Snow pants are necessary winter outerwear, whether you’re gearing up for a day on the slopes or a snowball fight in the backyard. All true snow pants are windproof and waterproof, says Nate Axvig, who started outdoor apparel company Aktiv after living in Norway for several years. “They are meant to spend all day on top of and covered by snow without getting soaked.”
Beyond that, choosing the right pair means weighing a combination of fit, style, technical features, and intended use. The best snow pants for backcountry touring won’t be the same pair you wear for a day spent on the lifts, and might even be different than the ones you wear to shovel the driveway. This means considering the type of insulation, venting, breathability, whether you want pants that secure around your waist or bibs for more protection, and what features (zippers, pockets, adjustability) the snow pants have.
To keep you as warm and dry as possible this winter, we talked with skiers and snowboarders, backcountry guides, ski patrollers, and avalanche instructors to find the best snow pants for winter adventures near and far.
Best overall snow pants
Avalanche safety educator and ski guide Matt Standal praises Stio’s pants, which he’s worn while on extensive backcountry ski missions, snowmobiling to remote trailheads, chopping wood, and shoveling snow at the guides’ backcountry yurt.
“The material is light enough to be comfortable riding lifts and hiking in the backcountry,” he says. “And it’s waterproof and tough at the same time.” The pants also have an adjustable waist, full-length side zips for venting during long skins, easy-to-reach pockets, and a gear loop for securing an avvy beacon.
A solid choice for anyone heading outdoors this winter looking for a versatile pair of pants (or bibs), the Environ can be worn for all sorts of winter activities. The moderate fit allows for a range of base layers or insulated down pants, and the PeakProof three-layer waterproof/breathable fabric is fully seam-sealed.
Best (less expensive) overall snow pants
Resort skier Kate Scott recommends these affordable, insulated snow pants as her top pick for anyone looking for a functional pair of comfortable, protective bib-style pants for under $50. They’re “the perfect solution,” she says, adding that they keep her quite warm when layered with the right leggings. “I run very cold while sitting, very sweaty while exercising.”
Scott wore them for 30 ski days last winter and says the moderate layer of synthetic insulation is just enough to stay toasty on the chairlift and during the runs without feeling overly padded and constricted. The shell fabric holds up, doesn’t absorb water during wet snowfall, and the leg openings fit well over ski boots. They’ve also helped her stay warm during winter car camping trips.
Best versatile snow pants
Ski guide Matthew Maar, who spends his winters teaching avalanche courses in Montana or guiding ski tours in Hokkaido, Japan, wears sleek and simple Armada Chairman 2L pants — often for multiple days in a row. For quality and durability, these are a well-priced pair of snow pants that can accommodate layers underneath for cold days or be worn on their own for touring.
“I like how simple they are,” says Maar. “When I’m guiding guests, I always carry a backpack with my gear, so I don’t need pants loaded down with features and cargo pockets.” The Chairman 2L Pant is built with a durable, tightly woven fabric that resists abrasion while still allowing plenty of flexibility and freedom of movement, and has a moderate fit that works well for a variety of winter activities and output levels.
Best all-day snow pants
Patty Tumenas spends her days working at the Palisades Ski Resort in FlyLow’s Daisy Snow Pants. “They have just enough insulation so I’m never cold on freezing days, are super-comfortable, and don’t actually feel like snow pants,” says Tumenas, who also endorses the men’s version of the pants. “I wear them skiing, touring (they have great zip vents), snow blowing, and shoveling. Last winter, Tahoe had over 60 feet of snow so I basically lived in them.”
Tumenas also noted the reliable waterproofing, along with the fact that many of Flylow’s pants come in a range of short inseams — perfect for people who don’t want their hems dragging on the ground. Plus, unlike some technical pants, Flylow’s snow pants don’t feel or sound like snow pants — they are soft with nearly no crinkling, crunching, or swishing. “I’m really tactile and sensitive with clothes,” says Tumenas. “I like everything extra soft, even a tag will ruin my day.”
Best backcountry snow pants
“I’m a die-hard bib fan,” says outdoor marketer and former Big Sky ski patroller Ty Morrison-Heath. “When the snow gets really deep or very light, bibs keep snow from soaking the layers under my upper shell.” Morrison-Heath wears the Patagonia SnowDrifter bib, which has a waterproof, breathable membrane that allows him to work hard while skinning uphill without sweating out his base layers, but then provides warmth, dryness, and comfort for the cold descent. Morrison-Heath also mentioned the large “kangaroo pocket” perfect for stashing energy gels and small items in an easy-to-reach place.
The SnowDrifter Bibs have elasticized cuffs that keep them tight around ski or snowboard boots, reinforced inner gaiters to protect the fabric from sharp ski edges, and for bathroom breaks, a drop-back design so you don’t have to remove them completely.
Best women-specific insulated snow pants
Multiple female skiers and snowboarders picked Kari Traa as a favorite when it came to women-specific snow pants. The brand was started when professional skier Kari Traa became tired of wearing men’s snow pants and wanted to create a women-specific fit for technical ski apparel. The Agnes Ski Pant is downhill skier Gabby Kassel’s pick, designed with a relaxed fit for women looking for a warm but looser pant for powder days — versatile while still providing plenty of protection. “I love the pockets and the generous fit through the hips that also doesn’t gap at the waist,” she says.
The Agnes Pant is a great option for resort-ski days, with a comfortable fit that still has a technical, women-specific cut. The waterproof, zippered pockets keep small items and snacks handy, and the colorblocking is bright and fun.
Best for cross-country skiing (classic)
“The typical casual Nordic skier usually likes more bulk and warmth in their pants,” says Emma Horton, who competed in Nordic skiing for St. Lawrence University in New York in both classic and skate — the two styles of cross-country skiing. The Daehlie Challenge Pants provide a nice balance between performance and comfort, and while they’re lighter weight and built for harder cardio than more insulated snow pants, this model has a three-layer system for wind and weather coverage as well as extra quilting and windproofing on the upper legs.
“These are not going to be like heavier insulated snow pants,” says Horton, listing this pair as a great pick for long cross-country ski days where your effort is consistent but never red-zoned.
Best cross-country skiing (skate)
“Most skate ski top-layer pants are designed to layer over race spandex or a base layer,” says Horton, who recommends the Swix Universal Pants as a go-to for the higher cardio output associated with skate skiing.
They have a roomier fit for layering options, but still allow the range of motion expected in performance-oriented apparel. They offer ample water resistance and protection from windy, cold days on the ski course and are highly breathable so you don’t sweat out during your skate ski workout. The side zippers are full length for easy on and off, and the pants come in men- and women-specific models for optimized fit.
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