Whether you frequent backcountry mountains or a local resort, we’ve got the best ski and snow pants for women.
Ski season is upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited. Here’s the gist: We’ve researched, tested, and rounded up our choices for the best snow pants in all the top categories. And we’ve also provided a breakdown on how to choose the one that will best fit your skiing, riding, or other winter sports needs.
Here, we focus almost exclusively on pants, as we have a separate article that highlights the best bibs for skiing and snowboarding.
We started at the beginning by researching the top 20 women’s ski pants — taking into consideration pants’ ratings, reviews, and performance testing. Then we tried them all on and tested them in a variety of conditions — from powder to bluebird days.
While testing ski pants, we looked for quality, performance, and extra features. Your snow pants need to fit well and work year after year. From useful pockets to leg vents and waterproofing, we outline the best features of each pant. And while there isn’t a single best pant for every woman, we’ve organized this list into categories to help you find the best snow pant for your favorite winter activities.
Below, we break the article into sections:
Best Women’s Ski Pants of 2021
Best Overall: Helly Hansen Switch Cargo 2.0
The Switch Cargo 2.0 is a low-rise, hardshell snow pant complete with PrimaLoft insulation.
Similar to the ever-popular Helly Hansen Legendary Pant, the Switch Cargo 2.0 pants ($225) have a DWR-coated two-layer fabric. But they’ve also got articulated construction at the seat and knees for comfort during higher levels of activity as well as a RECCO rescue locator.
I really like these pants’ extra cargo pockets and stylish boot-cut flare. These are great insulated ski pants. Due to the insulation, they’ll be hot for backcountry skiing, so they’re not a great choice for earning your turns.
Skiers love the insulation and warmth of these pants and the great fit. And the majority of reviews mentioned that the pants work well in many different conditions on the mountain.
Shell: 2-layer HellyTech Performance fabric with DWR finish
Seams: Fully taped
Zippers: 2 YKK AquaGuard zippers on the front pockets
Fit: Low-rise, standard
Our favorite perk: Its all-day comfort lapping runs
Best for: Resort skiing or side-country skiing on lift-served terrain
Best Budget Ski Pant: Columbia Bugaboo Omni-Heat Snow Pant
These snow pants from Columbia ($110) win for both comfort and style. They are lightweight at under a pound, have internal gaiters, fully taped seams, and an adjustable waist to help with sizing.
While they lack a couple key features (like vents), for waterproof snow pants, you can’t beat the price. The pant’s soft insulation adds warmth without sacrificing waterproofness. These pants are definitely a better option for resort skiers and riders — and not backcountry users.
The Bugaboo Omni-Heat pants have a 4.4-star rating on REI.com and a 5-star rating on Amazon. Customer reviews call out the overall good quality of these pants for the price and good fit. The biggest con is that they have no leg vents.
Shell: 2-layer nylon Omni-Tech fabric
Insulation: Microtemp XF
Seams: Fully taped
Zippers: Zippered front pockets and zippered leg pocket
Cuffs: Yes, with snap closure
Our favorite perk: Good performance for the price
Best for: Beginner/intermediate skiing in resorts
Best Resort Ski Pant: The North Face Freedom Insulated Pants
The North Face’s Freedom snow pants ($160) are definitely a crowd-pleaser — and for good reason. The pants are well-insulated (a light base layer will do the trick even riding lifts on cold days) and have deep, fleece-lined hand pockets. The pants use The North Face’s in-house insulation and a mesh-backed venting system on the inner thighs.
They might not have all the bells and whistles of more technical backcountry pants. But I love them as a resort ski pant. The comfort combined with basic features like interior gaiters will keep you happy at the mountain all day long.
Skiers love the pant’s waterproofing that keeps them dry even on the wettest powder days. One negative: Some consumers didn’t like the flare on the pant leg near the boot, and the pocket seams are not sealed.
