Why Are Ski & Snowboard Pants So Baggy?
Thankfully ski pants have evolved from the comedy 'plus fours' of the 1920's. But even today they are still pretty baggy. Why is that? And why are snowboarder's pants the baggiest?
Ski pants started to evolve into the styles we see today during the 50s and 60s. New man-made fibres like polyester and spandex were hard-wearing, comfortable, and worked well in wet and cold conditions. Ski pants offer several benefits to the skier. They offer protection from the wind & snow, and limited protection in the event of a fall. Ski pants are usually lined, and this double layer helps to keep the skier’s legs warm. The pants are often designed in a baggy style, which gives the skier freedom to move in any direction. You'll notice this with snowboarder's pants especially. The baggy style also offers plenty of space underneath for extra layers of clothing to keep warm. If you like to have a lot of pockets on your ski pants, then the baggy style is a lot more accommodating.
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Ski Pants - 1930-70
The earlier styles of ski pants in the 30s and 40s were mostly made from heavy wool, with a flannel lining. Later some brands tried waterproofing, while a stretchy fabric called Lastex was used for wrist and ankle cuffs to keep dry.
By the 1970s synthetic fibers had taken over completely from wool and the synthetic fleece layer, which was sandwiched between two layers of polyester became the standard. This three-layer fabric offered much better heat retention and was thick enough to offer a degree of protection in falls. Warm air is trapped in the fleece layer, which stops the cold air on the outside from penetrating the leg.
Ski Pants - 1970s Onwards
Bright colours for ski pants started in the 70s and have evolved ever since. While mainly for fashion brightly colored ski pants would also make you much more identifiable if you are injured on a slope alone.
From the 70s ski pants were once again designed with a baggier style. The most important reason for this is freedom of movement when skiing. Tight restricted clothing does not give the skier the ideal freedom of movement.
When skiing it is best to be completely free in your movements with no restriction. You should be able to bend, twist, squat and sit naturally and comfortably. Feeling comfortable in your ski gear will make you relaxed and if you feel relaxed you are much more likely to ski better.
Keeping warm on the runs is vital, with temperatures dropping to colder than -20deg C and more. The accepted way of retaining body heat is to use lots of layers. Simply put each of these layers traps a layer of air and each of these layers of air is a good insulator. So, the body heat stays where it is close to the body and the outer layers provide further thermal insulation.
Skiers often take quite a few items onto the runs, such as cell phone, sun cream, sunglasses, money, etc etc. Some skiers prefer to store these items in their pants rather than filling up the pockets in their ski jackets making them cumbersome. Consequently, it is a lot more comfortable to have pockets on baggy ski pants rather than tight ones.
Snowboarding pants are generally baggier than ski pants. This is because snowboarding involves a greater range of movements, so the boarder needs extra freedom.
With both ski and snowboarding pants, fashion and function coexist. Modern-day ski pants are weatherproofed, breathable, and flexible enough for easy use.