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When it comes to designing and manufacturing ski apparel — jackets, pants, gloves, base layers, and socks — experience counts. The best products on the slopes are made by brands that have spent years perfecting insulation, water- and wind-proofing, moisture wicking, and, of course, style. That’s not to say new ski apparel can’t get the job done, so long as they innovate, develop top tech and utilize the best manufacturing practices required to keep you warm and dry on the slopes. One way to separate the wheat from the chaff? Look at what the pros are wearing. You may not be able to afford their top-of-the-line kit, but you can bet that the tech they’re sporting will trickle down to their mid- and entry-level outerwear. We searched ski shops for the best brands in the business, so you have a starting point for picking out the perfect ski apparel for your winter adventures.
Our Top Picks
Born in Portland, Oregon, Columbia Sportswear Company has been making gear so that Pacific Northwesterners can enjoy the outdoors for more than 70 years. Today, the brand is known worldwide for designing and manufacturing no-nonsense apparel and footwear that keep you warm, dry, cool and protected no matter what. The brand’s ski collection is at home on resort slopes or in the backcountry, but it won’t break the bank, making Columbia a fave among schussers who want to get the best bang for their buck.
Founded in 1981 by a scientist and adventurer named Ron Gregg, Outdoor Research has grown from an experimental apparel company into a trusted brand on mountaineering expeditions, alpine and ice climbs and backcountry ski trips. They’re outerwear is legendary for its dedication to developing waterproof-breathable attire, and their insulating mid- and base-layers will keep you warm on any mountain.
The North Face
A brand named for the coldest, most unforgiving aspect of the mountain, The North Face has been designing top-notch mountaineering gear for more than 50 years. The transition from mountaineering to skiing was natural, and The North Face is now a stalwart on ski slopes and in the backcountry. Their waterproof-breathable jackets and pants are worn by top pro rippers like Angel Collinson and Tom Wallisch, and when you pick up a North Face garment you can count on the company's commitment to pushing the limits of innovation and design.
All you need to know about this Colorado-based brand is that it’s the longstanding official apparel partner of the U.S. Ski Team. But that doesn’t mean Spyder is just for ski racers. In fact, the company bills itself as “The largest ski specialty brand,” and their lineup of outerwear ranges from, yes, Olympic-level spandex speed suits, to backcountry shells, to sleek après ski frocks. When you pick up a Spyder garment, you know you’re benefiting from decades of experience on the slopes.
This company started small, designing and manufacturing tools for climbers, and alpinism remains their soul. And as skiing and snowboarding has moved from the resorts to the backcountry, Patagonia has been able to move into the sport, engineering and manufacturing apparel tested by top athletes in the most extreme conditions on the planet. Snowboarder Jeremy Jones, ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich, and big mountain ripper Pep Fujas all rely on Patagonia outerwear in their backcountry adventures. Best of all, the company’s unwavering dedication to corporate social and environmental responsibility establish it as one of the most authentic and influential outdoor brands on the planet.
Klaus Obermeyer founded his eponymous ski apparel in Aspen back in 1947 when he was a ski instructor at the legendary Colorado resort. For 70-plus years, the product innovations that have come from Klaus and the Obermeyer product team have shaped the ski industry and improved the winter adventures of countless skiers, and the company is heralded for its dedication to technical performance, functional design and elegant style.
Founded back in 1989 in the wilds of the Canadian Coastal Range, Arc’teryx is a brand known for its obsession with design, performance and precision. One reason professional mountaineers, alpinists, and skiers trust the brand is their unique in-house manufacturing and design process that allows them to bring together professional athletes, engineers, materials experts, pattern makers and product developers so their lineup of outerwear and apparel can constantly evolve and improve.
Born in the French Alps, Eider is one of those brands that’s lesser known in North America than it is in European resorts in France, Switzerland and Austria. That’s not to say you won’t see Eider gear at America’s top resorts — since 2010, Eider has been the official outerwear partner of Ski Utah, the nonprofit organization promoting the state’s 14 ski resorts. Eider jackets are perfect for Utah’s world-famous powder, as they’re known for impeccable fit, high-performance fabric and functional features that put the brand a step above its competitors.
This brand was founded in 1993 with the philosophy that everyone who enjoys the outdoors is an outdoor athlete worthy of the best apparel and equipment. You’ll still find Mountain Hardwear gear on expeditions to 26,000-foot peaks, and ski mountaineers swear by the brand’s cutting edge outerwear, tents and sleeping bags. But you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to benefit from Mountain Hardwear’s pedigree; their outerwear is as at home on the manicured ski slopes as it is on the summit of towering peaks.
Products We Tested
How We Tested
We bought two pieces of ski clothing from top-rated brands and our reviewers tested them for 44 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these ski clothes, from their fit to their price. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Ski Clothing Brand
Fit When it comes to ski clothing, plenty favor a closer-to-the-body fit—there’s less material for things to snag on, and it’s more comfortable skiing in the wind if your clothes fit a little tighter. However, that isn’t everyone’s preference—just make sure to pick clothing that fits in a way that works for you, because ultimately, comfort is the greatest priority.
Cost If you go skiing frequently—or if you live somewhere with cold, wet weather—you’re going to be wearing these ski clothes pretty often. If your perfect item of clothing is a little expensive, chances are you’re going to be using it often enough to justify the splurge (and if not, there are plenty of quality budget brands out there).
Ski-specific brand If you’re shopping for clothing to wear primarily on the slopes—versus more general outerwear that will work fine on the slopes—then go for a brand that’s dedicated to designing clothing for skiing and/or snowboarding. Clothes from brands like these are likely to have details that are specifically designed for skiers, like fits that work with the body as it moves.
Test Results: Columbia Sportswear Bugaboo Pants
What We Like
What We Don't Like
No leg vents
Boxy fit won’t appeal to everyone
These ski pants were beloved by our testers for their great value: “Their affordable price tag appeals to both the regular skier and those who can only hit the slopes a few times a year,” explained one reviewer. The highlights, according to our testers, were the fact they had “plenty of insulation” and that their “outer waterproof fabric sheds snow and rain and keeps you dry on the inside.” In terms of negatives, one reviewer pointed out that they didn’t have leg vents “so you have to be careful that you don’t overheat.” Also, according to one tester, their “boxy, universal fit” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Test Results: Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pants
What We Like
Stretchy fabric moves with you
Perfect-sized thigh pockets
What We Don't Like
Dedicated avalanche pocket is small
One of our testers thought that these pants were ideal for warmer conditions: “They’re worth buying if you want uninsulated, well-ventilated pants for spring skiing or the high exertion of uphill skiing,” she said. The pants’ long leg vents in particular, according to one reviewer, allowed for extra temperature regulation. Another highlight for one tester was that their “thigh pockets are the right size and location for storing energy bars and other quick-grab items.” On the other hand, the pants’ lack of insulation made them suited for cold climates: “No insulation means you have to wear a base layer or only ski when conditions are warmer,” one reviewer said. Also, even though the pants have a dedicated avalanche pocket, one tester thought it was a little too small.