It's that time of year when skiers and boarders start to research ski resorts, are buying their flights to the slopes and dragging their winter ski pants out of storage to see whether they'll do another season.
If you've just gone through this process and found your ski pants are not going to last another week on the slopes, or you are a beginner skier and need to buy for the first time, read on for advice on the ins and outs of buying your winter ski pants.
Before you ask, yes you do need dedicated pants - don't dare try skiing in jeans!
Ski pants are designed to keep you warm and dry while allowing freedom of movement. You shouldn't be aware of your ski clothes when you ski Switzerland, but hurtling down the slopes they should still be working hard to protect you. A good fit is vital - if you buy online, make sure you can return the pants if they don't fit properly.
Unless you're skiing in relatively warm weather at the end of the season, you will usually wear your ski pants over a thermal base-layer, but some ski pants will have a base-layer equivalent incorporated into them.
Essentially, you need three layers - the base-layer next to the skin, an insulation layer and an outer layer that is waterproof and windproof. All ski pants will have the last two and a few will have the first too.
Two-layer pants are less bulky and can sometimes double as all-purpose pants for hiking and other outdoor sports. Three-layer pants are warmer and in really cold weather can be worn with an extra base-layer.
There are certain features that all good ski pants should have. These include:
- Pockets. It sounds obvious, but zipped pockets are really useful on the slopes for keeping money, goggles, sunglasses, camera and snacks in. You should have some pockets in your jacket, but extra pockets in your pants can be really useful.
- Ventilation. Despite the snow and cold, skiers often start to feel 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 - if they rub or fall down, you'll get uncomfortable pretty quickly out on the slopes. As ski pants are usually a long-term investment, an adjustable waist means that you can make sure they continue to fit even if your weight fluctuates slightly from one year to the next.
- Ankle slits and cuffs. Ski pants need to be able to fit over your bulky ski boots easily, but also to stop draughts and snow getting up your legs. They should be cuffed at the bottom, with an inner layer with elastic at the bottom to keep your legs warm and dry. They should also have slits at the side fastened with zips or poppers so that you can get them over your boots and then fasten them up.
On your first ski holidays to France and other European ski destinations you may have equipment as part of the deal. While its likely to be good enough for beginners, it will be basic.
As well as these essentials mentioned, there are a few optional extras that you might find useful when buying your own minter ski pants. First, some people prefer to wear sallopettes rather than standard pants.
These come up to around half-way up your back and have braces that keep them on. They are often good for beginners as they stop snow from getting into your clothes when falling. Ski pants sometimes also come with detachable braces, for a halfway-house option.
Some pants come up higher on the waist than others. Some skiers find higher pants restrictive, while others prefer the extra warmth and protection from the elements.
You may also want to look for pants with some padding, especially if you plan to try out some freestyle tricks and jumps! Most pants are not padded, but some have padding around the knees and buttocks.
Snowboard pants are more likely to have padding, so you could be better off looking at these than ski pants if you want some. There is little difference otherwise between ski and board pants. Board pants do often have hooks to fix them on to snowboard boots, but that doesn't prevent them from being used for skiing.
Finally, there is aesthetics. Choose a matching pair of pants and jacket, or go for clashing colours and patterns - there is fashion element to much modern skiwear, so you can have as much fun putting together your outfit for the slopes as for the après-ski bar.