If you’re heading to the mountains this winter, make sure you choose the right pair of ski pants or salopettes for what you need – this way you’ll really be able to enjoy your time on the slopes. Waterproofness is undoubtedly one of the qualities to look out for. It's worth knowing that waterproof garments are often tested against a universal performance scale and rated from 0-50,000mm+.
For ski and snowboard trousers, the lowest you’d really want is 10,000mm, with high end performance gear being up at 20-30,000mm (being highly waterproof yet still flexible and breathable). Then there’s insulation – shells are more versatile as you can use in both milder and cold conditions (simply layer with thermals), however built insulation is more convenient if you’re going skiing in mid-winter at a resort.
You also need to consider style and cut – some are baggier and allowing high manoeuvrability, aimed more at freestyle or backcountry riders. Others will be more traditional and offer a close fitting snug warm fit, intended at the average piste skier. The more premium options might feature a concealed RECCO reflector. This is a neat band-aid sized passive reflector meaning you can be detected by an avalanche transceiver in that worst case scenario.
We have selected a range of trousers suitable for all conditions and types of skiing, and tested them in terms of their fit, comfort, build, waterproofness, materials quality, and most importantly their performance in adverse weather.
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Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex pro pants: £549, Norrona
This are a great pair of salopettes from Norway’s premier ski brand. Made from Gore-Tex pro – only used in Norrona’s top lines – these have an immense level of waterproofing (28,000mm, the highest level in this list) as well as durability, while still being highly breathable. Gore-Tex pro (its most premium offering) is a three layer system and it has an added level of robustness that you’ll notice – the pro level material does feel marginally stiffer than regular Gore-Tex, but it’s designed to keep delivering even with frequent and hard use.
The fit is nicely baggy all the way down the leg for good movement and extra layering if you need, plus the elasticated Velcro tabs are exceptionally generous (more than any other) offering a great range of fit for different shapes and sizes. The pants come with a removable bib (made from a nice stretchy material) and braces (using this makes them super comfortable affording a nice loose fit around the waist), and by removing the bib, you could then also zip the pants into a ski jacket, thereby completely sealing out the snow.
They have a whopping double zippered full-length vent down the entire outside leg (great for cooling down on the lift) and have a popper and Velcro gaiter which means you could in theory put them on or take them off without taking your boots off. With a back pocket, a generous one in the bib and three handy pockets on the front with waterproof zips, you’ve got great storage options too. Yes, they come at a high price point, but you’ll get years of use out of these.
Arc Teryx sabre AR pant: £430, Arc’Teryx
Arc’Teryx is unquestionably one of the best outdoor apparel brands out there. These all rounder shell-only pants are for you if you like to get years of good service from your gear. Perfectly cut – just the right length, enough spare around the crotch and knee not to restrict movement – they’re perfectly proportioned.
Made of a super durable three layer Gore-Tex, these highly waterproof pants have taped seams and their build quality is exceptional. The two well placed pockets (a couple of inches lower around the thigh) are perfectly sized and double up to add extra warmth to your thigh too. They have double zip external vents running down the side of the thighs if you’re getting hot, and they come with an adjustable removable waist belt which you can switch for your own belt. A truly well executed pair of salopettes.
Eider camber rocker pant 2.0: £210.32, Eider
These will set you up for piste skiing as they are are stretchy, comfortable, and premium in quality. Highly waterproof (20,000mm) and breathable, they feel soft to wear, and with a nice amount of synthetic insulation (40g/sqm), you won’t be needing leggings even on cold days. Held nicely in place by a stretchy and removable three-point suspender system, they sit at a nice height around the waist (which has an extra padded high section around the back), and have two adjustable elasticated Velcro tabs to further tailor fit.
Two zip small air vents on the side, two simple zippered hand pockets, waterproof gaiters, and fully taped seams wraps up the features list on these super deluxe salopettes at a very fair price.
