Pants Off — Spring Skiing Trouser Shootout

Post by blogger | April 25, 2016      

The idea, find three pair of slim somewhat “Euro-cut” ski touring pants, with thin enough fabric for warm spring days. All had to easily fit over ski boot cuffs, internal gaiter not mandatory.

It wasn’t easy. Some trousers used nice fabric but fit like golf shorts. Others initially appeared beautiful but would not pull over my ski boots without spraining my finger ligaments. Still other ski touring jodhpurs were more hard-shell than breathable, simply not what I prefer for spring in the sunny U.S. Rocky Mountains.

My bias? I like slim fitting pants I can wear anywhere, preferably in dark colors. I prefer an adjustable waist so I can let the suspenders drape while stumbling around Cortina and quaffing spritzers. Or, after the muffuletta reconfigures my stomaco. Oh, and I’ve got skinny legs, so even “slim” pants can feel plenty roomy.

Ski touring pant battle.

Ski touring pant battle. From left to right: Dynafit Mercury, La Sportiva Castle, Patagonia Kniferidge.

The Contenders reviewed (in alpha order)

Dynafit Mercury
Due to a slightly thicker stretch fabric (they call it “soft shell” but it’s really a hybrid due to what appears to be a super tight weave or else a highly breathable membrane), I’d call Dynafit Mercury a “crossover” pant that works for warmer winter days or cooler spring days. Fit is medium, with average length inseam.

I like the less slick texture of the Dynafit “Silver Shell” fabric, and the “Night Black” color works well for traveling when brighter colors can sport mystery stains that make your presence questioned at finer establishments. Internal gaiters fit over my boots, but had the annoying habit of velcro sticking to the inside of the cuff fabric due to the Silver Shell fabric’s plush inner surface (which by the way feels nice against bare skin, perhaps inspiring one to go commando in the right circumstances). I get so tired of velcro within a meter of a boot cuff or gaiter…but what’s the alternative? I don’t know. Fortunately greater minds than mine are on the problem — though it seems it’s taking a while to figure out.

Dynafit Mercury pants, side vent is ok but not huge, hip pockets have lots room, waist size adjustment is easy and works.

Dynafit Mercury pants, side vent is ok but not huge, hip pockets have lots of room, waist size adjustment is easy and works. Fabric a bit heavy for hot weather.

Mercury side vents are backed with privacy panels, obviously designed for going without your boxers or perhaps to prevent the ingress of Japow experienced during your lastest best day of skiing of your life. No back pocket but reasonable pair of hip pockets and one side pocket. A somewhat non-standard suspender anchor at the rear (suspender anchor inserts left-right instead of front-back, if that makes any sense) dictates perhaps ordering the Dynafit suspenders along with these — research before you buy. I like the simple girth adjustment, perfect for accommodating an extra large schnitzel.

Dynafit Mercury
Size tested, Large
Color: Night Black
Weight without suspenders: 564 grams
Best feature: Nicely breathable with good basic venting
Non-feature: Slightly warm for hot days
Availability: Appears to be in stock

Patagonia Men’s Kniferidge
These drawers are made a less breathable yet thin fabric, Polartec Power Shield Pro, with more water resistance than the straight soft-shell offerings. You’ll definitely want thigh vents with Power Shield (they’re here), and you’ll like the versatility of this excellent stretchy fabric if the days shifts from sun to rain before you drop back to the gasthaus for a strudel.

Key feature of Patagonia Kniferidge, drop seat that can be used without removing suspenders.

Key feature of Patagonia Kniferidge, drop seat that can be used without removing suspenders. Actually working this feature in the field is more complicated than it looks, but it does work. These pants have a dearth of pockets and long inseam, most certainly try before you buy.

When testing day-to-day with other breeches I easily noticed the Patagonia Kniferidge to be less breathable — but they work. Excellent feature is the classic Patagonia style drop seat that operates while you’ve still got your suspenders on. Surprise is the long inseam, honestly a few centimeters too long for these to be my go-to pants without a trip to the sew center for a leg shortening. Is that doable? Some pants have an easy seam to pull for shortening, Kniferidge does not though an expert tailor can still do the task. Definitely check the fit before you commit.

Lack of pockets on the Kniferidge is a bit strange: one small one lower on the right thigh. We’d like to know the design philosophy behind that. At least give us two pockets, one for wallet and one for beacon. But hey, if you want a “clean” touring pant made with excellent fabric look no farther. Due to lack of internal gaiters (drawstring with cord clamp) and pockets, don’t let the low weight seduce you into thinking these have some kind of secret weight-saving sauce. On the other hand, if you don’t want pockets and you’re a “long legged man,” go for it.

