Are Ski Pants Waterproof? & How to Buy Your First Pair

by Simon Naylor | Posted On: March 16th, 2020
ski pants waterproof

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If you’re looking into buying your first pair of ski pants, you want to make sure you get a quality pair that will keep you dry and warm all day on the slopes. Nothing puts a damper (literally) on the day like getting cold and wet because your ski pants (trousers) couldn’t hold up to the elements.

All ski pants are waterproof to a certain degree. However, not all ski pants are created equal. The waterproof rating has various levels that range from 1,500 mm to 20,000 mm. The higher the number, the more waterproof your pants will be. Wearing jeans or regular pants isn’t recommended and you’ll likely get wet, chaffing and cold.

Ski Pant Features to Consider

1. Fabric

A hydro-static head test determines the waterproof rating. The material is held tight against a tube of water and the amount of water that is absorbed. After a set amount of time, the water breaks through.

The amount of millimeters of water the fabric can hold back before it seeps through determines the fabric’s rating.

2. Taped Seams

Besides the waterproof rating of the fabric, other features impact the effectiveness of keeping water out. For example, are all the seams taped or just the critical seams? Taping the seams keeps water from entering the weakest part of the pants.

Some pants, however, only tape the major seams while the smaller seems are left uncovered, allowing moisture to more easily seep in.

3. Gaiters

Gaiters are also essential to keeping water off your body. The gaiter is found under the cuff of the pant. It is designed to block snow from entering the pants from the feet.

Most of them wrap around the boot or even latch on to the boot to keep snow out. Many pants feature a zippered cuff allowing you to access the gaiter with ease.

4. Vents

You might only be thinking about the snow or rain getting you wet, but there is another factor to consider if you want to stay dry and warm.

Much of the moisture that gets under our clothes is from our sweat, not the outside elements. When you get too hot and sweat, it can actually make you much colder later, such as when you’re on the chairlift.

So if you want to eliminate this problem, look for pants that have vents on the inner thighs or the front of the pant. That way, when you start getting too hot, you can unzip and cool off before you start sweating.

5. Bibs

If you’re worried about snow getting up under your coat when you fall (especially when you’re just learning,) look for bib style ski pants.

They’ll give you more protection from moisture and cold, especially since it adds an extra layer to your coat. When your core is warm, the rest of you will be warm.

Factors to Consider When Buying Your First Pair of Ski Pants

1. The Environment

Depending on the region you plan on skiing in, the snow could tend to be either wetter or drier.

For example, in areas of Washington and Oregon, temperatures are warmer, and snow tends to be wetter. With this in mind, you’ll want to opt for pants with seams that are fully tapped.

On the other hand, if you plan on skiing primarily in states like Colorado or Utah, you can generally count on dry snow and can get away with cheaper ski pants that don’t have as high of a waterproof rating or don’t have as many reinforced seams.

2. Your Skill Level

If you are just learning to ski, there are two things to think about:

  1. You might spend a lot of time on the ground.
  2. Your ski days might be shorter.

With this in mind, it is good to make sure that your ski pants have a rating of at least 5,000 mm.

When weather conditions are cold and clear, and if you’re taking regular breaks in the lodge, you shouldn’t have a problem getting too wet or uncomfortable.

If you think you will spend more time on the slopes or if the weather is less than favorable (i.e. you’re skiing in Washington or Oregon), then anything up to 10,000 mm should keep you dry.

As your skill level improves and you spend more time in the elements and less time in the lodge, then the waterproof rating should be upped to 20,000 mm or more, especially in wetter climates.

Comfort

The higher the waterproof rating of a pant, the stiffer the material will be. While it’s guaranteed you’ll stay dry in these hardshell pants; you may want to consider a soft, more flexible material as a beginner.

Chances are you won’t need 20,000 mm water resistance at the start. Primarily because you’ll be on groomed trails and not waste deep in powder.

Therefore, a more flexible pant will be a better option for you because they give you more movement and stretch, something you’ll definitely need as you’re first learning. It will be easier to focus on finding your balance and learning to control your skis if you are able to move freely in your clothes.

Budget

You also need to think about how much you’re willing to spend on ski pants. Pants with a higher waterproof rating and with fully taped seams will cost much more than ones with a lower score.

More expensive pants will only pay off if you are spending many long days in harsh elements. That being said, you need to take into consideration how often you will be skiing and what conditions you plan on skiing in before spending a lot of money on pants that you’ll use once or twice a year.

If you’re planning to ski more than 5 days a year for the next 5 years or more then consider spending a bit more to get a pant suits your conditions and lasts a very long time.

Conclusion

All ski pants are waterproof to a certain extent. However, there are different levels of efficiency when it comes to keeping you dry and warm on the slopes. Before buying your first pair of pants, think about the environment you’ll be skiing in, the features that are important to you, and the use that you’ll get out of the pants annually.

FAQ

Is There a Difference Between Skiing and Snowboarding Pants?

skis vs snowboard pants

You can wear both skis pants and snowobarding pants interchangeably. That said snowboard specific pants are baggier and looser than their ski alternative.

This baggier fit is an aesthetic, a look and a style, rather than something that delivers a huge boost in performance.

That said It’s argued that the baggier fit provides more movement to perform tricks and jumps in the snow park.

Further Reading: Real Difference Between Ski & Snowboard Clothes

Simon Naylor, the founder of New To Ski, started skiing in 2005. He has continued to practice his skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other new skiers. He launched New To Ski in 2018 to help first-time skiers have more fun on the slopes and get out and explore the mountains safely.