Today, I’d like to tell you an anecdote. A few years ago, I went ski mountaineering in Switzerland with two friends. Spirits were high and the weather was at its best early in the morning. Everything was seemingly going perfectly until we were standing in the car park getting ready for the tour. As I don’t like long drives in ski clothes, I was still wearing “civilian clothes” at this point and was now searching for all the essential items of clothing from my bag in the boot.
I suddenly panicked, my ski trousers weren’t there. Nowhere. Gone. Probably somewhere at home. Damn. Expletive. Cursing. Shouting. None of my friends had spare ski trousers either, so I had two options: spend a day in the pub or go ski touring in fabric trousers. I chose the latter and have never been as cold as I was on that one day in the Alps. Ever since, I’ve known the benefits of a good pair of ski trousers.
But what actually makes a good pair of ski trousers and what should you consider when buying them?
Which are the right ski trousers?
As is almost always the case when buying a product, you should be clear about what the product, ski trousers in our case, will be used for. Here, I’m sure some Smart Alec will chime in, “Skiing, obviously.” But it’s not quite that simple.
Ski trousers which are mainly used for alpine skiing, usually have a thicker lining than those designed for Freerideor touring. When you ascend, you quickly get warm from the movement and exertion. Usually you climb up once, descend and either have something to eat or go straight home. This means you are in motion almost all the time and need less insulation than with alpine skiing.
With alpine skiing, there are periods of effort (descent) and rest (queuing, lifts). As you move, your speed creates wind which the ski trousers have to keep out. The body also warms itself through the movement and effort and often, you sweat. If you don’t immediately get going home after a descent, then you usually have to stand in a queue to go back up again, which means sitting around and barely moving, so the body cools down. If you’ve built up a real sweat, you’ll freeze quickly. However, good ski trousers manage this problem by having a balanced ratio of insulation and breathability which limit this problem so that it doesn’t bother you.
Whether you ride with lined or unlined trousers, there are a few properties that are essential for good ski trousers We’ve summarised the key features below.
Material and Workmanship
Ski trousers are subject to heavy wear and tear both when touring and when alpine skiing. These can be caused both by cold, wetness and wind, and by mechanical impacts such as ski boots, steel edges and falls. Therefore, you should make sure that your ski trousers are made from as abrasion-resistant and robust material as possible. Material reinforcements on the inside leg also prevent damage caused by ski edges. A high level of waterproofing is also very important. When alpine skiing in particular, you often find yourself sitting in a damp chairlift or leaning against an icy tow bar, for example. If you get a soaking wet bum on the second run, you are bound to wish the ski day had ended by half past nine.
Breathability is also important. When skiing in spring or ski mountaineering, you get sweaty very quickly. Breathable material and ventilation zips quickly remedy this. You should also make sure that all seams are cleanly sewn and sealed if necessary.
Appearance and fit
Another extremely important factor is the fit of the ski trousers. As taste is a personal preference, I won’t go into detail about the different styles here, but there are a few things you should look out for before buying. Alpine skiing as well as freeriding and ski mountaineering require a high degree of physical activity. Therefore, it’s important ski trousers are not too tight and don’t impair manoeuvrability. The trousers should also not be too wide, as they could get in the way when ascending and descending and won’t provide optimal insulation.
Anyone that’s tall and has long legs will know that trouser legs are often too short. If the trousers only reach the calf but are worn with some ski boots, it’s not too serious, but once the preformed knees start to be up near the thigh, the fun stops. Brands such as Mammut, which offer long-legged versions, offer a glimmer of hope here.
Ankle snow gaiter, waistband and suspenders
Ski trousers have to fit well. This applies not only to the material, but also to the waistband and the leg ends of the trousers. Integrated width adjustment or an integrated belt allow trousers to quickly and easily be adjusted to your personal size. This is particularly useful if you change the number of layers you’re wearing to suit the weather conditions.
No more builder’s bum! Surely that’s what the inventor of suspenders had in mind. On ski trousers, these are extremely practical as the trousers are not the lightest and also have to put up with intensive movement and high speeds. Many models have either non-detachable or also removable suspenders. There are also trousers that come with a fixing option or without any straps. In general, models with straps are preferable, although some women find them annoying. What you ultimately choose is therefore highly dependent on personal preferences as well as comfort.
There’s nothing more unpleasant than snow in your trouser leg. Since my fabric trouser experience, I’m an expert in this field, so I’d like to advocate for ankle snow gaiters and integrated gaiters here. Integrated gaiters are usually made of a relatively thin and flexible material. They can be fitted tightly around the ski boot to seal the trousers at the bottom. This means that even on deep snow descents, fine powder snow cannot get into the inside of the trouser leg. When choosing ski trousers you should make sure that the ankle snow gaiter is big enough so that you can easily pull it over your ski boots, but at the same time it is tight enough so that it won’t be immediately pushed upwards.
Good ski trousers always have some practical pockets. If you don’t like to travel with a backpack, you should make sure that you can store lots of things in your trouser pockets. However, pockets should not be too bulky or annoying when worn with a jacket.
A good pair of ski trousers are worth their weight in gold when you head out into the snow in winter. (I know what I’m talking about…). When choosing a pair of trousers, you should pay particular attention to the fit and functionality. They should fit as snugly as possible on the body and keep out cold, wet and snow. If the trousers also have space for a few extras and look good, nothing can stand in the way of a successful day on the slopes.