Skiers have an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to what we wear. Making the right choice matters; we want it to look good, it needs to fit, and, most importantly, it has to work.
At Thread the Needle, the foundational event for this Apparel Guide, the 16 skiers from across the country--who make up the Powder Order of Sartorial Splendor and Excellence (POSSE)--spent a combined 300-plus hours reviewing more than 100 jackets and pants at Solitude Mountain, Utah, to sift through the year's newest products. These 10 men’s pants received top ratings and the Skier’s Choice badge.
(Click on a pant or bib to skip down to review):
686 Men’s Satelite Bib
Arc’teryx Men’s Sabre Pant
Burton Men’s AK Tusk 3L Hi-top Pant
Helly Hansen Men’s Ridge Shell 2.0 Pant
Marmot Men’s BL Pro Pant
Outdoor Research Men’s Hemispheres Bib
Patagonia Men’s Powderbowl Pant
Quiksilver Men’s Altostratus Bib
Scott Men’s Vertic GTX 3L Pant
The North Face Men’s Ceptor Bib
The Satellite Bib from 686 provide a blend of snowboard-inspired style with a utilitarian, technical approach for your day on the hill. The baggy fit has a true bib cut that runs high to the chest, with mesh-lined hip and inner leg vents to dump heat. It also has plenty of pockets to stash pocket bacon, tools, and beyond.
"They’re a solid all-around pant. I would love to rip resort, coach, and tour in these," said Utah-based ski coach Tommy Flitton.
The stretch infiDRY® 20k waterproof fabric keeps you dry from the elements yet is breathable for when the sun begins heating things up, or you need to hike for some fresh snow. It also can snap into 686 jackets to create an airtight seal from the cold and wind. Notable attributes are the Boa® Compatible Boot System in the gaiter and an articulated fit that functioned well while riding around the hill.
Arc'teryx's attention to detail in fit and fabric goes without saying, so naturally it received comments such as, "well made (of course)," from veteran POSSE member Brit Barnes. The Sabre pant utilizes a Gore-Tex 3L fabric and micro seams to reduce bulk and weight, along with a lofted and softshell construction to provide a durable freeride design with a look and fit that is at home in the backcountry.
The brushed liner has light insulation with a soft flannel like feel, and the pant is equipped with long side vents that run from the thigh to the waist--allowing temperature regulation while touring. It also has two very large pockets on the front and the ability to snap into compatible jackets--barricading you from the elements, via their Slide ‘n Loc™ snap system.
The Sabre pant gained high marks for its lightweight, non-restrictive fit, and blacked out color option. "It was baggy and techy in the right ways, it's an area/touring one utility piece," said one POSSE member. One drawback was the venting goes towards your rear-end, so keep that in mind if you have ratty draws or ski commando.
Made with a stretchy woven upper panel for maximum breathability, a relaxed fit, and Kevlar-blended cut-resistant kick panels, the AK Tusk Hi-Top Pant (actually a bib) is a top-shelf shell for storm days. With three-layer Gore-Tex in a solution-dyed 70-denier pro shell plain weave, the Tusk is waterproof, breathable, and durable. "Nice feel, nice fabric, easily adjustable, and well vented," summed up Erme Catino. "Fit is amazing." Burton is also known for having a wide range of sizes to accomodate more people.
Utilizing the same Helly Tech Pro 3L fabric as the Ridge Shell jacket, the pant offers the same breathability, dryness, and comfort in a stretch 20K polyester shell. Similar to its fully seamed sealed counterpart, the pant has freeride-focused features such as being able to integrate the jacket and pant via buttons and is equipped with the RECCO advanced rescue system. It has two large hip pockets and a zipped inner thigh pocket with avalanche beacon loop, as well as thigh vents to keep cool.
The soft and less bulky feel was appreciated by members of the POSSE. However, the fit can run a bit large in the waist. Even with the Velcro adjustments, you may need a belt to keep your pants up.
Matching the color schemes of the Marmot BL Pro Jacket--reminiscent of Doug Coombs and his Valdez Heli Guide outfits--the BL Pro Pant is Marmot's full bib that utilizes Gore-Tex Pro material. The three-layer construction is both waterproof and breathable with taped seams to shutter out the coldest and wettest weather, and its ability to adapt to changing weather make it a workhouse for those who spend long days in the mountains.
POSSE member Dane Weister appreciated the two-way inner and outer thigh vents, as well as the durable material and beacon pocket. "Excellent for touring," he said. And with the ability to swap from pant to bibs, along with the breathability of Gore-Tex Pro, the BL Pro can adjust from shredding lines around the resort to logging miles in the backcountry.
