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7 Different Types of Ski Pants

Many people in the snow wearing ski pants

Skiing is one of the most exciting winter sports and it’s always fascinating during the Olympics. Skiers who race each other shoot down hillsides, knifing down the slopes at positively shocking speeds. Cross-country skiers glide across great distances, working their way around obstacles and using the terrain like experts.

It’s all thrilling…but it’s really only possible because of ski pants. Different types of ski pants give you different types of performance when you’re hitting the slopes.

Choose the right pants based on the fit and features you want, the type of skiing you’re going to do and where you’re going to be doing your skiing. When you know how different types of these pants differ, you’ll know how to choose the right ski pants for all the ways you plan to hit the slopes.

History of Skiing

Who even came up with the idea to stand on two very long, thin pieces of wood, to actually strap your feet to these things and then use them to go whipping down a snow-covered mountain at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour? Who the heck even thought of doing anything like that?

No one can truly answer that question because skiing is actually very, very old. In fact, skiing is positively ancient. Rock paintings and remnants of ancient skis suggest that skiing was first invented sometime between 8,000 to 6,000 B.C.E.

To put that into perspective, skiing was invented before the wheel was invented. Before the pyramids were built in Egypt, people were skiing on the snow.

The Military on Skis

Ancient Vikings even had a god and goddess of skiing. They were Ullr and Skade, respectively. In 1206 C.E., two Norweigan military skiers safely carried an infant Haakon Haakonson, the son and heir of the King of Norway, over the Dovre mountains.

The story of the two men carrying the prince while skiing through the mountain has become legendary in Norway and remains of the most epic takes of backcountry skiing in all history. Since 1932, Norway has celebrated the story with the Birkebeiner Race, which is said to follow the route of the two men and their princely cargo.

By the late 1600s, references to skiing started to appear in published stories and books. In 1716, the Great Northern War broke out between Russia, Norway and Sweden. The war was primarily waged with the soldiers on skis!

Skiing for Fun

People walking up the slopes in ski pants

In the 1700s, skiing was already established as a means of military transportation, so much so that it was truly legendary. Skiing competitions among soldiers became popular with militaries, establishing the idea of skiing as a competitive sport. But during this century, people began to look at skiing in a new way. In Telemark, Norway, people started to ski simply for fun.

This is literally where the Telemark turn was invented, along with the Christie and, of course, several other skiing maneuvers that serve as a means of controlling turns and speed while skiing. As a result, the style and shape of skis themselves began to change and become more streamlined and more modern.

Newer ski designs of the 1800s were lightweight and designed to glide easily over snow while still providing shock absorption. The first known and documented use of these recreational skis in the U.S. happened in 1841 in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Now, skiing was something that many people could enjoy, even those who weren’t involved with the military. Skiing competitions for civilization began to appear around the world, including Calorifna. Here, competitive skiing races were held in the 1860s.

And clearly, all of this history means one thing: there’s a pretty big need for ski pants. The earliest versions of ski pants were likely crude leather and fur wraps that were lashed and knotted into place around the legs. Later versions of ski pants were wool, a naturally warm material that stands up well to moisture.

These ski pants were made in thick layers, along with cotton lining that came later in the evolution of ski pants.

Types of Ski Pants to Wear

Today, there are many different types of ski pants to choose from and many different features to consider when you’re looking for the right pants to wear.

Do you know which ski pants to choose, which features you need and how to find the right pants for the type of skiing you’re going to do and where you’re going to do it? There are lots of things to think about when you’re choosing ski pants. Knowing more about the different types of these pants will make it much easier.

3 In 1

BenBoy Women's Outdoor Waterproof Windproof Fleece Slim Cargo Snow Ski Hiking Pants,AN-SF1602W-Black-M

The unique design of 3-in-1 ski pants give you options for how you want to wear your pants. The top layer is a waterproof shell. An insulating layer that is snapped or zipped to the outer shell follows.

You can wear the insulating layer or the outer shell separately if you wish. The top shell of these ski pants can be worn simply for the sake of fashion if you like the way they look or you’d rather spend your money on ski clothes than clothes to walk around in. You can also lounge in the warm, insulating layer the way you might lounge in a pair of sweatpants.


