female skier in maroon jacket downhill skiing
(Photo/Backcountry)

The Best Women’s Ski Pants of 2021-2022

Whether you frequent backcountry mountains or a local resort, we’ve got the best ski and snow pants for women.

Ski season is upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited. Here’s the gist: We’ve researched, tested, and rounded up our choices for the best snow pants in all the top categories. And we’ve also provided a breakdown on how to choose the one that will best fit your skiing, riding, and other winter sports needs.

Here, we focus almost exclusively on pants, as we have a separate article that highlights the best bibs for skiing and snowboarding.

We started at the beginning by researching the top 20 or so women’s ski pants — taking into consideration the pants’ ratings, reviews, and performance testing. Then we tried them all on and tested them in a variety of conditions — from powder to bluebird days.

While testing ski pants, we looked for quality, performance, and extra features. Your snow pants need to fit well and work year after year. From useful pockets to leg vents and waterproofing, we outline the best features of each pant. And while there isn’t a single best pant for every woman, we’ve organized this list into categories to help you find the best snow pant for your favorite winter activities.

Below, we break the article into sections:

The Best Women’s Ski Pants of 2021-2022

Best Overall: Helly Hansen Switch Cargo 2.0

helly hansen switch cargo 2.0

One of Helly Hansen’s new pants last year, the Switch Cargo 2.0 ($146) is a low-rise, hardshell snow pant complete with PrimaLoft insulation.

Lightweight and built for performance, the Switch Cargo 2.0 pants have a two-layer, DWR-coated fabric. They also have articulated construction at the seat and knees for comfort during higher levels of activity. And they have an embedded RECCO rescue reflector.

I really like these pants’ extra cargo pockets and stylish boot-cut flare. These are great insulated ski pants. Due to the insulation, they’ll be hot for backcountry skiing, so they’re not a great choice for earning your turns.

Skiers love the insulation, warmth, and great fit of these pants. And the majority of reviews mentioned that the pants work well in many different conditions on the mountain.

  • Shell: 2-layer HellyTech Performance fabric with DWR finish
  • Insulation: PrimaLoft
  • Pockets: 4
  • Seams: Fully taped
  • Zippers: 2 YKK AquaGuard zippers on the front pockets
  • RECCO: Yes
  • Fit: Low-rise, standard
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: Its all-day comfort lapping runs
  • Best for: Resort skiing or side-country skiing on lift-served terrain

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at evo

Best Budget Ski Pant: Columbia Bugaboo Omni-Heat Snow Pant

columbia bugaboo omni-heat snow pant

These snow pants from Columbia ($110) win for both comfort and style. They are lightweight at under a pound and have internal gaiters, fully taped seams, and an adjustable waist to help with sizing.

While they lack a couple of key features (like vents), for waterproof snow pants, you can’t beat the price. The pants’ soft insulation adds warmth without sacrificing waterproofness. These pants are definitely a better option for resort skiers and riders, but not backcountry users.

The Bugaboo Omni-Heat pants have a 4.4-star rating on REI.com and a 5-star rating on Amazon. Customer reviews call out the overall good quality of these pants for the price and good fit. The biggest con is that they have no leg vents.

  • Shell: 2-layer nylon Omni-Tech fabric
  • Insulation: Microtemp XF
  • Pockets: 5
  • Seams: Fully taped
  • Zippers: Zippered front pockets and zippered leg pocket
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Active
  • Cuffs: Yes, with snap closure
  • Our favorite perk: Good performance for the price
  • Best for: Beginner-to-intermediate skiing in resorts

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Best Resort Ski Pant: The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants

The North Face Freedom Pant women's

The North Face’s Freedom snow pants ($96) are definitely a crowd-pleaser — and for good reason. The pants are well-insulated (a light base layer will do the trick even riding lifts on cold days) and have deep, fleece-lined hand pockets. The pants use The North Face’s in-house insulation and a mesh-backed venting system on the inner thighs.

They might not have all the bells and whistles of more technical backcountry pants. But I love them as a resort ski pant. The comfort combined with basic features like interior gaiters will keep you happy at the mountain all day long.

