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Choosing the right ski pants

After having shown you how to choose the right ski jacket, we are now going to explain to you how to choose the ski pants that go with it! To choose the right pants, the criteria are the same as for a jacket. We are also talking about water resistance, breathability and thermal insulation, and ensuring that we select the pants with the features we need.

Breathability, water resistance, breathability, water resistance, ...

The notions of waterproofing and breathability are crucial in all technical clothing and ski pants are no exception. These properties protect you from moisture, and therefore from the cold. Waterproofing protects you from moisture in the form of rain and snow, while breathability allows excess heat to escape so that the perspiration doesn't become cold.

To ensure that your ski pants protect you from moisture, manufacturers have developed membranes that provide both resistance to water and breathability. Among the most famous membranes, we can of course mention the famous Gore-Tex membrane, but also others that are less well known but no less efficient, such as the InfiDRY from 686, the Dryplay from Picture, the Dermizax and the DRYOsphere from Scott, etc.
infiDRY membrane
To determine the permeability of a membrane, a column of water is placed on top of it and the height of water required in millimetres for the water to begin to penetrate the membrane is measured. This is the Schmerber unit of measurement. This gives levels of permeability such as 6,000 mm, 8,000 mm, 10,000 mm, 15,000 mm or 20,000 mm. The higher the number, the better your membrane performs. Currently, the most waterproof membranes go up to 30,000 mm.

The breathability of a membrane is indicated in grams per square meter per 24 hours. This means that there are indications such as 6,000 g/m²/24 h, 10,000 m/m²/24 h, 20,000 m/m²/24 h, etc. Again, the higher the number, the better the performance of the membrane.

Waterproofing and breathability levels are usually grouped together and abbreviated as 10K/10K for pants that are waterproof to 10,000 mm and breathable to 10,000 m/m²/24, 20K/20K for pants that are waterproof to 20,000 mm and breathable to 20,000 g/m²/24, etc. Resistance to water is always placed first.

Durable water repellent treatment

To improve a ski pants resistance to water, manufacturers often treat them with a Durable Water Repellent treatment (DWR). This is a protective film that blocks water while allowing heat to escape. However, this treatment has two disadvantages: it degrades over time, and it is often made from chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

To overcome these drawbacks, you can renew your treatment with a specific product (see our tutorial "How to wash your ski jacket"), and you can also choose a brand that uses durable water-repellent treatments without perfluorocarbons (PFCs), such as the French brand Picture Organic Clothing.

Thermal insulation to keep you warm

Having no organs, the legs are one of the least cold parts of our body. However, when skiing at altitude in negative temperatures, and with speed increasing the feeling of cold because of the wind, it is a good idea to have an insulating lining in your pants. Manufacturers offer both natural and synthetic insulations, and apart from the origin of the material, these insulations differ in their thermal efficiency. The more warmth an insulation provides for the same filling weight, the less space it takes up, the more freedom of movement it gives you, and the more breathable it is.

To help your selection process, we include an indication of the warmth level and the weight of the insulation filling in the product sheets of our ski pants.
thermal insulation ski pants

Choosing the right level of water resistance and insulation

Depending on your activity and the conditions, you will have different needs for protection against moisture and cold. If you are a ski tourer, you will alternate phases of intense effort with more relaxed phases. You will therefore be looking for ski pants with no insulation and with good breathability. For descents, you should choose pants with insulation, so that you don't get cold on the lifts or when you are skiing. Finally, waterproofing is never too much and allows you to stay dry even in bad weather conditions.

Check the features carefully

  • RECCO reflector: This is a great option on ski pants. RECCO beacons reflect the signals emitted by the RECCO transmitters used by rescue workers when detecting avalanche victims. For off-piste enthusiasts, having a beacon integrated into the ski pants is an additional safety feature.
  • Pockets: front, back, cargo, zip, button or scratch, check that you have the right pockets on your ski pants to avoid disappointment! Zipped pockets are of course the most secure for your equipment, you don't risk losing your phone if it is well stored in a pocket with a closed zip.
  • Ventilation zips, zips and taped seams: Zips and seams are the weakest points of the pants as they are a fine entry point for moisture. The most technical pants are therefore equipped with waterproof zips and seams. For more breathability, many ski and snowboard pants also have zipped vents that can be opened and closed depending on the effort involved.
  • Pants/jacket connection: There is nothing more unpleasant than having snow get into your pants after a fall. To avoid this, either put on technical pants or choose pants with a connection system to the jacket so that the snow does not get in. These systems of attachment, generally by zip or press studs, may only be compatible with the jacket that matches the pants.
  • Reinforcements and snow gaiters: Present on most ski pants, these two features are very useful. The bottoms of the ski pants must be reinforced because these areas are subject to a lot of wear and tear (crampon blows, edge blows, pole blows). On the other hand, snow gaiters are to be put in the snow boots or ski boots when riding in powder snow, to avoid snow infiltration.
  • Adjustable length for children:  As with jackets, some brands offer adjustable length ski pants for children. This way, if your child grows bigger between winters (which is likely to happen), you can increase the length of the pants so you don't have to buy new ones. This is often a removable seam system.

Pants or overalls? The duel that tears the ski community apart

Between team technical pants and team pants, everyone has their arguments. As far as style is concerned, some find Technical pants old-fashioned and others, on the contrary, defend their trendy look with all their heart. Others find them impractical, taking longer to put on, requiring more manipulation, etc. On the other hand, it can be used and is suitable for all types of snow, an argument of choice for powder enthusiast. Everyone has their own opinion, and the most diplomatic (or the most indecisive) will choose ski pants with straps.

A true testament of the past, some ski suits can still be seen on the slopes. Indeed, a few die-hard skiers still resist the natural evolution of skiwear and continue to wear their fluorescent full-body suits.