Arctix Women's Essential Insulated Bib Overalls, Black, Small

Bib ski pants have a front flap that extends up the chest and secures to the body via shoulder straps. It’s an overall-like design that gives you extra coverage for a little extra warmth. Bib ski pants can restrict movement because of this design, which is why some skiers prefer waist-high styles instead.


Helly-Hansen Mens Alpha Lifaloft™ Insulated Waterproof Ski Pant, 990 Black, XX-Large

By far the most common type of ski pants, insulated ski pants are designed to keep you warm. Typically, these pants are made with a lightweight outer shell to provide waterproofing protection and an inner insulating layer.

Insulation weight determines how warm your pants are. The higher the insulation weight, the warmer your pants are going to be.


BALEAF Women's Hiking Pants Waterproof Fleece Lined Cold Weather Insulated Ski Snow Pant Warm Winter Soft Shell Deep Blue M

Shell ski pants are very lightweight and highly breathable while still being both wind- and waterproof. However, they have no insulation. This lightweight design is very flexible and easy to wear. But because there is no insulation, this is not a very warm design.

You’ll have to wear these pants with a thick base layer to be sure you’re getting enough warmth to protect yourself from the cold and snow.


Arctic Quest Ladies Shoftshell Ski Pant, Dk Grey Space Dye, XS -

Made with a soft and stretchy fabric, softshell ski pants are known for being comfortable and breathable. These pants are somewhat light and flexible because they don’t have a lot in the way of insulation. If you’re skiing in a warmer climate, softshell ski pants are a great choice.


Obermeyer Clio Softshell Pants Black 4 R

Stretch ski pants are form-fitting and body-hugging. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for insulation but these pants do have a lining to help prevent loss of body heat. These are not the warmest ski pants but they are highly flattering.


FREE SOLDIER Men's Outdoor Softshell Fleece Lined Cargo Pants Snow Ski Hiking Pants with Belt (Black 34W/30L)

Backcountry skiing has become more popular and that means pants made for this activity are more necessary than ever. Touring ski pants are made for this type of skiing. They are lightweight, ventilated and they don’t have insulation.

This keeps them lightweight and comfortable when you’re in warmer climates. You can wear thicker layers under the pants for those times when you need more warmth. The versatility of touring ski pants has made this a very popular type.

Ski Pants Features

Action shot skiing in ski pants

Ski pants are made in many different styles but all ski pants have the same features that can vary, too. Insulated ski pants, for example, are available in a wide range of insulation types. Get to know the features of ski pants and you’ll get to know a lot more about choosing the right ski pants for you.


Most ski plants have some degree of waterproofing for obvious reasons. If you’re going to be in the snow, you’re going to need some protection from moisture. Waterproof clothing has a rating that falls between 5,000 and 20,000mm, which might be styled as 5k up to 20k. The higher the number rating, the more waterproof a garment is.

But do you always need the highest waterproof rating? People who spend a lot of time around snow can tell you there are many different types of snow. In Washington, for example, the snow is very wet.

Snow is constantly melting there even as more snow falls, so you want clothing that’s more waterproof when you’re here. Colorado snow, by contrast, is quite dry and powdery. You don’t need a ton of waterproofing when you’re hitting the slopes here.

Learn about the types of snow you’re going to encounter and you’ll know more about the types of ski pants you need to wear. There’s lots of information about snow conditions online for skiers. You can look for the type of snow you want and travel there to ski, if you like.


Ski pants are made with three different types of fit. The style you choose depends entirely on how you want to look and feel. You might try all the different fits to see which suits you best or you might find that sometimes, some fit styles are easier to wear for certain activities than others.


Spyder Women's Winner Athletic Fit Ski Pant, Red, 16-Regular

Regular fit ski pants are meant to have a slightly baggy fit throughout. They can be worn by all body types and they’re comfortable and slightly roomy. The looser fit allows for a full range of motion and they can work with any type of skiing. Regular fit ski pants are a great general type of ski pants.

