You’d be forgiven for regarding La Sportiva as a one-trick pony. When I think of La Sportiva, I immediately think of my favorite trail runners, climbing shoes, and signature yellow and black mountaineering boots. But back in its Italian homeland, La Sportiva is renowned for its ski touring and outdoor apparel that’s pushed to extremes in the Alps.
La Sportiva just dropped an entirely new line for winter 23/24: Alpinetech. More than an upgrade, it’s a ground-up overhaul of the brand’s technical outerwear aimed squarely at competing toe-to-toe with the highest-end mountaineering and ski touring outerwear brands. Arc’teryx, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardwear, they’re looking at you.
The Velan 2.0 pants are a sleeper on that high-tech catalog, but the silhouette immediately caught my eye. I’ve found so few winter softshell pants that I actually love that I dove into testing the Velans rigorously in the Rockies and the Cascades over 7 months of this past backcountry season.
In short: I want a pair of softshell pants that fit and feel like my favorite pair of jeans. La Sportiva’s new Velan 2.0 pants, part of the just-released Alpinetech Collection, are pretty dang close. There’s nothing flashy or overly techy here — La Sportiva whittled a winter-weight softshell pant down to its truest essence. What emerged is a thoughtfully designed, exceptionally good-fitting pair of softshell pants ready for technical and high-output mountain endeavors.
- Fit Regular
- Materials Main: 88% recycled polyamide, 12% elastane, Bluesign; Backing: 100% recycled polyester, 260 g/m²; Reinforcement fabric: 61% polyamide, 31% polyester, 8% elastane, 238 g/m²
- Weight 23.9 oz. / 680 g
- Sizes XXS-XL
- Versatile across winter mountaineering and ski touring objectives
- Slim fit doesn't hamper mobility
- Integrated belt actually works
- Materials vulnerable to punctures
La Sportiva Velan 2.0 Review
Parmigiano Reggiano and the Velan 2.0s have more in common than you might think. For one, there’s nothing truly new, innovative, or particularly interesting here. It’s the execution that stands out in both cases. In the Velans’ case, it’s the fit. It’s what I’ve been longing for. It’s form-fitting and slim without being tight — a true alpine cut — the perfect climbing or touring pants.
Call me vain, but cut is a make-or-break for me. I don’t know what it is about softshell pants, but I’ve found so few that fit right. That’s subjective, of course; everyone’s body is different. For reference, I’m a 33”x33” in Levi’s and I’ve been testing the large Velans.
These pants were clearly designed around a body in motion. The knee and crotch gusset, combined with a taught stretchiness, facilitate natural movement without restriction. There’s enough give to allow a full range of yoga poses without the high waist slipping down.
The primary softshell fabric is 88% recycled polyamide and 12% elastane, and the inside is an impressively soft 100% recycled polyester. That all adds up to a softshell fabric that I’d call medium weight at 680 g in size large. It’s protective without being bulky.
The soft lining is warm, while the fabric maintains solid breathability. It’s too warm for summer warm-weather activities, but they were an ideal weight for mid-summer glacier climbing, winter and spring skiing, and fall scrambling.
Much like the rest of the pants, the pockets are simple and effective. Two zippered hand pockets, one zippered back pocket, and a low-profile zippered thigh pocket round it out. Most importantly, my gigantic iPhone 8+ fits in the thigh pocket. The hand pockets also nicely accommodate an avalanche beacon for those that prefer a pocket over a chest strap.
The Velan’s integrated belt is fantastic, and that’s not something I say lightly. I’m rarely a fan of integrated belts — I much prefer belt loops. However, the Velan’s belt does what it needs to do, and most importantly, it doesn’t bottom out. It’s simple and effective.
Weight and Venting
I don’t typically wear a baselayer under softshell pants while ski touring, but I did layer up with La Sportiva’s own Wool40 Aero base layer for really cold days on the ice and in the snow. The combo was more than sufficient for even the coldest days in Colorado — I never needed to add a hardshell or puffy pants over the top to stay warm.