Skiers love the pants’ waterproofing that keeps them dry even on the wettest powder days. One negative: Some consumers didn’t like the flare on the pant leg near the boot, and the pocket seams are not sealed.

  • Shell: 2-layer DryVent fabric
  • Insulation: The North Face Heatseeker
  • Pockets: 3
  • Seams: Critically sealed (unsealed pocket seams)
  • Zippers: Non-waterproof zippered front pockets and vents
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Regular
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: The venting system
  • Best for: Enthusiastic resort skiers

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at evo

Best High-Performance Ski Pant: Arc’teryx Sentinel LT Pant

Arc'teryx Sentinel LT Ski Pant

Designed with big-alpine skiing in mind, these pants are a great choice for the committed skier or rider. The Arc’teryx Sentinel LT ($499) has a GORE-TEX waterproof laminate with a C-Knit backer. This backer helps keep weight down and breathability high. I liked the performance fit and the pant’s multitude of features like side vents, touring cuffs, and gaiters.

The pant also has a surprisingly lightweight feel. Plus, being uninsulated and fairly breathable with mechanical venting, it performs well on both the uphill and downhill. Whether you frequent the back bowls or long days off-piste, this is a solid choice and quality pant.

These pants got a lot of positive reviews online: They’re super lightweight, and customers love the feminine style, soft fabric, and durability. That being said, these are definitely an investment pant that will better serve the more advanced and more frequent skier.

  • Shell: 3-layer nylon fabric with GORE-TEX
  • Insulation: No
  • Pockets: 2
  • Seams: Fully taped
  • Zippers: YKK WaterTight zippered pockets
  • RECCO: No (although the matching Sentinel LT Jacket does)
  • Fit: Trim (consider going up a size)
  • Cuffs: Yes, CORDURA PowderCuffs
  • Our favorite perk: Durability and versatility
  • Best for: Ripping turns all day

Check Price at REICheck Price at Backcountry

Best Backcountry Pant: Outdoor Research Skyward II

Outdoor Research Skyward II Ski Pants

For backcountry skiing and riding the lifts on warmer days, Outdoor Research’s women’s Skyward II ($299) won our top pick. Its AscentShell electrospun membrane gives the pant a good balance of breathability and light weight. The four-way mirror stretch means you can wear the pant on the uphill or downhill while maintaining great range of motion.

If you do need to shed some heat, the pant has two-way zippered venting on both sides. But the pant’s coolest feature is the designated beacon mesh pocket. You can easily stash your safety accessory and go.

And we also really like the boot-adjusting power strap. It’s a slot added in the gaiters so you don’t have to remove them to tighten your boots. If you spend most of your time in the backcountry, this pant is your best bet.

Customers rave about this pant’s pocket placement, durability in the cuffs, and top-notch breathability, although a few customer reviews mentioned a poor fit, especially around the waist. The majority of reviews for these pants on Outdoor Research’s website and Backcountry.com are positive.

  • Shell: 3-layer polyester AscentShell fabric
  • Insulation: No
  • Pockets: 4
  • Zippers: YKK AquaGuard zippered hand and thigh pockets
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Standard
  • Cuffs: Yes, with edge guards
  • Our favorite perk: Range of motion and breathability
  • Best for: Earning your turns

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

Best Small Brand: FW Apparel Catalyst 2L Pants

FW catalyst 2-layer ski pants in muted teal with 4 cargo pockets on the front

Made from 80% post-consumer recycled material, these pants are just as durable and performance-oriented as they are sustainable. The Catalyst line is small brand FW’s middle-tier line of ski jackets, pants, and various winter apparel.

Sitting in the sweet spot between built-for-performance and budget-friendly, the Catalyst 2L pants have become one of our rotating staples over the past winter, along with the matching 2L Catalyst jacket.

We love these pants for a variety of reasons: they are 100% seam-sealed, have large cargo (and zip) pockets, venting, and boot gaiters. And they offer both waterproofing and some insulated warmth.

We also love the fit, specifically where the waist sits (there’s a jacket to pant integration), though we did find them just a tad baggy in the legs. Perfect for snowboarders or skiers, and extra cold days on the slopes.

