If the current climate doesn’t ruin your ski season, you’ll need a top-rated pair of ski pants or salopettes for when you (hopefully) hit the slopes.
A good pair of ski trousers will keep you warm and dry, whether you’re shredding fresh powder like a pro or nervously snowploughing down a gentle blue run.
Options are plentiful – from shell pants to insulated trousers, and high-waisted bib salopettes to stretchy soft shells – and picking the right pair for you can be a minefield.
The main choice is shell or insulated. Shell pants are a waterproof and windproof outer layer with no insulation, while insulated pants combine weatherproof protection with in-built insulation.
For maximum manoeuvrability, opt for shell pants. They are lighter and less bulky than insulated trousers, and their versatility – simply change your thermal base layers to match the temperature – is excellent. Shell pants often have higher grade waterproofing too.
If you feel the cold badly or will mostly be skiing in the height of winter, insulated trousers are a better bet, providing greater warmth and overall protection.
Whichever you choose, make sure to check the hydrostatic head waterproof rating of your pants – the most important technical feature. The lowest you’d ideally want is 10,000mm, with premium-end gear graded 20,000mm and above.
But you can get too bogged down in geeky data. Ultimately, it’s all about what you find most comfortable. Some will prefer a snug, close fit, while others (especially snowboarders) go for the baggier look.
Key features to look out for include braces, ankle gaiters, reinforced kick panels, vents, pockets and Recco reflectors – a nifty safety device that enables you to be detected by an avalanche receiver.
We’ve carefully assessed the technical performance of each pair and graded them in terms of comfort, waterproofing, warmth, build quality and price.
Sadly testing didn’t take place in Verbier or Les Trois Vallées, but we did hit the slopes for a number of sessions at the Chill Factore indoor ski centre in Manchester.
And here are the results – our top ten pairs of ski pants to keep you warm, dry and comfortable from first lift to last.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Helly Hansen legendary insulated pant
It sounds like Helly Hansen is being arrogant naming its own pants “legendary”, but the Norwegian brand is rightfully entitled to be proud of these epic ski pants. Warm, waterproof and well-designed with a surprisingly low price-tag, these trousers really do hit the mark with legendary precision (sorry, awful pun). Pulling them on is a delight, with the 60g of Primaloft synthetic insulation providing a cosy, soft interior, while the regular cut feels snug and streamlined without being restrictive.
The two-way stretch fabric is waterproof, breathable and windproof, with fully sealed seams, and at just 570g the trouser’s warmth-to-weight ratio is superb. You also get Velcro adjustment of the waistband, snow gaiters, inner thigh vents, three zippered pockets, and kick panels, although there’s no way to loosen the ankle cuffs which is a tad annoying when you’re struggling to get your boots on. But that’s splitting hairs. For sub-£100, these are a phenomenal pair of ski pants with understated style and top-notch performance.
Picture demain pant
Eco-friendly yet technically impressive, French brand Picture has pulled off a win-win with these bib-style pants: they’re good for the planet and good at protecting mountain shredders from gnarly weather. The trouser’s Xpore membrane – which features top-end 25,000mm waterproofing (the highest on test) and 20,000 g/m²/24hr breathability – is billed as one of the world’s most sustainable waterproof fabrics, courtesy of its clever chemical-free production process, while the rest of the three-layer pants are made from a sugarcane by-product combined with polyester. This innovative approach drastically reduces reliance on petroleum in the manufacturing process, so you can carve away to your heart’s content in full knowledge your snow apparel is kinder to the planet.
But these pants aren’t just about green credentials. They stand out from the crowd thanks to a lightweight build, weighing just 625g. For us, they hit that sweet spot between weight and weatherproofing: light enough to feel nimble and freeing, yet sturdy enough to block out the wintry elements. You get all the features you need, including snow gaiters, adjustable braces, large thigh vents, two good pockets and durable ankle panels. The bib, which rises high on the chest and can be synced with a jacket powder skirt, works brilliantly too. We loved these pants and it was the only lofty price-tag that caused them to narrowly miss out on the IndyBest top spot.
Klattermusen brage pants
Feature-rich and well-designed, the brace pants from Swedish mountaineering brand Klattermusen are a premium, three-layer shell design with a reassuringly sturdy build. A 20,000mm waterproof rating, taped seams and superb zipper storm flaps keep you dry no matter how much powder you’re shredding (or on-piste crashing you’re doing). You won’t overheat either, thanks to an impressive 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability grade and two-way vents on the upper thighs.
The weave of the fabric – an eco-friendly, 100 per cent recycled polyamide – is stretchy and flexible, giving you a good balance between weather protection and freedom of movement. The rear, knee and lower leg feature Duracoat reinforcements for extra durability, and you also get snow gaiters, adjustable and detachable suspenders, a myriad of pockets and a Recco reflector. For some, they may be a tad stiff and heavy (925g), but for us, the durable, bomb-proof design is a big plus. These pants feel like they’re ready for whatever winter throws at you – and they should last for season after season.
Jack Wolfskin solitude mountain pants
Super robust and ultra-technical, the are shell pants with high-end performance and top-notch weather protection. Designed in collaboration with alpine racer Felix Neureuther, they have a professional feel, with a well-executed design and premium features. The three-layer, stretchy fabric has 20,000mm waterproofing and 15,000g/m²/24hr breathability – both excellent stats – and the high tenacity reinforcement panels at the knees, bum and ankle cuffs are extremely hard-wearing (probably the toughest on test).