Helly Hansen elevation shell pant: £360, Helly Hansen
Undoubtedly a really eye catching colourway, these freestyle and backcountry oriented pants have a generous fit, offering great mobility and unrestricted movement. With extra durable patches placed on the bum, knee and shin area, as well as patches on the inside ankle, these fully seamed sealed pants are made for the rigours of hard use.
They’re made of a three ply fabric construction so are highly waterproof, windproof yet breathable, plus the fabric has a little bit of stretch too. On the outer thigh are vents for cooling if you need, nicely adjustable and elasticated Velcro waist tabs, belt loops, three nicely placed pockets, and RECCO reflector. On the back, the waist band comes up an inch or so higher for extra warmth which is a nice touch.
Picture harvest bib: £269.19, Picture
Designed with the environment in mind, these lightweight and comfortable trousers have three layers of stretch and waterproofing up to 20,000mm. The breathable fabric is made from renewable castor oil and is treated with a waterproof protectant that is free of chemicals.
The bib section has Lycra sides which keep it snug yet flexible, and they’re removable for fairer weather conditions too – however keep in mind the waist doesn’t feature any adjustable Velcro tabs, so you’ll be relying on your own belt to keep them up.
The two pockets are on the less generous side, but seams are fully taped, all zips are fully waterproof and there’s some decent vents on the outside thigh. The best thing about these is the feel – they’re super comfortable and minimal yet capable.
Patagonia snowdrifter bibs: £320, Patagonia
Made from 70 per cent recycled polyester, these are a not only a top choice for the environmentally conscious, but they very much stack up on the performance front too. The three-layer fabric means they’re really waterproof (20,000mm) and breathable. Despite not being all that “stretchy” as described by Patagonia – they are still really comfortable with enough space in the bum, thighs and knees.
They offer full coverage with the integrated (non removable) bib section, which is super stretchy, plus full a width chest pocket and two perfectly sized pockets on the thighs. They’re fitted with a RECCO reflector, good and tough scuff guards and good boot gaiters.
Mountain Hardwear cloud bank Gore-Tex pants men: £214.99, Add Nature
The California-based outdoor performance brand produce quality gear, and these are a great option if you’re looking for well-priced insulated ski pants. Really comfortable around the waist – they don’t dig in when sitting down and have a fleece lined band on the inside – these have elasticated Velcro tabs which are easily adjustable, great for when you're wearing more base layers.
With two layer Gore-Tex, the shell is waterproof and breathable, and the insulating layer (at 40gm²) adds nice warmth yet doesn't hamper mobility at all. They’re a great length, have two front pockets over the thigh and a meshed vent down either side of the legs. A great product at a fair price.
The North Face presena: £160, The North Face
Made from The North Face’s dryvent fabric – its in-house equivalent to Gore-Tex – these sturdy-feeling, 100 per cent nylon pants are waterproof, windproof and breathable, complete with a nice amount of insulation to keep you warm. They’re a really comfortable and casual fit, with stretchy Velcro toggles around the waist for adjustment as well as belt buckles to add your own style.
Pockets wise there’s only two, but they’re zippered and generously sized with a fleece lining so are super cosy. Snow gaiters, seam sealing and decent inside kick patches finish these well-constructed pants.
Jack Wolfskin powder mountain: £175, Jack Wolfskin
A great all rounder pair of insulated pants, the two layer outer shell is also really waterproof (20,000mm) and breathable, plus they’re warm too (60g/sqm), so ideal for even the coldest day on the slopes. Both the outer fabric and insulation are made from 100 per cent recycled material, which is a more eco-friendly offering than other brands commit to.
The high waistband has elasticated Velcro tabs so you can adjust as you wish, and the trousers have two hand pockets on the side and also feature a RECCO reflector too. These are full of features at an affordable price point.
The verdict: Men's ski pants
For a one-stop shop that does it all, the exhaustive features list of the Norrona pants makes them our best buy. Their extra durability, high waterproofness, pocket configuration, full length vents and optional bibs are just a few of the details that made the difference.