Shell: 2-layer DryVent fabric
Insulation: The North Face Heatseeker
Seams: Critically sealed (unsealed pocket seams)
Zippers: Non-waterproof zippered front pockets and vents
Our favorite perk: The venting system
Best for: Enthusiastic resort skiers
Best High-Performance Ski Pant: Arc’teryx Sentinel LT Pant
Designed with big-alpine skiing in mind, these pants are a great choice for the committed skier or rider. The Arc’teryx Sentinel LT ($499) has a GORE-TEX waterproof laminate with a C-Knit backer. This backer helps keep weight down and breathability high. I liked the performance fit and the pant’s multitude of features like side vents, touring cuffs, and gaiters.
The pant also has a surprisingly lightweight feel. Plus, being uninsulated and fairly breathable with mechanical venting, it performs well on both the uphill and downhill. Whether you’re someone who frequents the back bowls or long days off-piste, this is a solid choice and quality pant.
These pants got a lot of positive reviews online: super lightweight, customers love the feminine style, soft fabric, and durability. That being said, these are definitely an investment pant that will better serve the more advanced and more frequent skier.
Shell: 3-layer nylon fabric with GORE-TEX
Seams: Fully taped
Zippers: YKK WaterTight zippered pockets
RECCO: No (although the matching Sentinel LT Jacket does)
Fit: Trim (consider going up a size)
Cuffs: Yes, CORDURA PowderCuffs
Our favorite perk: Durability and versatility
Best for: Ripping turns all day
Best Backcountry Pant: Outdoor Research Skyward II
For backcountry skiing and riding the lifts on warmer days, the Outdoor Research’s women’s Skyward II ($299) won our top pick. Its AscentShell electrospun membrane gives the pant a good balance of breathability and light weight. The four-way mirror stretch means you can wear the pant on the uphill or downhill while maintaining great range of motion.
If you do need to shed some heat, the pant has two-way zippered venting on both sides. But the pant’s coolest feature is the designated beacon mesh pocket. You can easily stash your safety accessory and go. And we also really like the boot-adjusting power strap. It’s a slot added in the gaiters so you don’t have to remove them to tighten your boots. If you spend most of your time in the backcountry, this pant is your best bet.
Customers rave about this pant’s pocket placement, durability in the cuffs, and top-notch breathability, although a few customer reviews mentioned a poor fit, especially around the waist. The majority of reviews for these pants on Outdoor Research’s website and Backcountry.com are positive.
Shell: 3-layer polyester AscentShell fabric
Zippers: YKK AquaGuard zippered hand and thigh pockets
Cuffs: Yes, with edge guards
Our favorite perk: Range of motion and breathability
Best for: Earning your turns
Best of the Rest
While technically a bib, these still made our list for an awesome, comfortable choice while skiing or riding. The Foxy Bib ($420) has three-layer fabric with a DWR treatment adorned with vents, plenty of pockets, a drop seat, and a kangaroo pouch.
The athletic-fit pant means they feel good, look good, and move well with your body during high activity. It’s no wonder they’re one of the best ski bibs for women!
Shell: 3-layer polyester Stormshell fabric
Seams: Fully sealed seams
Zippers: YKK zippered pockets
Our favorite perk: Vent and pocket placement
Best for: Energetic backcountry skiers
For those who spend more time going uphill than down, the Beast Hybrid ($350) is a great choice. This hybrid pant offers the breathability of softshell pants. But Dynafit added waterproof fabric in the knees, thighs, legs, and butt — places most likely to let water in during wet conditions.
Ventilation zips with water-repellent zippers extend from knee to hip to dump heat at any moment. These are a high-performance pant for recreational ski-mo or touring athletes who get their cardio on the skin track. Note: The fit on this pant is definitely on the slimmer side, so consider that when choosing sizing.
Shell: 3-layer Dynashell polyamide-nylon fabric with DWR finish
Seams: Fully sealed seams
Zippers: Water-repellent YKK zippers
Our favorite perk: Great performance in lots of different conditions (thanks to the ventilation zips)
Best for: Those who like to tour
A bit thicker than other pants, the Patagonia Insulated Powder Bowl ($379) is also warmer — due to the GORE-TEX waterproof hardshell construction with added PrimaLoft insulation. If you run cold, you can pay a bit more than the original Powder Bowl pant to get 60 g of insulation designed to keep you warm even when wet.