Leg vents aren’t always necessary with softshell pants, especially lightweight ones, but they’re a good match with the Velans. I ended up opening them on the warmest spring days and when things really started to heat up on Mt. Baker in July. With vents open, the Velans’ workable temperature range was much greater than the medium-weight fabric would suggest.
An innovative feature I’ve yet to test out in any pants is what I’ll lovingly call “the spoiler” in lieu of an official name. It’s an integrated rear powder skirt-like flap above the waist that seals out the snow in a highly vulnerable zone.
A grippy rubberized strip runs horizontally across the spoiler to keep it in place. La Sportiva calls it “warm kidney protection,” which I’m not sure does it justice because it doesn’t add much warmth. It’s a nice feature that just works.
The insteps are protected by a layer of polyamide and polyester, which is just a little bit burlier than the rest of the pants. I found that it resisted ski edge cuts phenomenally. I did, however, send a rogue crampon tooth through it at one point. Fortunately, the fabric resisted tearing for the remainder of the season even after puncturing.
I’ve managed to puncture nearly every winter pant I’ve owned with crampons. It happens. Being that the Velans are aimed squarely at rugged mountain outings, I think it could use another layer of burly fabric there. That tooth was pretty dull.
The rest of the pants, however, have stood up well to a season of heavy use. The material strongly resists abrasion even after dragging over rock, and they’ve resisted puncture by ice screws and heavy bushwhacking.
How Does It Compare?
Two of my favorite pants for ski touring are Norrøna’s Lyngen Flex1 and La Sportiva’s own Excelsior Pants. What makes these pants good, in my opinion, is their shape and weight. Plus, they’ve nailed the pockets and their integrated gaiters are superb.
For ice climbing and shoulder season mountaineering, however, I’ve grown to love my Norrøna Falketind Flex1 pants. They’re narrow, stretchy, and minimalist. They aren’t warm, however, and the light softshell fabric is full of holes.
The Velan 2.0 bridges the gap between these two categories well. Their calling is ice climbing and winter mountaineering, but they’ll transition to ski touring without flinching. They’ve got the slim cut that I love in my Falketinds, but the weight of ski touring pants.
Most importantly, the cuff adjustment is spot-on for versatility. Ski touring pants typically start wide to accommodate a ski boot, but sport snap buttons or an elastic drawstring to tighten the cuff around smaller footwear like hiking or mountaineering boots. Then you’re often left with a narrow cuff and billow of pant leg above it that is ultra-prone to snagging.
The Velans default from the other direction, the narrow setting, like other climbing-focused pants. They look and work well with trail runners and mountaineering boots. But unlike my Falketinds, the zip opening and gusset are generous. They’ll easily accommodate a four-buckle ski touring boot.
Who They’re For
While they’ll transition seamlessly to nearly any winter or shoulder season mountain activity, the Velans are most at home as mountaineering, alpine, and ice climbing pants.
They’re not my first pick for deep winter ski touring — I like having a lightweight bib for protection from Colorado’s fluffy cold smoke — but these pants are my first choice when the snowpack starts to stabilize and it’s time to throw the crampons on your feet and the skis on your back; the time of the season where skiing is the goal but it requires long approaches to snow, a variety of footwear, and more complicated climbing.
The versatility between these vertical winter endeavors is what makes the Velans shine.
Conclusion: La Sportiva Velan 2.0 Ski Touring Pants
There are two things from Italy that I’m really into right now — Parmigiano Reggiano and La Sportiva’s new Velan 2.0 pants.
I don’t think I need to justify my love affair with the cheese. But these pants fill a void in my outerwear collection — the gap between alpine and ski touring and climbing pants.
Like the cheese, they’re simple, versatile, and effective. They’re the softshell pants that I keep reaching for day after day for a wide variety of mountain endeavors, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Above all, though, I love how these pants fit and move.
Mountaineers, alpine and ice climbers, and objective-oriented ski mountaineers who find a good fit in the Velans can finally end their ongoing search for the right pair of softshell pants.