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Ski

Ski Pants Guide | Picking Your Salopettes

If you take a look at our expert ski advice, you’ll see our range of guides to help you select the right kit for your next skiing or snowboarding trip. This time, we’re taking a look at trousers. Whether you call them ski trousers, snow pants or salopettes, a good pair of ski pants are just as essential as ski jackets.

Salopettes or Ski Pants?

Oftentimes, the terms salopettes and ski pants are used interchangeably, leading us all to believe that they are either one type of trouser or that they do exactly the same thing. They both certainly offer similar protection for skiing, however, they are designed slightly differently.

Usually, salopettes are high-waisted and will have a bib that braces can be attached on to, and ski pants (or trousers, depending on your preferred lingo) are fitted at the waist. Ski pants can also have braces attached to them or be designed with removable braces, so depending what you’re looking for, this is something to bear in mind.

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What Size Ski Pants Do I Need?

For the waist size, we would say that you should be moving one size up for your ski pants compared to your usual trousers. This is to ensure that they are not too tightly-fitted so as to not hinder your mobility or comfort. Bear in mind you’ll have extra layers on too, so it’s best to try with the thermal layers you plan to be wearing for your trip.

When thinking about and trying on pants for size, fit is your imperative concern. They should be neither too tight or too loose: a happy medium is always best, although for snowboarders, veering towards a looser fit is recommended due to the extra breadth of movements involved in the sport.

Pants that are too tight will restrict your body’s freedom to move on the slopes and limit your athletic potential and performance. The crucial areas are the hips and the ankles – these are the places you want to check you can move freely and comfortably.

On the other hand, pants that are too loose will be a nuisance and might start to slide down your body as you flex and stretch doing the sport. This too will interfere with your performance, so make sure that the salopettes you settle on have a good, relaxed fit.

As we’ve pointed out previously, snow pants for snowboarders can be – and often are – baggier than their ski counterparts.

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How Long Should Ski Pants Be?

Ski pants should generally be longer than your normal day-to-day trousers or jeans as they should mainly cover your ski boots. We would recommend aiming for a length that is about 4-5 inches longer than your usual length to ensure this is the case.

A common feature of salopettes is snow gaiters, which are a fabric guard fitted at the bottom of the pants near the leg opening, designed to prevent snow from entering any gaps in your gear, thus keeping you snowproof and dry. Snow gaiters usually come with zips, poppers or adjustable strap attachments to adjust the fit and provide enough wiggle room for them to fit around your boots and salopettes.

How Should Ski Pants Fit?

Considering that you’ll be moving around a lot given the demanding physical nature of skiing, it is crucial that your ski pants fit right to allow for mobility in a variety of weather conditions while providing optimal comfort and security. It is important to note that ski trousers are designed differently for women and men to comfortably fit different body shapes. Given that women can have smaller waists and wider hips than men, it is essential that the waist is fitted and secure, while the legs have sufficient room to move for flexing and bending the knees.

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What to Wear Under Salopettes

This depends on the conditions you’ll be facing. Tradition has it that at least one thermal base layer should be worn under your ski pants, but this can be unnecessary when skiing late in the season in relatively mild weather. Uninsulated hardshell ski pants can be worn alone in this instance, especially if you know you’re not going to be breaking a sweat on the slopes, but we do recommend wearing a thin, lightweight base layer to be on the safe side.

When skiing in mid-winter, it’s wise to put on something more substantial under your salopettes. This could be a heavier thermal base layer, or a highly insulating one comprising Merino wool. Fleece, despite offering ample warmth, should be avoided as its coarser texture rubbing against the interior of ski pants causes friction, which is detrimental to your freedom of movement. Opt for a base layer with a smooth, sleek finish.

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Think About the Climate

As with the rest of your ski gear, the style of salopettes you need is heavily dependent on the conditions you find yourself in. You’ll be looking for extreme cold protection plus defence against wind and moisture. Depending on where you are and how the weather is, you may want to opt for one ski trousers style over another.

Insulated or Uninsulated?

Ski trousers will generally be filled with polyester padding. This synthetic padding is a great feature as it balances breathability and warmth. The padding also dries quickly, making it a better choice than down for ski pants that will probably get wet from sitting on the snow and spray from the pistes.

Alternatively, you can pick up snow pants in our range that are designed without padding, and so are therefore uninsulated. These styles are meant to be paired with base layers underneath to meet the temperature at which you’ll feel comfortable at different points throughout your skiing session. This choice of design also better suits the higher flexibility of movement necessary for snowboarding.

Specifications

Look for both waterproof protection and high breathability in your salopettes. You need windproofing features too, which will stop sudden gusts from piercing through the trousers, as well as taped seams that prevent moisture from leaking into the stitches between panels.