Editor's note: The Hemispheres Jacket and Hemispheres Bib, for both men and women, scored highest across the board for their superior technical performance and comfortable fit, earning the nod for our first-ever Apparel of the Year.
The Hemispheres kit features a new material, called Gore-Tex Fabric with Stretch Technology, in strategic locations. The black material is a rippling, supple fabric you’d expect to see in a yoga studio that stretches smooth with little effort. Unlike the first pair of sensuous stretch pants introduced to the world by Willy Bogner in 1952, the stretch Gore-Tex in the Hemispheres Bib is found around the lower back, at the waist, and in the crotch. On the jacket, a narrow stretch panel spans from under the arms, across the back and shoulders, and extends around the middle of the hood.
Combined, this kit offered the POSSE an increased range of motion through hikes up Honeycomb Ridge, 3 o’clock bump-offs, and midnight ski tours, without sacrificing the durable waterproofing and breathability Gore-Tex is known for.
“It passed the spread eagle test,” said Caitlin Kelly, one of the four women ranging from 5-foot-6 to 6 feet tall who fit comfortably in a medium bib. “It’s flattering and very flexible and easy to move in. This is great material–I feel like they’re barely there when I’m skiing.”
The jacket’s pocket placement–designed to accommodate a harness or pack belt–had universal appeal, as did the helmet-compatible hood with a wire brim halo to keep the field of vision open when storm skiing. On warmer days, skiers can dump heat through the jacket’s unique venting zips that run vertically from the drawcord hem to the pits (something that took a few skiers a bit to get used to).
Outer thigh vents on the bibs, which Utah photographer John Howland called his favorite piece of the week, also help to regulate body temps when touring. The women on the POSSE were ecstatic over the bib’s extra long side zip combined with stretch paneling that made going to the bathroom the easiest we’ve ever had it.
The four-way stretch in both the jacket and bib allow for even more temperature control, thanks to comfortable layering under a tailored fit. Details like reinforced cuff guards, a beacon pocket, and a minimal weight–just over a pound each for the jacket and bib–make the Hemispheres kit fully equipped for skiing all terrain in any weather.
Though the Powder Bowl has been a Patagonia staple, it gets a significant upgrade for 2019 with a new fabric and style. Illustrating Patagonia's commitment to be socially and environmentally conscious, the pant (and jacket) is now made from 100 percent recycled Gore-Tex face fabric, and still provides all the weather protection and durability one needs out on the hill. Given the soft, quiet texture of the pant, you'd never know that it was made out of plastic bottles. "Typical recycled materials feel brittle and sound crunchy, so this is a big deal," says Reno-based skier Julie Brown. "Patagonia played with the denier to make this happen and the synthetic insulation is just enough to make these pants feel like a cloud."
The new Altostratus Bib is as comfortable as it is stylish. Simply unzip the taped-seam outer thigh zip for ventilation on warm days, and enjoy the comforts of an adjustable bib and reinforced cuffs on the way down. While these bibs are most at home inbounds, the two-layer shell includes a transceiver-specific pocket on the chest of the bib, and a jacket-to-pant attachment system for deep days. Intended for resort shredding, the Altostratus is a lightweight choice for those looking for a stylish bib that can excel in multiple mountain environments.
The Vertic GTX 3L pant is Scott's most technical pant. It fully integrates with Scott's Vertic GTX 3L Jacket and has a detachable bib, featuring stretch material along the upper portion, for when conditions don't warrant the protection. Constructed with Gore-Tex 3L, it’s a fully taped seam pant with thigh vents. It also has been upgraded along the bottom hem to better accommodate wearing crampons with ski boots.
POSSE Member Dan Weister griped about the lack of venting along the inner thigh, but enjoyed the Velcro waist adjustment and protective cuff--which is made of Cordura, a burly fabric used in heavy duty backpacks. Along the women's side, Hannah Barkey said the 3L plants are "surprisingly flexible and flattering with the half-bib with removable suspenders." Both noted the fit was pretty standard, with vents that could run a little longer, but would be great for everyday resort skiing.
Looking for a stylish, affordable, and versatile bib? The North Face nailed the fit and function with the three-layer Ceptor Bib, which features large thigh cargo pockets and a breathable soft-shell fabric above the waist. Although baggier, the Ceptor can be cinched at the waist by an integrated belt. The POSSE also noted the adjustable bib straps fit well due to a higher chest rise. While some skiers wished for more ventilation beyond the interior thigh vents, the reinforced knee feature, large hip pockets, and comfort carried the day.