Patagonia Snowdrifter Backcountry Ski Pants
If you’ve ever ski toured in a pair of Gore-Tex ski pants, you know how little they really breathe when you’re working hard on the uptrack. Unlike our upper layers, no one changes leg layers while out skiing. Backcountry ski pants require breathability to manage the demands of the skin track. Waterproof and breathable sounds great in the product description for backcountry ski pants, but the reality is these materials cannot match the breathability of soft-shell or stretch-woven fabrics. And since we spend the vast majority of our time ski touring working hard headed up hill, breathability should be priority number one when choosing backcountry ski pants.
Choosing the best backcountry ski pants begins by focusing on soft-shell pant options. All of the big outerwear companies offer them and soft-shell fabrics are remarkably dynamic in their ability to breathe and protect from wind and precipitation. The differences really come down to fit, pockets/features, and just how breathable they really are. The newest backcountry ski pants in our test kit are the Patagonia Snowdrifter pant. As part of Patagonia’s backcountry ski line, the Snowdrifter pant is a dedicated backcountry ski pant made entirely of breathable, stretch-woven fabric and with a decidedly minimalist approach.
In typical Patagonia style, the Snowdrifter is a ski pant for the purist. There are no bells or whistles – or color options beyond black or grey – just a clean design with a few small details to make life on the skin track go smoothly.
Number one, the Snowdrifter pant breathes well. The densely woven fabric lets your body vent without the need for extra zip openings. Next, they offer great stretch. In fact, they stretch more than most, but that does not seem to compromise durability or functionality – just the opposite – the Snowdrifter pant is made to move and the dense weave holds its own against tree branches and ski edges.
In keeping with the keep-it-simple approach, there is no built-in gaiter, but the generous boot cuff easily fits over ski boots and there’s a simple cinch strap to snug the cuff down as needed to keep snow out of your boots. The instep cuff is reinforced to handle abuse from boots and ski edges.
The pants have a healthy DWR (durable water-repellent) finish and the tightly woven fabric does a great job of repelling moisture and limiting wind penetration. There are four pockets to keep the essentials close at hand – two zip thigh/cargo pockets and two zip hand pockets. The zip entries are wide and the zipper pulls more or less glove friendly – depending on your gloves.
Overall, I’d characterize the fit as running a little small but not significantly. I am able to wear my normal size but if you are on the fence for sizing, err on the safe side and get the bigger size. Suspenders are provided to help keep the pants where you want them, and there are belt loops for the non-suspender crowd.
I have found past generations of Patagonia softshell ski pants either too heavy weight or too alpine climbing focused. But they nailed it this time. The Snowdrifter ski pant is highly breathable, lightweight backcountry ski pant that is made to move. They come in men’s and women’s cuts. $229.