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How To Buy Ski Pants And Bibs

Dressing properly for skiing means dressing in layers that will work to keep you dry, warm and protected under a variety of conditions. When you layer, you can take off or put on pieces as needed, allowing you to be prepared for fast changing winter weather conditions or tailor what you're wearing to your activity levels.

The importance of layering

  • The best layering system for skiing consists of three layers:
  • When all three layers are working together, the result is a "personal climate" that will keep you comfortable and protected on the slopes

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Outerwear features and functions

The outer layer--which includes insulated jackets, shells/non-insulated jackets, pants and one-piece suits--protects you from the extreme elements you may encounter while skiing.


  • Fabrics and the treatments used on them to help protect you from the elements should be among your top considerations when selecting outerwear for skiing
  • Most outerwear is made out of tightly woven nylon or polyester. Both are durable and fairly water-resistant, and can be woven in various weights.
  • Some skiwear is now made using nylon and polyester microfibers. These fabrics are woven using extremely fine fibers.
  • The use of these fabrics results in high-performance outerwear that is highly durable, very lightweight, breathable, water-repellent and wind-resistant, all by the nature of the fiber and weave
  • Microfibers are used in higher-priced, higher-performance garments

Outwear functions

  • Waterproof/Breathable
    • Ski outerwear that is waterproof/breathable offers the ultimate in protection from the elements
    • Making garments waterproof/breathable is accomplished through various coatings and laminates, such as Gore-Tex, a popular microporous laminate
    • To make waterproof/breathable outerwear most effective, garments should be seam sealed meaning that no water from snow, sleet, or rain enters your pants
    • The ultimate goal is to keep moisture from the outside from passing through your pants while still allowing water vapor generated by perspiration to escape
    • You should note that waterproof/breathable outerwear is usually less breathable than water-repellent garment/water-resistant outerwear
    • Some waterproof/breathable outerwear styles include design elements like zippers and venting systems to allow more perspiration vapor out
  • Water-repellent/Water-resistant
    • Outerwear that is water-repellent or water-resistant will keep you dry for long periods of time, but unlike waterproof fabrics, these fabrics can become saturated in extreme conditions and lose their effectiveness
    • Water-resistant garments generally keep out more water for longer periods of time than water-repellent garments
    • Most fabrics with these characteristics are breathable and will allow water vapor from perspiration to escape while keeping snow, sleet and rain at bay
    • DWRs, durable water-repellent finishes, are often used in ski outerwear and enhance water-repellency without negatively affecting breathability
  • Windproof
    • It's important to choose outerwear that will protect your body from the chilling effects of wind passing through your jacket
  • Moisture
    • Some outerwear has a moisture wicking layer attached to the underside of the shell that helps promote the release of perspiration vapors and enhances comfort and the body's ability to stay warm

Insulating materials

  • Insulated vs. Non-insulated
    • Your choice of an insulated piece of ski outerwear versus a non-insulated shell will depend on two main factors: weather conditions and what you plan to wear underneath.
      • Weather conditions
        • Colder skiing conditions usually require outerwear that offers the added warmth of insulation. Warmer spring skiing conditions may call for only a shell.
      • What you plan to wear underneath
        • If you do not plan to dress in layers, with long underwear and an insulated mid-layer, you will definitely need a garment with some insulation for skiing, especially in cold conditions
        • Keep in mind, however, that a good thermal base layer and an insulating second layer can reduce or eliminate the need for insulating materials in your outerwear, even on very cold days
        • Skiers who dress in layers consider shells more versatile than insulated pieces, because they can function well in a variety of conditions
        • Skiers who choose a non-insulated shell should make sure it is waterproof/breathable
  • Man-made insulations
    • Most insulations are made of polyester and come in a variety of weights and lofts
    • Generally, the greater the weight and loft, the more warmth the insulation provides
    • Improvements in technology have lead to the development of insulations that provide greater warmth with less weight and loft than previously required
  • Down
    • Down is nature's great insulator
    • It offers a high warmth-to-weight ratio, and is compressible, lightweight and breathable

Performance details

  • There are some design features that will make a real difference to your comfort on the slopes
  • Zippers with big pulls make it easy to zip and unzip your pants when wearing bulky gloves
  • Storm flaps that conceal zippers help to keep out wind and cold
  • Large functional pockets are used to hold valuables such as your wallet and keys
  • Gaiters that keep snow from entering your pants and boots


  • Jackets and pants should be roomy enough to allow for maximum freedom of movement

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  • Elastic waist
    • An elastic waist provides for a comfortable fit and also helps to keep out snow
  • Open bottom with gaiter
    • A covering of lightweight, moisture-resistant fabric used by skiers in conditions of deep snow
    • It is attached to the inside of the pant and extends down over the top of the boot to prevent snow from entering your pants
  • Sealed seams
    • Ensures that no water from snow, sleet, or rain enters through the seams of your pants, making sure you stay dry and warm

Additional options

  • Pockets
    • Pockets offer a good way to store your valuables, such as a wallet and keys
  • Removable suspenders
    • Add extra support to help hold pants up and inplace
  • Reinforced seat and knees
    • Have an extra layer of tough fabric in the seat and knees for added protection against the elements
  • Side Zippers
    • The pants have zippers down the side of the legs to allow more airflow when temperatures heat up

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