I spent my formative skiing years on East Coast ice, sporting windbreaker trousers with pantyhose underneath. So I fully understand that, technically, you can wear just about anything and survive a day on the hill. But if you want to enjoy the experience and actually be comfortable, you need to pay attention to your ski pants. Certain conditions require different bottoms. Here are my go-to pants for each scenario, whether I’m skiing champagne powder or wet slush.
Best For: Touring
Dynafit emphasized mobility and comfort with the Beast, giving high-exposure areas—like the knees and butt—a waterproof shell, while building the rest of the pants with a stretchier, more breathable combo of nylon and elastane. I like the slimmer fit, which borders on skinny-jeans territory but still has plenty of room for base layers and big boots. The two high thigh pockets are large enough to store my essentials, but they’re placed perfectly near my hip so my phone and wallet don’t bounce when I’m moving quickly. I’ve been wearing these pants while skinning up my local hill, but if you finally scored that dream multi-day hut trip, make sure these are in your kit.
Best For: Skiing in wet conditions
Sometimes my weekly ski day comes with a side of freezing rain and ice. Enter the Powder Bowl, a burly hard-shell pant that’s 100 percent waterproof and windproof and built to keep you dry in the worst conditions. I ski on the East Coast often, so conditions are variable to say the least, and these pants have handled rain, snow, and ice like a champ. And yet I don’t get overheated in them, because the two-layer Gore-Tex pant is constructed with a mesh liner, and large zip vents on the outer thighs help move heat when I’m working hard.
Best For: Everyday skiing
Bib lovers, take note: the Firebird could be the only pair you need. This workhorse three-layer number is tough enough to handle daily wear at the resort but comfortable and breathable enough to excel in the backcountry. Credit the membrane, which balances breathability (a rating of 10k) with waterproofness (also 10k) to get you through a typical day on the mountain. Flylow added a few smart details, like a soft-shell fabric on the upper back for extra airflow and Cordura reinforcement on the cuffs. But my favorite features are the two kangaroo pockets on the chest, which give you a place to carry an extra set of gloves and a snack. I also dig the two-tone aesthetic, which makes me want to ditch the jacket and ski farmer style. The Firebird is baggier than the other pants on this list, which you’ll either love or hate, depending on how you roll.
Best For: Keeping warm and comfortable
The Boundaryline is built for resort laps on the coldest days, with a waterproof exterior that’s complemented by a thin layer of synthetic insulation. I knew these pants would be warm, but I didn’t expect them to be such a joy to wear. The lining feels like silk, and while the 20k/20k membrane is fully waterproof and breathable, it has the texture of brushed cotton and boasts an incredible amount of stretch. The end result is a pair of pants so comfortable that you’ll think you’re skiing in your pajamas.
Best For: Skiing on a budget
When buying gear, I’m a firm believer in the notion that you get what you pay for. But the Straight Six proved me wrong. This pair provides premium performance and features at a reasonable price. The two-layer pants are fully water- and windproof, thanks to a sturdy nylon exterior designed to withstand daily abuse. The next-to-skin softness is due to the polyester tricot liner. I like the relatively slim fit and high-thigh hand pockets, which add some storage without the extra bulk of cargo pockets.
Best For: Cross-country skiing
Don’t let the name fool you—these aren’t tights. Yes, they’re tapered and intended for high-output activities like nordic skiing, but there’s enough wiggle room inside these pants to accommodate base layers. The front is built from a windproof polyester, while the back is made from a polyurethane that’s all about venting heat. The brushed liner is comfy and also provides a layer of insulation. There are no pockets or frills on the Storm Balance. It’s just a warm, incredibly stretchy pair of pants built for moving fast through the snow.