The Best Ski Pants for Women of 2017
What is the top contender for women's ski pants? On our quest to determine which pair tops the rest, we took the pants for long walks in the woods, down steep chutes, through tight trees, over rocks, and on downhill slopes in the best snow on earth in the Wasatch Range of Utah. We spent time in resorts and long days touring the backcountry. Our testers wore these pants while skiing, telemarking, and, of course, while attending après ski. Throughout this process, we evaluated each pair according to its Comfort & Fit, Weather Resistance, Warmth, Ventilation, Ski Specific Features, and Style.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Overall Ski Pants
Arc'teryx Sentinel Pants
Best Bang for the Buck
Marmot Skyline Insulated
Top Pick for Flattering Fit and Movement
Salomon Iceglory - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
To test the nine pairs of women's ski pants in this review, we recruited several lady snow sport 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 individual purchase. So whether you ski once a year, hit the slopes every weekend, guide professionally, or are a seasoned backcountry enthusiast, read on to see how the industry's leading women's ski pants stood up in our head-to-head tests.
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 ultra cold, 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?
With the answers of 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, How to Choose Ski Pants for Women.
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, Marmot Skyline, 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 can be used 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.
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 with 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.
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. Another pair of pants that has a relaxed yet classic fit and a comfortable waist band is the Marmot Skyline. The Skyline pant is roomy through the knee and thigh and snug across the bum, creating a slim but articulated fit that all stayed in place while moving around the mountain. An added benefit of the Skyline is the warmth without bulk aspect Marmot captured, winning this pant our Best Buy award.
Here's a Quick Run-Down of How Each Pair Fit:
In our fitting session, we found 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 ski pants 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 Marmot Skyline, 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**.
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 found 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.
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 waist bands, adjustable waist bands, and supple fabrics.
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 3 layer soft shell 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.
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.
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 Marmot Skyline, which scored an 8 out of 10 for warmth. The Skyline is 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 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.
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 in terms of 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 not having the vent systems. A pant that does not have vents but has a high degree of breathability is the Salomon Iceglory. We found we didn't miss the vents while using this pant in the resort.
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 Spyder Winner, Columbia Bugaboo, and Marmot Skyline 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.
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 waist bands. We looked for well placed pockets - those accessible on chair lifts 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 'jangley' with their phones, cards, and chap sticks 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 chap sticks. Although not a tangible feature, many of the pants we tested come with at least a one-year warranty, and the Spyder and Patagonia models have a lifetime warranty.
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 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.
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. Meanwhile, the Marmot Skyline has a classic look with well placed rear pockets that earned it a seven out of ten in our style metric. 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.
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 in a different way, but all women connected with the function and style of the pants.
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 half way 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.
— Polly Dacus
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