Don’t be “that guy” on the mountain wearing blue jeans in a blizzard. You look like a joke and you will no doubt be cold and wet after just a couple runs. So do yourself a favor and get some decent snow pants.
Your legs are more resilient to the cold than the core of your body, so typically you don’t need snow pants with insulation to be comfortable. However, if you’re a total wimp when it comes to cold, or if you are constantly in sub-zero temps, you can find some models that are insulated.
Snow pants use a membrane which is bonded to the backside of the face fabric to keep out the wind and wet. In order to stay comfortable you need your pants to let out the excess moisture generated by your body (breathability), while at the same time not letting wind and water in (water resistance). This is the function of the membrane.
You’ll see two numbers relating to the water resistance and breathability for each pant. Water resistance is measured in millimeters and ranges from 5,000mm (light resistance) to 20,000mm (heavy-duty resistance). Breathability is measure in grams and ranges from 5,000gm (not that breathable) to 20,000gm (very breathable). The exception to the rule is garments that use Gore-Tex.
Gore-Tex is a patented waterproof/breathable membrane that several outerwear manufacturers use in their high-end product lines. It provides maximum breathability while guaranteeing to keep you dry, no matter what.
Snow pants come in a variety of fits to suit your style. Whether you want to look like you’re wearing a pair of skinny jeans or you like looking like you have on some baggy JNCOs from 90’s, there’s a pair of pants for you!
We still carry some bib pant styles which are great for keeping snow from creeping up you back or down your pants. Volcom offers a zipper jacket-to-pant interface that’s a good alternative if you don’t want to rock a bib. Most jackets are equipped with a “snow skirt” that can link up with pants to help seal out the snow as well.
The face material of snow pants are coated with a Durable Water Repellent (commonly called DWR) finish. This forces water to bead into pellets and roll off, rather than soaking into the face fabric (think of those frozen stiff jeans). This is not ultimately what keeps you dry, but it does help the face fabric from absorbing moisture and becoming heavy and cold. The DWR won’t last forever, but you can revitalize it by throwing your pants in the dryer on low heat for a cycle or through purchasing a wash-in or spray-on product like Nixwax TX Direct.