It’s that most wonderful time of year – ski season. And if you’re headed to the Alps this winter, make sure to pack a pair of our top-rated ski pants. Whether you call them pants or salopettes, insulated or waterproof trousers, they’re all designed for winter sports and will keep you warm and dry when you’re skiing up a storm in sub-zero temperatures. The best ski pants keep the snow out and the warmth in and feel comfortable and flexible enough to wear from first to last lift.
The most important technical feature of a pair of ski pants is its waterproofness. Your new salopettes need to be fully waterproof in order to keep you dry if you’re shredding through deep powder (or, more likely, just taking a tumble or two in the snow).
Like waterproof hiking trousers, you can check how waterproof a pair of salopettes are by looking at their hydrostatic head rating, which denotes the waterproofness of fabric: 1,500mm and above is considered waterproof, but we’d recommend choosing a pair with waterproofing of 10,000mm or above as a good benchmark. Some models also feature reliable Gore-Tex waterproofing technology.
Other key features we’d recommend looking for include reinforced kick panels on the inner ankles (to protect from wear) and snow gaiters inside the cuffs (these pop closed to keep snow out of your socks).
A useful safety feature to have in either your ski jacket or pants is a Recco reflector, which makes you searchable to rescuers by bouncing back the directional signal used by rescue teams.
Skiers usually favour more traditional slim and high-waisted salopettes, while snowboarders often go for baggier pants, but it’s all about what you find the most comfortable. Try on plenty of pairs to see what you like – from a practical point of view, high-waisted pants will keep you warmer and keep snow out, and baggier designs make it easy to wear layers underneath – take your baselayer leggings with you when you go shopping to check they fit.
Dungaree-style bib pants are also great for keeping your torso warm. Ski pants should be on the long side when you’re just wearing socks – that way they’ll sit properly over ski or snowboard boots. Make sure they feel comfortable at the waist – try squatting and bending over to check there’s no restrictiveness.
Bright colours and mad patterns continue to be flavour of the week in snow-wear this season, which will make you easier to spot on the mountain as well as being rather more fun than muted colours. Expect to spend around £150 for a great quality pair of salopettes, although we’ve got some great options below £100 in our roundup, too.
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The North Face Lenado ski pants: £200, The North Face
Smart, simple and slim, the Lenados are a brilliant all-rounder ski pant if you want something fuss-free and high-performing. We like that The North Face offer short, regular and long versions of their salopettes, so it’s easy to get a size that fits you perfectly. The cut is slim but with enough room to layer up underneath, and we rate the warm and comfortable high-cut waist. Well insulated without being bulky and waterproof but still breathable, the Lenados are excellent salopettes made with tough, hard-wearing material – invest in a pair and they should last you for years’ worth of trips to the mountains.
Patagonia SnowDrifter bibs: £320, Patagonia
A bib-style pant is excellent for keeping warm and keeping snow out if you’re heading into deep snow or skiing in cold temperatures. Despite the fact that they’re a bit more of a hassle to put on and off than trouser-style salopettes due to their side zip, once on, Patagonia’s lightweight SnowDrifter bibs are comfortable, flexible and just the right side of roomy. The SnowDrifter may look like you might wear them for a spot of boat building, but they’re packed with all the tech you need for skiing, and are fully waterproof, with detachable softshell bib and shoulder straps, scuff guards and zipped pockets. The SnowDrifters aren’t insulated, so pick thicker pants for the coldest days.
Picture Slany salopettes: £179, Picture
It seems ironic that the Slanys sport a camouflage design, because no-one will miss you on the pistes in this bright, edgy print. The Slanys sit low on the hips, snowboarder style, but are still warm and cosy to wear, with great thermal insulation built-in for skiing in really bitter weather. Waterproof to 10,000mm and with good snow gaiters and plenty of pockets, they tick all our practical boxes, and there’s also a snow skirt above the low waistline to keep snow at bay. These are a good balance of streetwise and practical, but do fit on the small side, so consider ordering a size up.