High waterproof ratings are generally more important for your trousers, especially if you are snowboarding, as you’ll end up sitting on them regularly and resting on your knees. Snow will also be kicked up by your skis or board, potentially saturating your trousers if they are not protected.

Breathability is just as important for a long day out on the slopes, as there’s no point in having a complete waterproof kit if sweat will simply condense and leave you wet and feeling damp anyway. The breathability feature will allow water vapour to escape; this keeps you cool when you’re working up a sweat and also prevents discomfort.

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Composition and Common Features

Ski pants are made from synthetic materials, the top two most common being nylon and polyester. Both of these are lightweight and equally effective at providing waterproof, windproof and breathable properties, although nylon is also rip-resistant. The insulated lining is also commonly made of polyester, which as we’ve learnt, is ideal due to its quick-drying and durable aspects.

Inner Leg Zips

Inner leg zips open to allow air to circulate inside the trousers. They provide much-needed ventilation and also help to regulate the temperature inside the trousers. These openings are intended for when you begin to overheat and need a little respite from the stuffy warmth and resultant discomfort. While on colder days you may not need them, in mild weather when the sun is out you’ll be glad the inner leg zips are there.

Ankle Gaiters

Gaiters form a barrier that prevents snow from getting inside your trouser legs. This kit piece is a simple fabric guard which attaches to your leg, and it’s great at preventing the cold and dampness from ruining your trip, so they are well worth looking out for. They often pair with ankle zips for easier dressing. Most ski pants feature in-built snow gaiters, but you can also purchase a separate pair which could be used for other activities throughout the year, including hiking.

Shoulder Braces

Put simply, shoulder braces hold your ski pants up through their thick straps and are usually detachable if you prefer not to use them. Braces allow you to avoid a belt and get a more comfortable and flexible fit that won’t slip as your body flexes in different positions while skiing.

Pockets

Most ski or snowboard pants will feature several pockets to keep you well supplied and they will likely feature waterproof zips to ensure your valuables don’t get wet.

Articulated Knee Darts

Much of the physicality and impact of skiing or snowboarding is down to the movement of the knees and as a result, you need full mobility that is unhindered by tight clothing or inflexible materials. Articulated knee darts are a simple design addition to allow flexible, free movement that is not normally possible with a regular pair of trousers.

Kick Patches

Many pairs of salopettes will be fitted with kick patches at the ankles to protect the material from wear as a result of repeated impact. These reinforced sections can stand up to abrasion from your skis, boots and debris that gets kicked up.

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Differences Between Snowboarding Pants, Ski Pants, Ski Suits and Bibs

Hardshell Ski Pants

Ski pants, as mentioned previously, will generally be insulated against the cold and have a comfortable, roomy fit. You’ll find it easy to be out in the cold in these with their effective padding and insulation systems, and they are also designed to accommodate the necessary range of movement for skiing. Ski pants largely come in hardshell variations, with an impermeable membrane as an outer layer that keeps snow and moisture out. Ski pants can be used for snowboarding too and are the most common style of trousers you’ll see on the slopes, with limitless cut, shape and colour options available.

Uninsulated hardshell ski pants are, however, not recommended for skiing in extremely cold conditions or individuals who will be on the slopes for extensive periods of inactivity – that is, unless multiple base layers are worn.

Softshell Ski Pants

Softshell ski trousers are made from a lightweight, flexible material that provides more freedom of movement than classic hardshell styles. These pants are unpadded and designed without taped seams, but for mild conditions, they will offer a wide range of mobility, allowing you to perform unhindered.

Ski Bibs

Ski bibs are a step up from regular ski pants, featuring braces in the form of thick straps that go over the shoulders to secure the bottom trousers part in place. This ski gear item is called a bib due to the trousers having a very high waist and an extra stretch of fabric that reaches up to the stomach, to provide additional protection from incoming snow and debris. This allows the skier to experience a ‘ski suit’ feel without the constraints of being buckled into a one-piece.

Snow Pants

Snow pants are generally designed without padding, but instead with a three-layered fabric that consists of a tough outer, waterproof middle and insulated lining. They are designed to be worn in conjunction with an extra thermal base layer or two and won’t provide the same warmth on their own. What snow pants do offer is a baggier fit for an extra level of flexibility to keep you moving comfortably on your board.

Ski Suits

These kids’ styles feature either a one-piece suit or a two-piece jacket and trousers set. These will generally have insulated ski pants to help the kids stay warm in the mountainous cold. Several of our kids snow suit styles feature extended ski pants that reach up to the chest for extra warmth.

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Check out our other guides on putting together the perfect ski kit in
our ski advice section.