While you’re busy carving lines, your snow pants are keeping you warm, dry and out on the mountain for longer. They might seem like an afterthought when it comes to gear, but if you’re hitting the slopes with any regularity, you’ll want to invest in a decent pair.
Consider this the ultimate guide to snow pants. We’ll cover what pants to wear in the snow in all conditions, the technical info to look for when buying, how snow pants should fit and even the best way to keep them clean. Sure, you might have a pair of killer skis, but the pros know that taking care of the basics is the first step in elevating your game. With that in mind, let’s get our snow pants on.
Are Snow Pants Waterproof?
If you want to know how waterproof your pants are, there are two things to look for:
Waterproof rating: The rating looks like a number in the thousands (generally between 5000 and 20,000/5K and 20K), and it’s a digit worth noting because it could be the difference between a pleasant day out and a pair of shivering legs.
The number refers to how much water a pair of pants can be submerged in before the pressure causes it to start filtering in, and it’s usually measured in millimetres - 5000mm, for example. The lower the number, the greater the risk you’ll have of springing a leak. Our kid's, women’s and men’s snow pants start at 15,000mm which is ideal coverage for most conditions.
Seams: Like all pants, the fabric of snow pants is stitched together in seams. These seams are the easiest entry point for water, so you’ll want to know just how well-protected they are when it comes to waterproofing. In snow pants, the seams are protected by taping, and there are two types:
Critical taped: Just as it sounds, the most important seams are taped. This means that you’ll be okay in dry conditions, but if things get slushy or it starts to rain, you might get damp.
- Fully taped: The most comprehensive option and the one we’d generally recommend. Every seam is taped, so you won’t have to worry about variable conditions.
When you’re looking for snow pants, the question to ask yourself is ‘are these snow pants waterproof enough for me?’ If you’re erring on the side of low ratings, just remember that things on the mountain can change in an instant. Don’t get caught with your snow pants down.
Are Snow Pants Warm?
Snow pants should be warm, but not all pairs are made equal. What you need will depend on when and where you ski, but regardless, nothing is worse than freezing on a chairlift or feeling the draft blow around your legs. Here’s what to look for:
Insulation: Some snow pants are just a waterproof shell and these can be okay in favourable conditions (probably with a base layer, too). For those colder days and long sessions, you might prefer something with a thin, synthetic insulation.
- Breathability: Skiing and snowboarding are physical work, and even if it’s well below zero, you’re still going to sweat. Vents in snow pants allow the hot air to escape, which is important because otherwise, sweat will condense on the inside of the pants and that’s when things start to get chilly. Good snow pants should keep you warm, but breathe enough to prevent overheating.
How Do You Wash Snow Pants?
Do they “need” to be washed? That’s up to you and your hygiene standards. Our recommendation? Don’t over wash. It’s better for your gear and the planet. But if you've given them a good workout and they do need a little rejuvenation be sure to follow the garment’s washing instructions. Definitely wash on cold and we recommend using a snow gear specific wash, like NikWax. Most snow pants will be machine washable (but not too happy about going in the dryer). If you’re not feeling confident about washing your snow gear yourself, send them off to professional cleaners when the season is over.
Are Snow Pants the Same As Ski Pants?
All Ski pants are snow pants, but not the other way around. Really, ski pants are just a type of snow pants that have been adapted to the specifics of skiing. All this means is that the form of ski pants might be slightly different than snowboard pants because the action of each is slightly different.
One difference is in the pant’s cuff reinforcement which is a section designed to protect the cuff against wear and tear. On ski pants, this is often on the inside, while snowboard pants will have them at the back. It’s a minor difference really, but if you’ve ever worn through your cuffs before, it can be worth considering. Other differences can include how snow pants should fit (sometimes snowboard pants are a little baggier) and padding to cushion falls, which can vary between skiing and snowboarding.
Learn More With Our Other Ski Guides:
Snowsports are about getting out there, having fun and finding some adventure. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro, we’re here to make sure you have the best experience possible.
If you’re looking for some more comprehensive advice about what to wear on the mountain, check out our guide, ‘What To Wear On Your First Snow Trip’ and our advice on whether waterproof socks are really worth it.