If you’re going to start with ski pants, you might want to start here because this design can be worn with all sorts of different types of skiing and they work with all different bodies. Also, they feel good. You can also find regular fit ski pants everywhere that ski gear and equipment is sold, as this is the most common type of ski pants.


TSLA Men's Winter Snow Pants, Waterproof Insulated Ski Pants, Ripstop Windproof Snowboard Bottoms, Snow Cargo Charcoal Blue, Medium

Made to be comfortable and loose, relaxed fit ski pants feel good and they’re available in a staggering range of colors. However, these pants are not the most flattering option and some people find that these ski pants just do not look good on their bodies at all. The fit is comfortable and you can move very freely in this style of ski pants, however.


Arctic Quest Ladies Softshell Skinny Leg Snow Ski Pant, Slim Fit Water-Resistant Pants for Women, Vanilla, Large -

Slim fit ski pants fit close to the body and have a streamlined design. The close fit still allows you to move freely in your ski pants. They’re made to be highly flexible and stretchy so you can move naturally. The slim fit design is highly flattering and comfortable to wear but these pants do not have a lot of insulation.

You may need to wear a thicker base layer with these pants, which means you might need to buy slim fit ski pants in a size bigger than the size you would wear in regular pants.

Wearing Different Types of Ski Pants

Skiing down a mountain ski pants

When you know how to choose the right types of ski pants, the right fit and the right features based on the skiing you want to do, how you want to feel and where you’re going to be skiing, you’ll know how to find the pants you need. Stock up on different ski pants so you’re ready for all sorts of winter fun and activities.


There are a lot of options when you think about the different types of ski pants you can wear and you might still have a lot of questions. Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions about ski pants and get to know everything you need to make the right choices when it comes to the pants you wear.

Can ski pants be washed?

Many types of ski pants are made with machine-washable or hand-washable materials. Because after all, your ski pants are going to get dirty if you’re out there in the snow going up and down mountains. To find out how to clean your ski pants, check the care label.

This should provide detailed instructions for how to best wash your pants, whether by machine or by hand.

In most cases, you will wash your ski pants inside-out in cold water using mild detergent and a gentle wash cycle. Heat can damage the fabric, the insulation or even the lining of the ski pants, causing materials to shrink or melt.

Ski pants can be washed but they shouldn’t be machine dried. Let ski pants air dry inside out and then turn them the right way to dry the outside, too.

How do you wear ski pants with boots and other ski gear? What do you wear under ski pants?

Skiing in the snow by trees wearing ski pants

Ski pants aren’t meant to be worn alone, even with lining and insulation. Ski pants are always meant to be worn with a base layer. This is a layer worn right against the skin that has a snug or slim fit.

Your base layer’s thickness and insulating properties depend on the type of ski pants you wear. If you’re wearing ski pants with less insulation, choose a base layer that’s warmer and more protective against the cold weather. Ski pants with more insulation can be worn with a thinner base layer.

You should also wear your ski pants tucked into your boots. This helps seal out the cold, protecting your legs from stray cold gusts of air, snow and ice. Wear a base layer on your torso, along with a shirt or even a couple of shirts.

The base layer and at least one shirt should be tucked into your snow pants. Again, this forms a protective seal around your body. Leave no gaps and no openings. Wear a ski jacket on top of this, along with ski gloves, goggles, a hat and anything else you might need to stay warm.

How long do ski pants last?

Ski pants are made to be tough because you’re wearing them out in harsh conditions. The material is durable, tear-resistant, waterproof and made to last. So…shouldn’t your ski pants last a long time, too?

There’s no set time limit for ski pants, no certain date they will wear out. Most ski pants are highly durable. If you wear them every day for about a year, you’ll definitely need a new pair. Otherwise, ski pants could last you a few winter seasons, depending on how much use they get.


Backcountry – How to Choose Ski or Snowboard Pants

Encyclopedia Brittanica – skiing

Free the Powder – History of Skiing

Outdoor Gear Lab – How to Choose Ski Pants for Men

Ski Profiles – How to Choose Ski Pants: The Key Specs

Skis – Ski Pant Buying Guide

TripSavvy – What Is the Average Speed of a Downhill Skier?

WikiHow – How to Wash Ski Pants