Patagonia Men’s Kniferidge
Size tested: Medium
Color: Underwater Blue
Weight without suspenders: 482 grams
Best feature: Clever drop-seat (been around for years, nice latest iteration)
Non-feature: Really long inseam, a feature if you’re long legged.
Availability: Shop at, women’s version appears to be only model in at present

La Sportiva Castle
With this slim Euro-stylers on I found myself doing spins every time I passed my wife’s dressing room mirror. Oh, don’t I look fine! Shows you my heritage, I’ve just never been good in pants that are 4 times the diameter of my thighs. These guys have the slimmest fit of our three testers. Color them denim, give them to Tim McGraw on stage, you wouldn’t notice he wasn’t wearing jeans. Or would you? Girls, your opinion?

Sportiva side pocket is perfectly sized for beacon, rear pocket exists if you like that for your wallet.

Sportiva side pocket is perfectly sized for beacon, rear pocket exists if you like that for your wallet.

Amazing miraculous occurrence is the Castle has a hip pocket for your North American style wallet. Boot gaiters are nicely minimal and even then, easy to scissor out (which I did for spring skiing). Fabric is a thin, highly breathable stretch that could still use side vents, but less so than warmer pants. Printed logos are minimal, a bit brighter than other brands but you still don’t feel like you’re paying Sportiva for the privilege of displaying. Personally, my clear favorite pantalones due to rear pocket, slim fit and breathable fabric.

La Sportiva Castle
Size tested: Medium,
Color: Blue
Weight without suspenders: 536 grams
Best feature: Simplicity and slim fit
Non-feature: Lack of thigh vents
Availability: Apparently fall of 2016, so keep this post on your favorites, especially if you want the McGraw look!

Meanwhile, the Sportiva Chalten pant is also an option, though in my opinion not quite as good spring skiing. What if you need to shop NOW? Check out Dynafit or if you’re long legged, Patagonia. Another option that looked good though not tested is Arcteryx. Beware of pants that are too hot, or don’t fit over your boot cuffs.


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38 Responses to “Pants Off — Spring Skiing Trouser Shootout”

  1. Frame April 25th, 2016 7:08 am

    Between commando comments and the Tim photo, am wondering if I will be able to read Wildsnow at work anymore! ha ha.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the long leg trousers, is that a normal thing for Patagonia, or a feature of this particular item?

    Whilst they don’t have the mercury, the sports pursuit website (for UK readers) has a sale of Dynafit ski clothing on at the moment.

  2. Jeremy April 25th, 2016 7:32 am

    Just my two cents: I’ve been wearing Outdoor Research Cirque pants for most of this season and have been very impressed. They seem to check most of your requirements: slim fit (especially in the thighs), Breathable, fit over ski boots etc. I’ve worn them in conditions ranging from 20’s and snowing to 50’s and sunny and have been happy. Decent water resistance, excellent wind repellency and still good breathability.

  3. slcpunk April 25th, 2016 8:17 am

    It’s amazing to me that this perfect pant doesn’t exist. None in the review qualify for me – as thigh vents are a requirement for those of that run a bit hot. Pockets are also a requirement as well as good ski/kick patches for durability. Each pant fails one of these tests. I’ve looked at 10-15 other pairs and not found one with the combination of features that works for me.

    The best I have found for now are from Eddie Bauer (? really?) I think they were called the “Traverse” or something like that. They are discontinued, so evidently not much market for the pants I want. These have both inner and outer thigh vents, totally awesome. Their only downside is a non-technical softshell fabric that is not particularly weather resistant, although it has held up well to a few seasons of touring. ( All year – just layer up in the colder parts of winter ). Oh – they also don’t qualify as trim in the thighs. But that doesn’t bother me too much. ( I also have stick legs, although really thin in the calf more than the thigh )

    If anyone does have the perfect light weight touring pant suggestion, let’s see it.

  4. Lou 2 April 25th, 2016 8:22 am

    To be fair, some pants are sold in two different lengths, always check before buying. I’m not sure about all the pants in this review, but I’ll check when I have time. I did research the Pata pants and as far as I could tell they did not come in a shorter inseam. They are weirdly long, but a good tailor could shorten them fairly easily.

  5. See April 25th, 2016 8:46 am

    Marmot Scree pants are pretty cheap, have lots of pockets, are very breathable, and come in 3 different inseam lengths. They fit over ski boots with the cuff zipper unzipped, although they aren’t cut particularly trim. My only real complaint is lack of crampon resistant inner cuffs, but adding those would be an easy sewing project.

  6. Martin April 25th, 2016 9:45 am

    The perfect spring touring pants for me would have zip-off functionality so that you can uphill in shorts.
    Using some cheap Quechua zip-off hiking pants on warm days, but they are not really suitable for ski touring (hardly fit over the boots, not water repellent at all, not windproof).