Mountain Warehouse Mesa Extreme pants: £59.99, Mountain Warehouse
Pulling on Mountain Warehouse’s mesa extreme ski pants is a delight. The softshell material is wonderfully soft both inside and out – no plasticky-feeling fabrics are in play here. And these salopettes are are ready to take on the mountains, with waterproofing to 10,000mm and a Recco reflector built in. The adjustable high waist is definitely the comfiest we tried, and the design is simple and flattering, with good pockets and easily adjustable cuffs, although we would have liked thicker scuff panels. In plain black, the Mesa Extremes are also a versatile choice for winter wear at home in the rain. Currently on sale, these pants offer great value for money.
Dare2B Antedate pant: £150, Dare2B
Dare2B’s 2019/2020 winter offering is all slick and racer-like. We prefer the black version of the slim antedate pant to the fluoro shades on offer, but attention-grabbing looks aside, these ski pants offer great quality, with a comfortable, adjustable high waist and removable braces as well as great snow gaiters. They are waterproof to a massive 20,000mm, and are highly breathable, too – if you’re planning on skiing hard, they’ll keep up effortlessly.
Protest Spontane corduroy salopette: £119.99, Protest
And now for something completely different. Protest’s fun Spontane salopettes may look like your favourite cord dungarees, but they’re actually warm, insulated and fully waterproofed ski pants. Protest’s clever corduroy is waterproof to 10,000mm, so it can take on rain and snow without an issue, but is still pretty breathable, so you don’t overheat. Articulated knees, a removable bib and braces and an adjustable waistband help get a good fit and offer freedom to move, even if you’re showing off your biggest jumps in the snow park. The Spontanes are slim-fitting, so go a size up if you don’t like a closer fit. And yes, there’s a matching pink corduroy jacket available if your main aim is to have the coolest après look in the Alps.
Dakine Remington pure Gore-Tex pant: £127, Dakine
Lovers of a relaxed fit, look no further than these good-looking pants, which are a nice midpoint between slim and baggy with plenty of room for layers without feeling loose and flappy. Made with the highest-performing technology from Dakine, including Gore-Tex for waterproofing and a special eco-insulation to keep you warm whatever the weather. These feature good gaiters, scuff panels and unzippable vents help you keep cool on bluebird days. We love the plum and burgundy shades available.
Jack Wolfskin Powder mountain pants: £175, Jack Wolfskin
We like the cut of your jib, Powder mountain – these salopettes sport a slim but flexible design and an easily adjustable high waistband, rendering them warm and snow proof even if you do end up caught in a snowstorm. They are waterproof and well insulated, and feature all the design extras we look for, including scuff guards, internal gaiters and a Recco chip. They’re also one of the most breathable pants on test, ideal if you tend to overheat on spring ski trips. The outer fabric and insulation are both 100 per cent recycled, for extra brownie points.
Helly Hansen powderqueen bib pant: £240, Helly Hansen
Queenly by name and nature, this excellent corduroy bib pant is one of the stretchiest and most flexible we tested, ideal if you like to ski hard or hit the jumps in the snow park. Light insulation offers enough warmth to keep you cosy on chilly chairlifts but stays breathable when you’re hitting the back country or working up a sweat on a ski tour. Designed to deal with harsh weather, these pack a hefty 20,000mm of waterproofing and includes integrated gaiters and scuff guards. We liked the handy chest pocket for your phone. Our top bib pant on test.
Maier Vroni ski pants: £159.95, Maier
Maier’s bestselling Vroni pant is great choice if you like a flattering, slimmer option. It packs in everything you need for your next ski trip – 10,000mm of waterproofing, elasticated fabric for great freedom movement, scuff guards and various pockets, and we like the zipped adjustable cuffs. There’s decent insulation built in despite the deceptive slimness. Like The North Face, Maier offers short, regular and long length options, ideal if you don’t usually fit a standard size. This versatile pant is available in a rainbow of shades.
The verdict: Women’s ski pants 2019/2020
The North Face’s Lenado pant is an excellent all-rounder, and Helly Hansen’s Powderqueen was the best bib pant on test. If you’re on a budget, pick the comfy-as-anything Mountain Warehouse Mesa Extreme pants.