And at $300, these pants are a pretty great deal too.

  • Shell: 2-layer recycled yarn nylon fabric
  • Insulation: Yes, PrimaLoft insulation
  • Pockets: 5
  • Zippers: YKK AquaGuard
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Standard/Relaxed
  • Cuffs: Yes, with kick guards
  • Our favorite perk: The fit and fabric
  • Best for: Budget, durability, and style

Check Price at FW

 

Best of the Rest

Patagonia Snowbelle Pant

patagonia snowbelle ski pants

Boasting great price and quality (and a rival this year for our top pick) is Patagonia’s Insulated Snowbelle Pant ($199). With dozens of 5-star ratings at REI, the Snowbelle pants have earned a spot in many female skiers’ closets. They are hands-down some of the most durable pants out there, and reviewers love the fit, especially for those of us with curves.

The Snowbelles are windproof, waterproof, and filled with easily compressible recycled synthetic insulation. And they’ve got venting on the thighs so you can be comfortable in all kinds of temps. For a durable, all-around resort pant or, heck, a snowshoeing or general winter pant layer, these pants really deliver.

And the price just sweetens the deal — with these, you get eco-friendly and insulated ski pants for under $200, with an embedded RECCO reflector. Our only con? They were on the warmer side.

  • Shell: 2-layer 75-denier polyester fabric (70% recycled) with DWR coating
  • Insulation: 40g Thermogreen polyester (90% recycled)
  • Pockets: 2
  • Seams: Fully sealed
  • Zippers: YKK zippers
  • RECCO: Yes
  • Fit: Standard
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: The variety of color and size choices
  • Best for: Those who don’t like reading reviews — you can’t go wrong with these pants

Check Price at evoCheck Price at Patagonia

Flylow Foxy Bib

Flylow Foxy Bib

While technically a bib, these still made our list for an awesome, comfortable choice while skiing or riding. The Foxy Bib ($462) has three-layer fabric with a DWR treatment adorned with vents, plenty of pockets, a drop seat, and a kangaroo pouch.

The athletic-fit pant means they feel good, look good, and move well with your body during high activity. It’s no wonder they’re one of the best ski bibs for women!

  • Shell: 3-layer polyester Stormshell fabric
  • Insulation: No
  • Pockets: 5
  • Seams: Fully sealed seams
  • Zippers: YKK zippered pockets
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: Vent and pocket placement
  • Best for: Energetic backcountry skiers

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at evo

Dynafit Beast Hybrid

dynafit beast hybrid

For those who spend more time going uphill than down, the Beast Hybrid ($259) is a great choice. This hybrid pant offers the breathability of softshell pants. But Dynafit added waterproof fabric in the knees, thighs, legs, and butt — places most likely to let water in during wet conditions.

Ventilation zips with water-repellent zippers extend from knee to hip to dump heat at any moment. These are a high-performance pant for recreational ski-mo or touring athletes who get their cardio on the skin track. Note: The fit on this pant is definitely on the slimmer side, so consider that when choosing sizing.

  • Shell: 3-layer Dynashell polyamide-nylon fabric with DWR finish
  • Insulation: No
  • Pockets: 2
  • Seams: Fully sealed seams
  • Zippers: Water-repellent YKK zippers
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Athletic
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: Great performance in lots of different conditions (thanks to the ventilation zips)
  • Best for: Those who like to tour

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Mountain Steals

Backcountry Hayden GORE-TEX INFINIUM Pant

backcountry hayden pant

Backcountry continues to expand its technical outerwear options with its Hayden ski pant ($300). Using new GORE-TEX INFINIUM technology, these pants are light, stretchy, and easily move with you so you can conquer even the toughest terrain.

Backcountry made these pants with touring in mind, putting a focus on breathability, windproofing for high exposures, and durability. And these pants really delivered — they are durable and comfortable. And touches like the reinforced kick patches and a full-length zipper for easy access when you need the bathroom make them really well-suited for backcountry travel.