The pant also has mesh-lined side vents and a powder skirt attachment loop. Customers commented that these are good, reliable waterproof pants. One con: These are pretty pricey for an insulated, resort-style pant.
Shell: 2-layer recycled polyester GORE-TEX fabric
Seams: Fully sealed seams
Zippers: Water-resistant coated zippers
Fit: Standard to slim
Our favorite perk: The toasty-warm insulation
Best for: Those who enjoy lift-based skiing
The Marmot Slopestars ($175) have been a classic choice of mine over the years: They fit well and are durable. For the price, they are a simple yet super-functional pant. The pants feature three zippered pockets and CORDURA scratch guards. Most customer reviews mentioned the quality of the pant, especially performance in colder weather.
These pants are a great choice if you’re a frequent resort skier or rider who occasionally hits up the backcountry. Plus, they come in some pretty stylish colors and patterns.
Shell: 2-layer polyester Marmot Membrain fabric
Insulation: PrimaLoft Black Eco
Seams: Fully sealed seams
Zippers: Non-waterproof zippers
Cuffs: Yes, with CORDURA scuff guards
Our favorite perk: The color choices
Best for: Skiers who like a stylish pant fit
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Women’s Ski Pants
Snow pants aren’t hard to find, especially if you live in a colder climate. But finding the right pair can be harder than you think. So here are a few tips to get you started.
What’s Your Top Winter Activity?
Chances are if you’re looking for a pair of pants to wear snowboarding, they will be much different from a snowshoeing pant. (That being said, our best overall pick will work for pretty much anything except conquering uphill terrain.)
Do you frequent the backcountry or resorts? Lots of brands add venting to pants so you can release some heat when, say, boot-packing uphill.
What Type of Fit Are You Looking For?
Do you prefer a relaxed or more athletic fit? This is mainly preference, but it’s important to note that sizing sometimes differs depending on the pant’s fit.
If you want unencumbered range of motion, maybe go with a relaxed fit. And if you run cold and wear more or thicker layers, consider an insulated pant or going up a size. A helpful note: All the pants on our list have some form of adjustable waist.
Which Fabric Should You Choose?
For powder days or backcountry travel, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a GORE-TEX or similar fully waterproof fabric. Two-layer and three-layer fabrics have different weights, waterproofness, and breathability ratings.
Bottom line: Ask yourself, will the pant work for what you want? The goal is to find a pant with a fabric that will complement your activity level on the mountain and move on.
Do You Need Pants With Insulation, and How Much?
Let’s face it, you may not think about pant insulation while making turns on your favorite run. But when faced with -10-degree windchill on a chairlift, suddenly you’ll be wishing for some extra warmth on your bottom half.
You may want to buy a cold-weather-specific insulated pant for those really snowy days on the mountain and a non-insulated shell pant for warmer days and backcountry use. Especially if you run cold, consider insulated options. Our overall pant, best budget, and best resort pant all have insulation.
What Features Should You Look For?
Every pant has different features, but I have two must-haves for snow pants. They need to have internal gaiters that secure well over boots (gaiters with boot adjustment access is a plus) and useful pockets. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. That one-inch-wide chapstick pocket just doesn’t cut it.
Thigh pockets are especially great if you don’t like pocket items (like a cellphone or beacon) bunching up near your hips. Another important feature to consider getting in your pant is a RECCO reflector for safety in avalanche terrain.
What Is RECCO?
RECCO is an avalanche safety system used by ski teams and rescue professionals to help find people trapped in an avalanche. The first part of the system is a reflector sewn into outerwear apparel to help a buried skier be detected in the event of an avalanche.
The RECCO reflector doesn’t transmit any signals or need any batteries, but it’s great to have in an emergency. The RECCO detector is the device transmitting an active signal. It has a range up to 120 m through the air and 10-20 m through snow.
Depending on how often you hit the slopes, price is a factor. If you’re still starting out in a snowsport, or only make it to the mountain a couple times a year, consider a more budget-friendly pant. As you gain experience, you can always invest in a higher-quality pant that will ultimately perform better and last longer on the mountain.
Have a favorite pair of ski pants we missed? Let us know in the comments below for future updates to this article.