  7. Jed Porter April 25th, 2016 10:12 am

    You call these “slim fitting”? Lou, Lou, Lou… Despite all the Euro references, you’ve still got a N American bias. Just got back from the Haute Route. A client with Italian “Crazy Idea” ski pants still looked like he was wearing baggies next to the “locals”. Not to mention the rest of us in true Cooler-Rad-Bro attire. I too have a pair of Crazy Ideas, but still just can’t bring myself to wear them in “public”. For fast and quiet missions, I’ll sneak out the door in the dark in these pseudo-tights and hope my partners don’t notice until the hypoxia tilts their vision.

  8. NT April 25th, 2016 10:42 am

    Timely post. I’m also searching for a pant similar to what slcpunk describes.

    -non membrane thin softshell
    -fit over boots easily
    -large vents
    -lots of pockets
    -muted color, preferably grey
    -stronger fabric at cuffs

    Just got a pair of patagonia dual point alpine pants. They’ll fit over boots but barely. And no vents. Thinking about passing them on.

  9. Carl April 25th, 2016 11:01 am

    Those are all winter weightr here in the PNW. I spring tour in OR ferrosi pants, super thin softshells with some water resistance and comfy for going up hill on a glacier on a warm sunny day. They are cut fairly narrow with articulated knees.

  10. dude, where are my pants? April 25th, 2016 12:54 pm

    extra large schnitzel? >>> guffaw!

    but seriously,
    i hear ya’ll about the darker colors in order to keep a low profile around town, however i’ve found lighter colored pants say in khaki or yellow really helps with overheating while touring in hot conditions.
    also, if you’re comfortable in “euro-fit” more power to ya, but not everybody appreciates that style and many actively despise it.
    not into the yoga pant thing sorry, and that’s how eurostyle pants feel to me even if theyre not especially tight.
    plus not everone has skinny chicken legs, lots of skiers have big muscular legs and typical “skier butt”.

    second vote for OR Ferrossi pants (top too) for spring touring. nice and light and very breathable, good pockets, not made for skiing but works well.

  11. AD April 25th, 2016 1:03 pm

    I have the Dynafit Mercury pants. Highly recommend the suspenders. Otherwise, I love them!

  12. SteveR April 25th, 2016 2:06 pm

    Any of your readers in Europe could do a lot worse than Simmond Alpinism Light Pants.

    They have a very slim fit and zipped pleats so that they fit over TLT6s in tour mode. No vents, but the fabric is very breathable.

    Don’t be put off by the low price (!) The price is due to Decathlon’s direct selling business model and not anything to do with cutting corners on price.

    Hmm, the above reads a bit like an advert – I don’t have any links to Decathlon.

  13. Woody Dixon April 25th, 2016 4:09 pm

    I’ve been using the Firstlite Corrugate Guide Pant to great success this spring. While they are hunting brand, the pants work pretty well with low volume touring boots, breathe well, are super comfortable and come in solid earth tones in addition to camo colors. Affordable too. Worth a look.

  14. yepper April 25th, 2016 5:48 pm

    Arc’teryx Sawatch pants. Not tight Euro – they fit easy like ski pants should. No problems fitting over ski boots when in walk mode, *good* thigh pockets, even a smaller 3rd pocket which holds my transceiver. Light color to reduce absorbing sun heat, surprisingly breathable, good wear patch on inner ankle. No vent side zips which is a design flaw, but in well above freezing on sunny days I have actually proved myself wrong – they do not desperately need the vents.

  15. See April 25th, 2016 7:00 pm

    slc, the perfect pants used to exist. I got some from Beyond Fleece back when they were making custom clothing. The price was reasonable, considering you were getting high quality stuff that fit, with all the features you wanted and none that you didn’t. Too bad it apparently wasn’t sustainable.

    And Frame, I think we should be supportive if Lou wants to explore new directions. Probably a smart move, given social trends and all. (I am referring, of course, to adding content of interest to the freeride community).

  16. Jake Douglas April 25th, 2016 7:27 pm

    Dynafit Mercury is my winter pant. WAY too hot for spring touring in the PNW. I put them in the closet about 6 weeks ago.

    Arcteryx Gamma LT is along the same lines as OR Ferrosi, paper thin to block the wind in the mornings and keep the sun off of you. Could breathe a little better. Sadly they only fit over the cuff of Aliens and not much else, no cuff zips. Love them otherwise.

    There are several pants from Crazy Idea available on that almost fit the bill, except they are black, which would be pretty uncomfortable on a volcano in May and June.

    As far as I can tell the ideal spring touring pant does not exist.

  17. Lou Dawson 2 April 25th, 2016 7:39 pm

    “As far as I can tell the ideal spring touring pant does not exist.”


  18. ptor April 26th, 2016 12:24 am

    so why even wear ‘ski’ pants?

