Your wallet confirms your winter recreational budget realities: After looking into the costs of ski and snowboard rentals with lessons, you can't afford to own both ski pants and snowboarding pants. If you're not an experienced intermediate skier or advanced snowboarder, you can probably save some money by buying snow pants from Molehill, Mountain Hardwear or The North Face, especially if you plan on doing a little sledding or tubing on the side. Snow pants are excellent winter utility outerwear and work well for a range of winter outdoor activities. If you're a low-key skier or beginning snowboarder who rarely ventures beyond green-rated runs, insulated snow pants can serve you well, but a key consideration should be whether you need waterproof or water resistant snow pants.
You can determine what sort of snow pant fabric properties you need by considering where and when you plan on being outdoors. Coastal mountain ranges are usually affected by damp marine air, so waterproof and breathable fabrics from Gore-Tex and other companies almost always work best. Drier and colder inland mountain ranges like the Rockies give skiers, snowboarders and snowmobile enthusiasts a wider range of clothing options, so breathable soft shells and water repellent fabrics are frequently a practical choice. Water repellent fabrics are sometimes more affordable than the waterproof technical materials, but don't chase this extra savings if you're going to be sitting around in the snow or sliding down abrasive icy surfaces. If you're intent on playing rough and want outerwear that lasts for several years, choose snow pants that feature extra layers of reinforcement fabric throughout the seat and knees.
While some recreational skiers and beginning snowboarders find that they can wear a pair of snow pants instead of specialized ski or snowboarding pants, anyone at or above the intermediate level will find that sport-specific refinements like articulated knees, inseam edge guards and zippered vents are essential for comfort, mobility and durability. Descente, Burton, Marker and Oakley offer exceptional ski and snowboard refinements for this sort of outerwear. If you do moderate climbing or extended snowshoeing, you may find a better range of motion in mountaineering, Nordic skiing or winter trekking pants from Arc'teryx, Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear, especially for high-impact aerobic situations. Quality snow pants offer an affordable solution to winter budget constraints, provided that you know what you're sticking your woolen sock into before clicking on the checkout button.