butt week

The Best Butt-Protecting Impact Shorts, According to Ski and Snowboard Instructors

Photo-Illustration: Chaimae Khouldi; Photos: Retailers

Whether you were born to carve the slopes or struggle to exit the chairlift with grace, falling on your butt at some point during a ski trip is inevitable. And while padded shorts won’t rescue your left ski as it slides down an icy piste without you, they can definitely help prevent a big ol’ bruise. “Just like a helmet protects your head, impact shorts are padded base layers that protect you from falls when skiing or snowboarding,” explains Professional Ski Instructors of America national team member Chris Rogers — he’s also the director of WNTR, an online ski-and-snowboard-instructor training platform. “Most impact shorts are designed to protect the tailbone and sides of your hips. In addition to shorts, you can find a variety of pads and protectors for your wrists, elbows, knees, and spine as well.”

There’s no shame in a bit of butt protection, even for experienced winter sportspeople. “Everyone from pros to beginners can wear pads to soften the impact of falling,” says Rogers. “In fact, many of the athletes you see competing in events like X-Games and the Olympics wear some kind of impact padding.” You might also consider impact shorts on particularly technical snow days. “I have used them specifically when I needed extra protection,” explains Kevin Jordan, an instructor on the PSIA alpine team. “For example, in the terrain park, on sliding boxes and rails, or when racing.” Lyndsey Stevens of the American Association of Snowboard Instructors often finds herself recommending impact shorts to students who are spending a lot of time on the ground. “On their second or third day of lessons, they’re putting hotel towels in their pants,” she says. “So I tell them about impact shorts.”

So how should one go about shopping for this super-specific piece of skiwear? Proper fit, Rogers says, is essential. “Once your impact shorts are on under your snow pants, it’s not easy to adjust them midday,” he points out. “Pads that are too tight will become uncomfortable during a long day on the mountain, while shorts that are too loose may move around and not provide the intended protection.” The more streamlined, the better, suggests Jordan: “They should be snug like leggings or yoga pants but not restrict your movement.” And while you might already own padded shorts for summertime biking, often it’s best to invest in specialized equipment: “Some foam padding that might work great in the summer for biking will become stiffer in cold weather or might not fit well under snow pants,” says Rogers, “so it’s a good idea to get impact protection designed for winter use.”

To find out more, we talked to ski and snowboard instructors like Rogers, Jordan, and Stevens as well as a winter-sports-gear outfitter about the butt-protecting impact shorts they’d recommend.

Best overall impact shorts

Every expert we talked to recommended Burton’s padded protective gear. The brand’s Total Impact shorts are available in men’s and women’s and “are one of the best impact shorts on the market,” according to Rogers. Made from flexible, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabric, the shorts are reinforced on the hips, tailbone, and seat with trademarked “G-Form” padding that hardens upon impact to absorb as much shock as possible. They’re also machine washable.

Best impact shorts for kids

Burton also makes the same style of impact shorts for children, who might have less distance to fall but are definitely going to do so more often than adults.

Best discrete impact shorts

Bulky butt padding might mess with your vintage, House of Gucci–inspired ski ’fit. Luckily, Burton also designs these slimmer impact shorts that use the same G-form technology as its Total Impact range but only on the tailbone. They’re not as protective an option if you’re racing or hitting the half-pipe but would certainly suit casual skiers and snowboarders. Burton’s shorts “are low profile but offer a lot of protection where you need it,” as snowboard instructor Amy Gan Bailey puts it.

Best all-season impact shorts

If you intend on hitting the same slopes on wheels next summer, it might make sense to shop for impact shorts that can also be used when biking. Rogers suggests looking for gear from the brand POC Sports, which is “known for their mountain bike impact protection and also make great winter protection padding.” Jordan wears his POC shorts across seasons because they’re less bulky than other padded biking gear: They have a different type of impact foam and they are a little tighter so they fit a little better under my clothes.” Bailey also pointed us to the brand’s Hip VPD shorts, which are slimline enough to be worn under her snowboarding gear.

Best impact shorts for both types of board

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Summer skateboarders, meanwhile, might be familiar with SoCal brand Triple 8. While constructed from bulkier foam than Burton and POC’s shorts, Mountain Sports Outlet manager Benji Swales says that Triple 8’s popular “bum savers” are still a good option for winter sports if you’ve already got them in your closet and don’t mind the puffier look.

Best Hollywood-approved impact shorts

Another brand recommended by Rogers is Xion, which offers a line of protective gear developed by professional movie stuntpeople. As with Burton’s shorts, Xion’s padding feels soft and flexible as you move but hardens upon impact in order to absorb maximum shock. The brand says its technology has been rigorously tested by both stunt professionals and extreme athletes. Editor’s note: While Xion’s gear is priced in Euros, here’s an approximate USD conversion.

Best impact base layers

Rogers says that specialized protective clothing brand Demon Sports is also one to look out for. While he says most skiers and snowboarders will likely prefer to own standalone shorts that can be worn over base layers on colder days, Demon makes these unique padded base layers that will simplify any bathroom visits on the mountain.

Best (less expensive) impact shorts

Constructed from lycra and EVA foam padding, Swales says that these cost-effective shorts from Seirus are a great option for those who’d rather spend their money on another day of lift passes.

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The Best Impact Shorts, According to Snowboard Instructors