Difference Between Ski and Snowboard Pants

man in ski pants

Can you ski in snowboard pants?

Can you wear ski pants for snowboarding and still have a good time?

Is there any difference at all between these snow sport pants that makes an impact?

Let’s find out right now.

Skiing and snowboarding share a lot in common at first blush – but dig beneath the surface a little bit and you’ll see some pretty stark differences.

We’re not just talking about the difference between skis and snowboards, either.

The clothing that skiers and snowboarders wear when they are doing runs down the slopes are usually pretty different. The jackets skiers and snowboarders wear usually have more in common than anything else, but the pants they wear are (almost always) radically different in a handful of ways.

Below we highlight the major differences between snowboard and ski pants. This will help you find the right pair of pants for the winter sport that you enjoy to make the most of your time out of the slopes.

Shall we jump right to it?

Highlighting the Major Difference Between Ski and Snowboard Pants

Is there a difference between ski pants and snowboard pants, really?

You bet there is.

Sure, both styles of pants are designed to keep you warm in winter weather. And they both aim to keep you nice and dry and comfortable whether you’re sitting on the chairlift or making a run down a black diamond slope.

Both ski and snowboard pants usually use pretty bright and flashy colors, too.

Some of this has to do with the style and aesthetics winter sports have always had a but a lot of it has to do with safety. After all, you don’t want to be wearing a lot of white in a crash a while snowboarding or skiing.

Aside from those commonalities, though, ski pants and snowboard pants are really radically different.

Here’s how.

Fit

When comparing snowboard vs ski pants you’ll notice that the fit of these pants is very different.

Ski pants are almost always a lot tighter and more formfitting. They aren’t necessarily “skinny jeans for winter sports” – but they are pretty close.

Most traditional ski pants are designed to hug up against your body in a way that minimizes wind resistance while skiing but sort of limits your mobility. They usually feel a little stiff even when broken in, too.

Snowboard pants, on the other hand, are designed to be a lot looser fitting – though you won’t necessarily be swimming in fabric and material.

Some of this has to do with the more casual approach to snowboarding in the early days, but a lot of it has to do with the freedom and flexibility snowboarders need when making a run. You’re going to be twisting and contorting your body all over the place. You’ll need a little room and a little give to pull that off.

Snowboarding pants are so comfortable in fact that a lot of skiers are making the switch, just to get something a little roomier.

Padding

A lot of top-quality skiing pants also include heavy duty material (sometimes ripstop material) on the inside lower half of the legs. This is designed to prevent your pants from getting caught on the edges of skis, something that happens all the time if your pants aren’t built to resist this kind of incident.

Snowboarders are bound to their boards in a way that makes this kind of protection unnecessary. You’re not going to find reinforced material on the inside lower section of your legs, but usually find a bit of extra padding on the hips and on the butt sections of snowboard pants.

Snowboard style pants usually also have a bit of extra cushioning on the knee section that you won’t find in skiing pants.

Important Things to Consider Before Buying Snow Sport Clothing

Woman in ski pants

Even though there’s certainly more than one difference between ski and snowboard pants (as highlighted above) there are a couple of things you want to look for in both these types of pants to land a pair that you will be happy with.

Let’s cover those basics right now!

Waterproofing

Right out of the gate you need to be sure that your new snow sport pants are as close to completely waterproof as possible.

Up until maybe 30 years ago it was easy to find really warm and really comfortable snowboarding and skiing pants that really lacked quality waterproofing. But that’s changed dramatically with the invention of new technical materials, including a run of synthetics that offer some of the best waterproofing properties possible without adding a lot of weight or a lot of stiffness to clothing.

Materials like Gore-Tex, for example, will keep you dry in any snowstorm. In fact, Gore-Tex will keep you dry if you wore pants made from the material in the shower!

At the same time, there’s always going to be a little bit of a trade-off between waterproofing and comfort (not to mention price). Always invest in the best waterproofing you can without slipping into a scuba suit every time you want to do a bit of skiing or some snowboarding.

Wind Resistance

Wind resistance is another big piece of the puzzle you’ll want to get right when buying snow sport pants.

A lot of people zero in on the insulating properties of snow sport clothing (and for good reason). Folks want to stay warm when they are out in the elements, especially when you are barreling down a mountain slope at top speeds.

But if your new snow sport clothing doesn’t have a lot of wind protection all that cold air is going to rip right through your insulation and chill you to the bone. Some of this can be avoided by layering, but nothing beats having an outer layer (like your pants) that features wind resistance materials or special coatings to keep out cold air altogether.

Warmth and Insulation

Some of the best snow sport pants out there feature variable insulation system built around an “outer shell” that’s really nothing more than wind and water resistant material that you layer with other clothing underneath.

Other pants, though, feature built-in layers of insulation. Some of these choices are lightweight and comfortable others are stiff and way too warm, and others still offer plenty of warmth without a lot of padding or protection.

The odds are good you won’t spend a lot of time on the slopes if you’re teeth are chattering, though.

If all you’re thinking about on the chairlift is getting back down to the lodge and warming up your day on the slopes is going to be a long one. Invest in quality snow sport pants with plenty of lightweight insulation and you’ll be good to go.

Ventilation

All that heat trapped inside well insulated, wind resistance, and weatherproof material can cause your body to sweat in a hurry – especially when you are really getting after it on the slopes.

Breathable technical fabrics have been a game changer in the world of snow sport clothing. Look for materials that offer plenty of ventilation (including zippered or Velcro ventilation “hatches”). You won’t have to worry about burning up when you are going down a couple of runs but freezing to death because of the sweat cooling you down when you jump on the chairlift.

Full Coverage

Snow sport pants for skiers are usually made to fit a little tighter as we highlighted above, and that usually means they are going to offer a little bit better coverage of your lower body compared to snowboard pants.

At the same time, you can definitely find snowboard pants that offer plenty of coverage and sometimes even adjustable or elastic components around the feet and waste of the pants to tighten things down.

Cold air won’t be able to creep in with that kind of approach and you won’t have to worry about wiping out and snow filling your pants, either.

It’s definitely something to consider, that’s for sure!

Overall Fit and Fashion

Finally, you’ll want to consider the overall fit, finish, and fashion the pants that you choose for your favorite snow sports.

Today it’s a whole lot easier to find amazing skiing and snowboarding pants than ever before, especially in crazy styles, colors, and fabrics. You won’t have to spend a small fortune snow sport pants any longer, either (though more premium and “boutique” options can definitely stretch your budget).

When you get right down to it finding quality snow sport pants that look and feel great shouldn’t be that tall a task.

Use the inside information we highlighted above to zero in on quality choices and you’ll be good to go. You’ll know within seconds after sliding into your new snow sport pants that they were worth every penny or should probably be brought back in exchange for something else.

To wrap things up, there are definitely some differences between snowboard pants and ski pants. The differences are pretty stark and not at all inconsequential. Sure, you’ll still be able to make runs down the mountain on skis while wearing snowboarding pants (or vice versa) but getting the right pair specifically designed for that sport will make a world of difference.


Harry Sowers

Harry has been skiing and snowboarding since he was a boy growing up outside of Denver Colorado. He is most passionate about skiing and when he was in college a UC Boulder he even participated in the olympic trials for the USA Olympic Downhill Ski team.