Reviewers especially love the addition of the new GORE-TEX material: a windproof, more breathable, lightweight, and stretchy membrane. One note: It’s not waterproof but is water-repellent. Plus, Backcountry added a DWR coating.

  • Shell: 3-layer GORE-TEX INFINIUM with WINDSTOPPER and nylon fabric, DWR coating
  • Insulation: None
  • Pockets: 3
  • Seams: Fully sealed
  • Zippers: Waterproofed zippers
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Slim
  • Cuffs: Yes, Kevlar-reinforced kick patches
  • Our favorite perk: The articulated knees and adjustable suspenders for that sweet spot fit
  • Best for: Those who like to cruise on the uphill and fly on the downs

Check Price at Backcountry

Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl Pant

Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl Pant

A bit thicker than other pants, the Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl ($379) is also warmer, due to the GORE-TEX waterproof hardshell construction with added PrimaLoft insulation. If you run cold, you can pay a bit more than the original Powder Bowl pant ($299) to get 60 g of insulation designed to keep you warm even when wet.

The pant also has mesh-lined side vents and a powder skirt attachment loop. Customers commented that these are good, reliable waterproof pants. One con: These are pretty pricey for an insulated, resort-style pant.

  • Shell: 2-layer recycled polyester GORE-TEX fabric
  • Insulation: Thermogreen
  • Pockets: 4
  • Seams: Fully sealed seams
  • Zippers: Water-resistant coated zippers
  • RECCO: Yes
  • Fit: Standard to slim
  • Cuffs: Yes
  • Our favorite perk: The toasty-warm insulation
  • Best for: Those who enjoy lift-based skiing

Check Price at REICheck Price at evo

Marmot Slopestar Pant

Marmot Slopestar Pant

The Marmot Slopestars ($175) have been a classic choice of mine over the years: They fit well and are durable. For the price, they are a simple yet super-functional pant. The pants feature three zippered pockets and CORDURA scratch guards. Most customer reviews mentioned the quality of the pant, especially performance in colder weather.

These pants are a great choice if you’re a frequent resort skier or rider who occasionally hits up the backcountry. Plus, they come in some pretty stylish colors and patterns.

  • Shell: 2-layer polyester Marmot Membrain fabric
  • Insulation: PrimaLoft Black Eco
  • Pockets: 2
  • Seams: Fully sealed seams
  • Zippers: Non-waterproof zippers
  • RECCO: No
  • Fit: Regular
  • Cuffs: Yes, with CORDURA scuff guards
  • Our favorite perk: The color choices
  • Best for: Skiers who like a stylish pant fit

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at evo

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Women’s Ski Pants

Snow pants aren’t hard to find, especially if you live in a colder climate. But finding the right pair can be harder than you think. So here are a few tips to get you started.

Consider Activity and Usage

Chances are, if you’re looking for a pair of pants to wear snowboarding, they will be much different from a snowshoeing pant. (That being said, our best overall pick will work for pretty much anything except conquering uphill terrain.)

Do you frequent the backcountry or resorts? Lots of brands add venting to pants so you can release some heat when, say, boot-packing uphill.

Type of Fit

Do you prefer a relaxed or more athletic fit? This is mainly preference, but it’s important to note that sizing sometimes differs depending on the pant’s fit. And, fit will also depend on your frame — if you are taller or shorter than average, or wear plus sizes, look for pants that offer accommodations or sizes for those builds.

If you want unencumbered range of motion, maybe go with a relaxed fit. And if you run cold and wear more or thicker layers, consider an insulated pant or going up a size. A helpful note: All the pants on our list have some form of adjustable waist.

Which Fabric Should You Choose?

For powder days or backcountry travel, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a GORE-TEX or similar fully waterproof fabric. Two-layer and three-layer fabrics have different weights, waterproofness, and breathability ratings.

Bottom line: Ask yourself whether the pant will work for what you want. The goal is to find a pant with a fabric that will complement your activity level on the mountain and move on.

Ski Pant Pockets and Features

Every pant has different features, but I have two must-haves for snow pants. They need to have internal gaiters that secure well over boots (gaiters with boot adjustment access is a plus) and useful pockets. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. That one-inch-wide chapstick pocket just doesn’t cut it.

