Guide to buying salopettes: Essential features for ski and snowboard pants

Feb 19, 2020 BY AWE365 Team

Looking to buy a pair of ski trousers? Then check out this guide to buying salopettes. We look at the essential features for ski and snowboard pants to help you decide what to buy.

Best solo ski trips Including Christmas singles skiing holiday pixabay royalty free image

If you are looking to purchase salopettes for someone else I would not recommend it. Fit and style is very personal, and even the position of pockets can be important. Instead check out these gift ideas for skiers and snowboarders.

Salopettes vs Pants vs Trousers vs Bibs

‘Salopettes’ is the traditional name given to ski trousers. ‘Pants’ is of course the North American name for ‘trousers’. Therefore whether you call them salopettes, pants of trousers does not matter. It is all the same thing.

Salopettes used to come with braces and a higher waistline than normal trousers. These days this is not always the case and there are plenty of options. You can also get specific bib-pants that come up higher – some as far as dungarees.

Also it doesn’t really matter if you buy ski or snowboard pants. They are essentially the same thing and are also suited to everything from heli skiing to snowkiting. The main difference between ski and snowboard pants is the brand name and in some cases style.

Les Menuires snowboarding Guide to buying salopettes: Essential features for ski and snowboard pants

Traditionally snowboard pants are baggier and generally a bit lairy (bright and/or patterned). But these days some skiers prefer a baggier look and likewise ski brands are just as colourful as snowboard brands.

What really matters is you have dedicated ski/snowboard trousers. Skiing or snowboarding in jeans or joggers will lead to you getting cold, wet and uncomfortable. In bad conditions inappropriate clothing could threaten your life.

Guide to buying salopettes: Basics

Ski pants are designed to keep you warm and dry while allowing freedom of movement. A good fit is essential, too tight and you might find it difficult to get into the correct position to ski or snowboard.

It is best to go into a store to try salopettes on. However many of us don’t have a local ski store we can pop into. So if you are buying online check they offer free returns in case the fit is not right for you.

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Ideally salopettes should be so comfy that you are not aware of them when skiing or snowboarding. But while you are hurtling down the slopes they will be working hard to protect you from the elements.

Guide to buying salopettes: Warmth

Ski pants typically come in shell or insulated versions. Shell pants are just a waterproof layer. They are good in very warm weather, at the end of the season, or if doing something very active such as ski-touring or splitboarding.

The majority of people wear insulated ski trousers. Of the essential features for ski and snowboard pants warmth is one of the most important. Worn with the right layers insulated salopettes will keep you comfortable even in a howling wind at -25°C.

Beneath salopettes most people wear a baselayer, also known as thermals. This helps add some more warmth but also moves sweat away from your skin ensuring you stay dry to keep warm.

Guide to buying salopettes: Essential features for ski and snowboard pants - Flickr CC image by Roderick Eime of Victoria skiing holidays in Australia

If it is going to be warm then you can just wear underwear beneath your salopettes. Remember you will be active and sweaty so sports underwear is far better than cotton underpants which will get damp with sweat.

If you have shell pants or it is going to be very cold you might want to wear a midlayer. Personally I have worn an extra base layer a few times when colder than -25°C but no more than that. Just ensure what you wear is not made of a material that will hold moisture such as cotton.

Waterproofness of ski pants

A guide to buying salopettes would not be complete without talking about waterproofness. It is of course intrinsically linked with the warmth of your trousers. Without being waterproof you’re trousers will quickly get wet and no matter how good the insulation you will soon be cold.

Waterproofness is measured in mm using a hydrostatic head test. This is the size of a column of water that the material can hold back before liquid gets through.

Guide to buying salopettes: Essential features for ski and snowboard pants - Japan snowboarding Sapporo Kokusai Photo by Antti Hentinen

5,000mm is the bare minimum you should have for ski pants. Personally I always go for 20,000mm or more, but I stay out all day no matter what the conditions. 10,000 to 15,000mm will suit most people who do not ski all day in bad weather.

Gore Tex is regarded as the industry leader and has a waterproofness of around 30,000mm. Helly Tech Pro fabric by Helly Hansen is around 20,000mm waterproof, as are the materials used by many other brands.

Breathability of ski trousers

So why can’t ski trousers be 100% waterproof? Well there are plenty of materials out there that are, but unfortunately they don’t allow moisture to move the other way. And as we all know when active our bodies produce sweat.

This is where breathability comes in. Measured in g/m²/24h it is the amount of water vapour (sweat) that can pass from the inside the trousers to the outside per metre of fabric in 24 hours.

Review of Force Pants Stretchy insulated ski trousers by Helly Hansen come in 4 colours

Breathability is important, without it the inside of the trousers will quickly become damp with condensing sweat. This in turn makes you wet and before long you will be cold.

5,000g/m²/24h is the bare minimum you should look for. If you are quite an active skier or snowboarder then 10,000 to 15,000g/m²/24h will do. However if you ski-tour, hike for lines or are very active then 20,000g/m² or more is recommended.

Essential features for ski and snowboard pants

For this guide to buying salopettes there are a range of other features that good ski or snowboard pants should have. These include:

  • Pockets. It sounds obvious, but pockets are really useful on the slopes. Zippered pockets are great for keeping money, or your phone safe. Velcro cargo style pockets good for tissues, and snacks etc. You should have some pockets in your jacket, but extra pockets in your pants are very useful.

skiing vs snowboarding flickr image by Alexander Lindquist

  • Ventilation. Despite the snow and cold, skiers and snowboarders will get pretty warm after a few runs. Zipped vents in your pants can allow some air to circulate around your legs to help you stay cool.
  • Adjustable waistband. It is important that ski pants fit snugly but not tightly. Look for pants with an easily adjustable waistband (velcro or poppers are common), so you can make sure they fit perfectly – even after a big lunch! As ski pants are usually a long-term investment, an adjustable waist can ensure they fit even if your weight fluctuates from one year to the next.
  • Ankle slits and cuffs. Ski pants need to be able to fit over your bulky ski or snowboard boots easily, but also to stop snow getting up your legs. They should be cuffed at the bottom, with an inner elasticated layer to keep the elements out. Also trousers should have slits at the side fastened with zips, velcro or poppers to help you get them over your boots.

Buying salopettes: Conclusion

If you consider all of the above when making a purchase you should end up with a great pair of ski trousers. Of course whether they match the rest of your ski outfit is up to you!

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Style on the slopes is a very personal thing. Bright contrasting colours are often seen together in a way you don’t see in everyday life. That said there are still a lot of people wearing black, blue, green and grey. This actually makes them harder to spot especially if it is busy.

To conclude this guide to buying salopettes I would suggest getting the highest waterproofness and breathability for our budget. This is because the performance of any ski clothing deteriorates over time so if you start higher even when they get old you’ll stay dry for longer.

If the performance of your gear does start to let you down then check out the Storm cleaning and re-waterproofing products. Not only will they safely wash your gear, but they can make them as waterproof and breathable as when they were new.

We hope you found this guide to buying salopettes useful. If there are any essential features for ski and snowboard pants you think we have missed let us know in the comments. Also check out our skiing holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.


Heli Ski / Board, Skiing, Snowboarding, Snowkiting
Leggings), Legwear (Trousers, Pants, Shorts, Waterproof

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