Ski Pants Vs. Snowboard Pants (What’s the Difference?)


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When you’re skiing or snowboarding on the mountain, your pants are doing all the work to keep up. They have a million different panels that let water escape while also keeping warmth in so it’s not too cold for miles around.

Wearing the right pants is essential for a successful day on slopes. With so many options, it can be difficult to know what’s best suited just from looking at their descriptions alone.

But don’t worry! We’ve got all your back with this comprehensive guide that’ll teach you the difference between ski pants vs. snowboard pants, narrow down the field and find exactly which pair is right for your needs!

Without further ado, let’s get started.

What is Ski & Snowboard Pants?

Both skiing and snowboarding pants are designed to protect your legs from the cold weather while out on the white. Aside from warmth, you can also expect comfort and a moisture-wicking design that stops the material from absorbing water. In order to stay warm, comfortable, and dry on the slopes, it’s important that you wear a pair of ski or pants snowboard rather than regular trousers or jeans. 

Are Ski or Snowboard Pants Waterproof? 

It is common for both ski and snowboard pants to have waterproofing. Waterproof ratings go from 5,000 to 20,000 mm. The higher the number on the waterproofing rating, the more water-resistant it gets.

Some brands use specific materials known for being water repellant. Gore-Tex is known for this. And lastly, seam taping plays a role in keeping water away from the person’s skin. This makes sure that the material pants stay closed and snow and wind don’t get inside the pants.

When it comes to deciding the waterproof rating for your ski or snowboard pants, you will have to do a bit of research on where you plan to go.

If you’re going to ski in places like Oregon and Washington that are known for being very wet and warm, then you need something that has a high waterproof rating. On the other hand, places like Utah or Colorado can allow you to have pants that have a lower waterproof rating.

Ski Pants vs. Snowboard Pants, What’s the Similarity?

Both Ski and Snowboard pants come in much more technical materials than regular jeans do. These allow them to wick away moisture, so all that’s left is water and warmth, not sweatiness and uncomfortable damp feeling! 

Another similarity between ski and snowboard pants and jeans is that they both use seams at different points of each panel to give shape to their design while still allowing maximum flexibility during your day on the mountain.

Ski Pants vs. Snowboard Pants, What’s the Difference?

There are three main differences between ski pants and snowboard pants, including fit, padding, and pockets.


Ski pants are typically tighter fitting to cut down on wind resistance, while snowboard pants are slightly looser with a more relaxed fit. For advanced snowboarders, it’s common to see them jump, squat, and do different types of movements that will not be easy to do when you wear ski pants.

As for skiing, the shape usually looks more streamlined than the ones you see on snowboarding pants, although there are always exceptions! The slimmer fit is meant for aerodynamics. This allows the user to go faster too. Plus, the tight-fitting design also helps in keeping the heat close to the body.

Then, there are also some ski pants that feature a reinforced material by the ankle. This is something that you don’t get to see with snowboarding pants. The function of this design is to prevent the ski from cutting into it.


Padding is present on snowboard pants. Different pants will have different amounts of padding. However, you’ll notice that the amounts of padding are found by the knees and the hip area. These are places where you will most likely land when you are doing snowboarding.

On the other hand, there is usually no padding on ski pants. However, I prefer having padded shorts underneath my ski pants. If you’ve suffered from tailbone injuries, you’ll appreciate why having padded shorts is a must.


Ski pants also have pockets located lower on the leg, not only for storage but to allow you to sit down without things falling out of your pockets! 

What features should I look for when buying Ski or snowboard pants?

Whether you’re buying ski pants or snowboard pants, don’t be surprised if there are a lot of options in the market today. Some may even look the same. However, it is important to scrutinize the features. I personally check four basic features before I buy my ski or snowboarding pants.

Let’s get some of those basics in detail.


Waterproofing is an important consideration whenever you’re planning to buy ski or snowboard pants. We’ve mentioned earlier that the waterproof rating goes from 5,000 to 20,000 mm. As a rule of thumb, since I started doing snow sports, I only go for pants that have at least a 10,000 mm waterproof rating. Also, you’ll notice that the higher the rating, the more expensive it gets.

A lot of newbies tend to look for the GORE-TEX brand on the pants that they buy. Though it’s a good brand that provides waterproof membranes to clothing and footwear, the rating is a more accurate indicator of how the pants can tolerate wet conditions. Unfortunately, some brands don’t list the waterproof rating. If this is the case, then you will also have to do a bit of research.

Aside from the material, we also mentioned that having fully taped seams are equally important. This keeps water off. Next, you also have to check the material used on the pants. Those ski and snowboard pants that have softshell material often tend to underperform during wet weather conditions. Though these materials stretch and are comfortable to wear, they don’t perform as well as the “hardshell” pants.

Aside from the waterproof rating, seams, and the material used on the pants, you have to do a lot of research where you plan to go. Some places will require a higher waterproof rating than others.


Breathability is another important factor that you want to consider if you plan on getting ski and snowboarding pants. A lot of times, people don’t look for breathable pants. This might work if you are not going out and about for hours. But then, I experienced ski touring only to realize that breathability does matter. If you don’t have breathable pants, you might end up soaking from your own sweat.

Just like waterproofing, there is also a rating system for breathability. Breathability ratings from 5,000 to 8,000 can get the job done if you’re going to take breaks every now and then. On the other hand, if you plan on being active, then stick to something around the 10,000 to 15,000 range.

So what’s the downside when you don’t go for something breathable? I experienced getting sweaty underneath my clothing when skiing and it wasn’t exactly fun. It led to heat loss and made me feel cold.

Built-in Gaiters

Both ski and snowboarding pants need to have gaiters. I initially thought that it was just some design. But when I first tried skiing, I realized that it is effective in keeping snow off the boots and the legs.

And when I bought different pants over the years, I’ve also noticed that there are different designs. Some have hooks that connect the laces or buckles, while others have the hook-and-loop openings on the side. But so far, I prefer having the zippered cuffs. It’s easier to use compared to other types of gaiters.

However, regardless of the type of gaiter that you see on the pants, you should wear your boots first before sealing the gaiters. Also, don’t tuck in the pants inside the boots. It’s a rookie mistake that will make the gaiters useless.


I prefer skiing with a backpack. However, whenever I’m buying my ski pants, I always make it a point to check the number of pockets. It’s a practical consideration, especially when you will explore the ski resort. Aside from the number of pockets, I also tend to check how deep the pockets are. I like cargo pants the most because I get to bring snacks like a protein bar or a bag of granola with me.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of snowboarding and ski pants in the market these days. It’s a good idea to first identify the differences between the two. Even if both skiing and snowboarding are snow sports, these activities require different movements. Consequently, it also means that snowboarding and skiing pants are different in terms of overall designs. Next, you need to also know the features that can make a huge difference in your activity. Consider all the things that we’ve mentioned, and you will get the best skiing or snowboarding experience. 

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Matt Scofield
Matt Scofield

Hi! I’m Matt, an adventure freak who lives and breathes the great outdoors. Spending time under the open sky always appealed to me, even as a kid. Perhaps that’s why I liked camping with my dad so much. The days spent hiking and the nights around the campfire are times I’ll cherish forever.

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