The short answer: no. If you’re a casual resort skier, you can get away with $100 pants. But if you often find yourself deep in the backcountry, make the $450 investment.
Good ski pants typically cost anywhere from $100 to $450. To find out if the more expensive models are worth the investment, we tested several types in that price range. After three months, here’s what we found out.
$100 Ski Pants
These pants are great for casual inbounds skiing, but they don’t work well if you’re logging big miles in the backcountry—they aren’t breathable or durable, and the fit tends to be baggy and bulky.
Our favorite pants in this price range are the The North Face Seymore ($100). Made from the company’s Dryvent fabric, they’re plenty waterproof and kept us warm on cold resort days. They also kept us comfortable on a warmer 40-degree day, but without zippered vents, the fabric got clammy when we had to bootpack or sidestep to access a run. The low panel around the ankle isn’t reinforced, making it prone to tears from ski edges and boot buckles, and the fit is roomy but bulky and gets in the way when skinning.
Bottom Line: These are very solid, affordable pants for casual skiing, but they’re best suited to groomers, not hike-to steeps. We don’t recommend them for the backcountry.
$350 Ski Pants
Yes, $100 to $350 is a big jump, but that’s about how much you’ll have to spend to get high-quality pants that excel both inbounds and out. At this price point, you’re getting higher-quality materials, better craftsmanship, and lots of smart details.
I like Patagonia’s Reconnaissance pants ($350) because they’re made from a soft-shell material with a waterproof outer layer in certain spots, creating lots of breathability even skiing uphill on hot days. When it gets really stuffy, long zippers on the thighs dump extra heat. The Reconnaissance are also svelte, so you don’t feel like you’re carrying extra material, but the stretchiness of the soft-shell material and lots of built-in articulation let you easily bring your knees to your chest when scrambling up steep terrain. The ankles have scuff guards to protect against ski edges and boots, the cuff has a drawcord so you can cinch them down over your boots, and there’s a built-in Recco avalanche reflector. These pants aren’t as durable as the top-shelf options listed below, but they can still take a beating.
Bottom Line: A big investment but perfect for people who like to hike inbounds and explore the backcountry.
$450 Ski Pants
Most skiers don’t need ski pants that cost this much. But if you’re rough on your gear or like to put yourself in precarious high-alpine spots where the weather is cold and wet, these pants are worth the extra $100. Products in this category are made from the most bombproof materials and include all the details you could ever want.
I like the Arc’Teryx Sabre pants ($450) because they’re made from three-layer Gore-Tex and have 100-denier Cordura-reinforced cuffs. Translation: these pant won’t wear out, even after multiple seasons of abuse while climbing inbounds ridges or raking them across rocks. Your legs will also be warm and dry when it’s dumping. A sturdy built-in belt keeps the pants from falling down even on long hikes, a thin liner adds heat on cold days, long thigh zippers dump extra heat when it starts to get hot, and a Recco reflector is built in. The fit is also really damn refined—just roomy enough for freeride antics but narrow enough for the skin track.
Black Diamond Mission
I also like the Black Diamond Mission pants ($450). Like the Sabre, they’re made from highly durable three-layer Gore-Tex and have all the standard features (vents, extra pockets, Recco reflector) you’d expect. But these pants also have special backcountry add-ons, like a reinforced thigh pocket that holds your beacon and special zippers that let you access your boot buckles and walk lever without having to pull up your cuffs.
Bottom Line: These are the best ski pants on the market and worth the investment if you spend most of your time in the backcountry or need gear that will put up with lots of abuse.