Thigh pockets are especially great if you don’t like pocket items (like a cellphone or beacon) bunching up near your hips. Another important feature to consider getting in your pant is a RECCO reflector for safety in avalanche terrain.

Budget and Price

Depending on how often you hit the slopes, price is a factor. If you’re still starting out in a snowsport, or only make it to the mountain a couple of times a year, consider a more budget-friendly pant.

As you gain experience, you can always invest in a higher-quality pant that will ultimately perform better and last longer on the mountain.

FAQ

How Much Should I Spend on Ski Pants?

The answer to this question largely depends on the type of skier or snowboarder you are. Have you never been in a winter climate and are skiing for the first time? Do you only ski or snowboard on vacation? Look for a pair of pants that are more budget-friendly initially — you can always upgrade later.

Or, do you engage in winter activities that require a durable shell for much of the year? Make sure you get pants that have all the features you need — you may need to spend a little extra for technical features.

My answer is always first, set yourself a budget. Check out all the pants on this list and find the one or two best for you, and then check to see if it’s on sale. Lots of times, seasonal apparel like ski pants and jackets go on sale after the season ends, so spring/summer is a great time to shop.

If you are able, we strongly encourage trying ski pants on, whether buying from a store with a return policy or shopping in the store. (We’ve included notes on the fit of each pant for this very reason — finding the right-fitting pant is hard!)

What’s the Difference Between Ski Pants and Insulated Ski Pants?

Ski pants or shells are just a protective, waterproofed, fabric. Insulated ski pants are the same, but with (usually) synthetic insulation added between the fabrics for warmth. Do you need pants with insulation, and how much?

The answer all depends on what type of skiing or snowboarding you are doing, and where. How cold is it? Will you be traveling uphill, in the backcountry, or at resorts?

You may want to buy a cold-weather-specific insulated pant for those really snowy days on the mountain and a non-insulated shell pant for warmer days and backcountry use. Especially if you run cold, consider insulated options. Our best overall pant, best budget pant, and best resort pant all have insulation. (PrimaLoft insulation is the standard in many ski pants.)

Let’s face it, you may not think about pant insulation while making turns on your favorite run. But when faced with -10-degree windchill on a chairlift, suddenly you’ll be wishing for some extra warmth on your bottom half.

What Is RECCO?

RECCO is an avalanche safety system used by ski teams and rescue professionals to help find people trapped in an avalanche. The first part of the system is a reflector sewn into outerwear apparel to help a buried skier be detected in the event of an avalanche.

A RECCO reflector doesn’t transmit any signals or need any batteries, but it’s great to have in an emergency. A RECCO detector transmits an active signal, with a range up to 120 m through the air and 10-20 m through snow.

Should Ski Pants Fit Loose or Tight?

Somewhere in between. Not so tight that they restrict movement, but not so loose that there’s extra space between the pants and your body (you’ll lose heat and get cold more easily). If you wear thicker or more baselayers down below, consider sizing up to ensure that the pants fit properly.

Always try on ski pants with a thicker layer underneath — essentially, what you’d wear out in the cold. Especially if you are buying shell pants (uninsulated), you may want to size up or down, depending on the type of base layers you wear underneath.

With pants, it’s also super important to check the size and length — and see if they offer short, tall, or petite sizing for women who run short or tall.

Is GORE-TEX Good for Skiing?

GORE-TEX is a waterproof, windproof breathable membrane that is part of the fabric. For a long time, GORE-TEX has been the gold standard in waterproofing.

However, there are lots of other similar apparel membranes out there. Many major brands have their own version of waterproof-breathable fabrics.

Whichever ski pants and jacket you buy, make sure they are waterproof. (Jackets have degrees of waterproofing, from 5,000mm to 10,000mm to 25,000mm water column ratings.) I like to shoot for at least a 10,000-15,000mm water column rating based on where I live and what kind of snow I experience here in Colorado.

However, the highest level of waterproofing will sacrifice a little on breathability. In mild to medium — not extreme — winter climates, you’ll want a balance.


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