The high-tech fabrics in snowboard pants don’t exactly perform artificial photosynthesis, but they do have a pretty demanding task. A good pair of bottoms repels water like a raincoat and breathes like a compression tee.
“Find the best pants you can afford that are highly breathable and have a minimum of 10,000mm waterproof rating,” says Vivien Allan, a buyer for the Alpine Shop in South Burlington, Vermont. The 10,000 refers to the WR/BR scale often stamped on the sales tag of pants with advanced fabrics, such as Gore-Tex, Dry.Q, and FlashDry. It means that you could put a tube of water 10,000 millimeters (32 feet) high on the cloth before it would leak. Pants often bear a breathability index as well to show how many grams of water can pass through a square meter of the fabric in 24 hours. Generally, you want both numbers as high as possible; a pair of 25,000/20,000 duds, for instance, will keep your insides pretty dry but may strain your budget.
Surprisingly, Allen says insulation against the cold isn’t the biggest priority. Even on cold days, an athlete provides enough body heat inside the shell to stay warm. And in extremely low temps, you add a thick baselayer of wool or fleece before first run.
Several advances in design are adding creature comforts to snowboard pants. Look for “leg lifters” (tabs that shorten pants when not on the hill), crotch and thigh vents, and boot hooks that keep out wind and snow from the bottom up. A bib is especially effective if you’re bound for deep powder.
Finally, pick snowboard pants like you’d by jeans at the Gap. Most brands offer different fits, from narrow to baggy, so decide wither you can pull off a super slim look before leaving the dressing room.
After the jump, we’ll show you five state-of-the-art bottoms designed to repel water and disperse sweat.