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.
Burton AK 3L Freebird Bibs
With a slightly tighter arrangement than the Lynyrd Skynyrd original, the Freebirds have a snug fit and special articulated tailoring that allow them to move with your body. These top-end $479.95 pants use three-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric to keep wind and water out while letting perspiration pass through, yielding an excellent WR/BR rating of 28,000mm/20,000 grams. Every seam is taped, and vents at the thigh regulate your temperature. Other niceties: leg lifts at the cuff, headphone cable ports, and water-resistant zippers. (Weight not available.)
Mountain Hardwear Men's Freeride Bibs
Mountain Hardwear doesn’t offer a WR/BR rating with its $300 Freeride pants, but the company’s specially designed two-layer Dry.Q Core fabric is a formidable opponent against rain and perspiration. The adjustable suspenders in the bib and powder cuffs prevent snow from drifting in, while zippered vents in the thigh help you control internal temps. We like the fleecy pocket linings to warm your hands. 30 ounces
The North Face Kannon Insulated Pants
The presence of a Recco avalanche rescue reflector is a tip-off that the $249 Kannon insulated pants are designed to go anywhere from resort riding to multi-day expedition. Designed for riding/skiing backcountry, they hold up to abuse, but keep you dry with North Face’s own two-and-a-half layer FlashDry fabric (WR rated at 17,600mm). Strategically placed vents regulate temperature. 23.6 ounces
Oakley Great Ascent
The high 27,000mm/20,000 gram rating on Oakley’s $350 Great Ascent means that its Gore-Tex construction effectively keeps water from getting inside and the insides from getting soupy. A Recco avalanche reflector enhances safety, and the zippered inner thigh vents and the fleece at the knee and butt increase comfort. A loose fit. (Weight not available.)
Patagonia Men's PowSlayer Bibs
Three layers of Gore-Tex Pro act as a smart membrane that keeps you dry in Patagonia’s $599 PowSlayers. With a high 28,000mm/15,000 gram rating, the bibs promote riding hard all day in wet weather. The garment has a loose fit with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch for ease of movement. Hem gaiters and water-tight zippers make them perfect for all-day powder runs. 20.3 ounces