There’s a Recco reflector housed at the left shin, next to the huge side vents that run the length of each leg. The waist can be cinched tighter via Velcro tabs and the stretchy braces provide a comfy, relatively high fit just above the hips. We loved the ankle set-up – excellent gaiters with boot hooks, full zips and Velcro tabs – ensuring getting your boots on, off and neatly synced with your pants is as hassle-free as possible. But the best feature of these pants is the all-round performance: they’re ready for whatever your ski season has in store, be it the manicured slopes of the resort or the rugged off-piste of the backcountry.
Black Diamond recon stretch ski pants
Stretchy by name, stretchy by nature, these is a technically impressive, premium-standard pair of shell trousers featuring four-way stretch fabric. This enables the pants to move and flex with you – and, while they won’t magically transform you into a better skier, the freedom of movement gives you maximum opportunity to shred to the best of your ability. The vital stats speak for themselves: a 20,000mm hydrostatic head waterproof rating and matching 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability grade ensure you stay joyously dry without overheating.
Excellent safety features include the in-built Recco reflector and a bespoke pocket for secure storage of an avalanche beacon. You also get high-mounted snow gaiters, instep patches, side vents, integrated belt and quarter-length zipped boot access. All of this technical nouse means these pants are firmly aimed at the off-piste aficionado or free-riding pro, who need high-performing trousers for deep powder, stormy days and intrepid backcountry adventures.
Ellesse parsons salopettes
New for 2020, the Ellesse parsons salopettes are designed for the piste skier or snowboarder, particularly beginners and bargain hunters. Priced incredibly competitively at just £81, they are thickly padded with insulation providing an excellent warmth boost, while the outer membrane is waterproof (10,000mm) and windproof. They feel a little bulky and aren’t the best for nimble manoeuvrability, but if staying warm is your number one priority these really are opulently cosy. Features are basic but effective.
Each leg has an ankle gaiter (to keep snow out of your boots) and a durable kick patch (to protect your pants against abrasion from your sharp ski edges), and there’s also removable braces, two zippered front pockets and two Velcro rear pockets. The whole approach is no-nonsense. You get a warm, weatherproof pair of pants without breaking the bank – and the spare change can go towards some après-ski partying.
Columbia bugabib pant
Pitched firmly in the mid-range of the market, the Columbia bugabib pants provide enhanced performance compared to budget alternatives and are more affordable than premium ski trousers. Almost like a halfway house, they are shell pants with a touch of added insulation, striking a good balance between warmth and flexibility. Made from Columbia’s own “omni-tech” fabric, the outer provides waterproof protection from the elements while the microporous membrane enhances breathability, and fully-sealed seams help to further block out the cold, snow and wind.
There are all the usual features you’d expect – snow gaiters, articulated knees, adjustable suspenders, fleece-lined pockets and durable ankle patches – although you don’t get vents or ankle zips. The most intriguing feature, however, is a triangular patch of corrugated, expandable material at your sides, providing great flex and stretch tailored to your body’s movements. Columbia calls these “serious snow pants” – and for cruising the slopes in comfort, they tick most boxes.
Montane gradient pants
If you don’t like the way insulated ski apparel can make you feel like a bloated, unwieldy Michelin Man, then you’ll love the snug, athletic cut of the Montane gradient pants. They feel lightweight (650g) and streamlined, ensuring unhindered mobility, while the ultra-stretchy softshell material flexes with your every twist and turn. We felt more at one with the mountain (ok, indoor ski centre) in these pants than any others, and the fit seemed to encourage dynamic, high-intensity action. We loved the grippy silicone on the minimalist shoulder straps and were impressed by the strong Kevlar insteps too.
But our favourite feature was how the softshell material – known as granite stretch – provided a toasty warmth boost without feeling bulky. There’s a durable water-resistant (DWR) coating too, although these pants aren’t designed to be the most waterproof. Instead, their USP is mobility – the slim, athletic cut positively encourages you to hurtle downhill with unbridled freedom and flexibility.
Paramo enduro tour trousers
Paramo’s enduro tour trousers pack in everything you need for your next ski trip – warming insulation, sturdy waterproofing, superb breathability and good features including elasticated ankle gaiters and scuff guards. We loved the huge, full-length side vents for rapid cooling and the trim fit – figure-hugging with just enough freedom for movement – worked well for us.
But, in many ways, these trousers don’t really feel like a classic pair of ski pants. They are more of a multi-purpose winter trouser, suitable for climbing, mountaineering and ski touring. If you’re looking for a versatile pair of pants for mixed disciplines – rather than forking out for several pairs – these are the ones for you.
Schoffel bern1 ski pants
These classic-style, insulated salopettes from German brand Schoffel are squarely aimed at the price-conscious piste skier. Costing less than £100, they are a bona fide bargain, yet perform more than adequately for most resort-bound skiers. Plain, simple and minimalist, there isn’t a lot going on with these pants, but they do the job.
They feel cosily warm, thanks to 60g of padded insulation, and a mid-range 10,000mm waterproof rating is solid enough to keep you dry in all but the worst of snow blizzards. Schoffel’s “venturi” fabric is also breathable (10,000g/m²/24hr), windproof and stretchy, with a regular fit that doesn’t feel cumbersome despite the added insulation. Ankle gaiters, reinforced panels, adjustable braces and three pockets complete the look, which is nothing special – but works effectively for piste skiers at a great price.
The verdict: Men’s ski and snowboard trousers
Our top spot goes to the Helly Hansen legendary insulated pants, thanks to their superb all-round performance at less than £100 – with the sensible price-tag setting them apart from the competition. If you can afford more, the Picture demain trousers are excellent shells that won’t let you down.
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.