Freedom
and the Spyder Winner
. The best pockets were found on the Flylow Gear Nina
and the Arc'teryx Sentinel
. They both have large thigh pockets with the Nina's
positioned more on the front of the thigh and the Sentinel
more out of the impact zone and slightly to the side of the thigh. Some testers found these large pockets to be a bit 'jangly' with their phones, cards, and chapsticks jumbling around. They preferred the smaller pockets of the Salomon Iceglory
and Patagonia Snowbelle
, both of which have two zippered hand pockets large enough for your small essentials including a phone, cards, and chapsticks. Although not a tangible feature, many of the pants we tested come with at least a one-year warranty, and the Spyder
models have a lifetime warranty.
Two large thigh pockets on the Sentinel were big enough for beacons, phones, bars or maps.
Additionally, the Patagonia Insulated Snowbelle
and the Arc'teryx Sentinel
feature the RECCO Rescue System. Garments with this technology have an electronic device embedded in the fabric in case of an avalanche or other accident. However, it is crucial to note that RECCO does not replace a beacon or guarantee safety; it is simply a factor that increases the probability of a person being found if he or she is buried in an avalanche within ski resort boundaries. Please visit RECCO's website
to ensure your understanding of this electronic system.
Two zippered hand pockets and the inner thigh vent can be found on the Patagonia Snowbelle Pants.
Here at OutdoorGearLab, we are firm believers that just because you're playing hard outside doesn't mean you can't look good doing it! This goes double for skiing at a resort. In our style metric, we looked at pants that could easily go from a killer day on the slopes to a relaxing visit to our favorite slope-side happy hour. Although we're not runway fashionistas, there were a few select britches that all the ladies loved.
For the style-conscious shredder, the Salomon Iceglory
pant is a great choice. Once you find your size (runs small), this piece fits snugly, but the fabric offers plenty of mobility. The Patagonia Snowbelle, Flylow Gear Nina
and Burton Society
both have a relaxed fit, making them easy to move in. The Columbia Bugaboo
, with its casual, less flattering fit, earned our lowest style score. All of these pants have plenty of room for your strong legs and backside while sporting flattering fits and a variety of color options.
Style points for the Iceglory pant.
Two of our award winners — the Arc'teryx Sentinel
and the Salomon Iceglory
earned high marks in our style metric. They are superb in color, cut, comfort, and technical qualities. These pants just look good; they fit all our models and testers differently, but all women connected with the function and style of the pants.
We gave the Sentinel extra style points for its sleek look.
Skiing the beautiful pow in the Snowbelle.
The Burton Society crushing backcountry powder.
When thinking about your upcoming ski trip or season, it's important to know your clothing will not be in the way of your focus: having fun and staying safe. However, your clothing choices can make or break your time in the snow. Not enough ventilation and you will become damp and then cold. Not enough insulation and you will be too cold to enjoy your time at all. Poorly performing pants that give out halfway through the snow storm will also put a damper on your day and leave you in the lodge instead of on the slopes.
It's essential to consider what type of skier you are- backcountry, slackcountry, park, groomers, or off-piste, and wear the appropriate pant for your activity. Knowing how aggressively you ski or how much value you place on looking good will affect your choice. It's probably best to purchase a few different pants and try them all on to determine the best fit for you, as we are all uniquely shaped and have different expectations from our clothing garments. The individual reviews will go through each pant tested in depth, weighing both the positives and negatives and giving you a better idea of what pant will meet your needs the best so you can make an informed purchase. For more detailed information and purchasing advice, be sure to read over the buying advice