Ski Pants and Clothing Recommended Buying Advice
Selecting the best ski pant depends on your skiing needs. That's why it's important to think about how, when and where you'll be skiing before you make your preseason purchases. Do you need the warmth of extra insulation or the versatility of a ski pant shell? If you're a beginner or recreational skier who tends to ski early in the season, insulated ski pants will serve you well, especially if you find yourself waiting in long lift lines or for your friends or ski class at the bottom of a ski run. If you're a backcountry skier who hikes or climbs up to the receding snowline late in the season, vented shell mountaineering pants from Mountain Hardwear or Patagonia with a combination of inner layers could give you extra versatility for varied conditions.
Can you wear the same pants for skiing and snowboarding? Twenty years ago snowboarders didn't have much of a choice, but now ski pants and snowboard pant designs feature specialized innovations that are often articulated to how your legs and knees bend or turn for each sport. If you're just starting out and exploring either sport, an insulated ski bib or ski pant with suspenders will probably suit you just fine, but intermediate skiers and snowboarders have specific and higher performance needs that are best suited for specialized outerwear like Spyder, Descente or Marker. Some snowboard pants offer extra fleece padding in the seat and knee areas for rest stops, although skiers who use these pants find that the extra insulating material adds bulk that doesn't help--unless they're stuck for a half hour on a stalled chairlift in a blizzard. Most ski pants also feature extra durable scuff guards along the hem inseams to minimize the abrasive wear caused by sharp ski edges rubbing up against the lower pant fabric.
Ski pants venting configurations are another key consideration for advanced skiers who tend to either ski through the year or hike into the remote areas in the backcountry. Performance snowboard pants from Oakley and Burton usually offer zippered vent openings along the inseam thigh areas, but this cooling design is best suited for optimizing airflow in a snowboarding stance. Ski pant vents and zipper openings are usually found along outseams on pants from Marker, Spyder and The North Face. Some skiers swear that the full-length zipper designs are the only way to go, especially if you're removing outer layers on sunny days, but other skiers find that they rarely or never take advantage of the full zipper design. If you tend to ski hot even in damp conditions, consider the drier advantages of zippered ski vents with mesh linings. The cost for mesh-lined vents is usually a little more, but most skiers find that they don't need to change out of their inner layers after a damp day on the mountain.