  19. See April 26th, 2016 8:10 am

    At least one very experienced guide I know of wears jeans under shell pants. Not recommended, but who am I to say?

  20. Jim K April 26th, 2016 9:04 am

    Rab Torque pant

  21. slcpunk April 26th, 2016 11:00 am

    Great input all the way around.

    Those Ferrosi look pretty good – i like the price. I wonder how hard it would be for a tailor to add vents to any pant. As long as there isn’t a pocket that covers the seam, perhaps not too hard? Cut, install zipper, done?

    Second the notion: black is whack. Hottest when the sun is shining and you want it least. Tan/Grey. I don’t care about stains etc, nor how they look “apres ski”.

    My bias again is that I overheat at a moments notice and use a spring pant all year round anyway.

    I also tried the convertible zip-off travel pants for a trip to Shasta one year … made me nervous if the weather changed, but they worked and it was solid high-pressure so I got away with it. It was awesome to be in shorts during the heat of the afternoon. Not an option for a real touring pant that needs to provide some weather resistance.

  22. Wookie April 26th, 2016 11:28 am

    Skimo tights with a zip-off pair of synthetic insulation shorts.

    It does not get more Euro – or indeed any better.

    For the truly confident – don’t wear the shorts but take the ladies zip-off skirt. It is easier to remove and put on, and weighs half as much.

    Maloja makes some nice sets. Martini as well.

  23. Trent April 26th, 2016 1:28 pm

    Ditto on the OR Ferrosi. Very lightweight. The pockets are jean-style, so not ideal for a beacon.

  24. Aaron April 26th, 2016 1:29 pm

    Love it Wookie: are you man enough to wear tights and skirt while touring!!

  25. Peter April 26th, 2016 1:38 pm

    The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants are good, but I prefer the Prusik Pants. They’re a slimmer fit, articulated, reinforced in high wear areas, and have with more/better/zippered pockets. OR calls them “mid-weight”, but I would call them light weight. I run in them in the 40’s, so they’re not that heavy.
    I think they fit over my ski boots, but honestly can’t remember right now.

  26. Patrick April 26th, 2016 1:47 pm

    LL Bean Knifedge pants. They’re the best, affordable and lifetime warranty.

  27. Lou Dawson 2 April 26th, 2016 4:47 pm

    I’ve tried quite a few “guide” pants as spring ski breeches. Problem is usually how they fit over ski boot cuffs. Other than that I’ve had good results over the years, especially for short, good weather tours when something simply comfortable is key. Lou

  28. XXX_er April 26th, 2016 6:05 pm

    weather can turn shitty any time so I want a pant that can protect me in that event

    SO side vents are where its at but pocket opennings get in the way of vent opennings, so horizontal pockets are better cuz vertical pockets take up the space needed for the big vents so the side vents can’t be as big,

    On my Fury pant the 2 top pockets zippered 2 big thigh pockets can be velcro’d shut my arcteryx fury pant were great for these points, kind of a medium to slim cut great suspenders, pretty good boot gators big vents, great arcterxy warranty when the windstopper fabric delamed

    Patagonnia guide pant from a few years ago has a nifty 2 way zipper but the openning is so small I can barely bet my dick out, side vents are not big enough due to the vertical pockets, no suspenders so they fall down lots till I get some loops sewn in for Arcteryx suspenders, a fairly slim cut pant OK boot gators, the funny hook on the belt loosens off

    Arcteryx procline has a great belt system with the fixed hook going into anyone of 5 loops, great suspenders, 2 thigh pockets one with loop for your beacon leash only 1 waist pocket, awesume boot gators even worked well with open Vulcans, fit fairly slim fit which works for me

    THE perfect pant would be a bigger patagucci 2 way zip, arcterxy suspenders, the 2 big thigh pockets of the Fury, the big vents of the fury but with some mesh material so snow doesnt get in the opennings, the procline belt, the procline gators, 2 horizontal pockets like the fury with the loop in the pocket to attach my beacon, I like windstopper all the time and I almost never use base layer unless its damn cold

  29. See April 26th, 2016 7:14 pm

    Vents are great, but light soft-shell pants are so breathable I’m not sure vents would make a huge difference. I almost always carry some light (6 oz) hard shells with side zips in case the weather turns. Mostly, I lend them to other people.

  30. Jim Milstein April 26th, 2016 9:29 pm

    Like Jeremy, I’ve been using the OR Cirque pants and like them.

    Fairly trim, good pockets, non-restrictive and stretchy. With the ankle gussets zipped open, boot adjustments are easy. Warm enough in the winter with long underwear. Okay too in spring with short, lightweight underwear. Pants have built-in velcro-adjustable belt, but I use suspenders. No side vents, and I haven’t missed them. Mine are a medium grey and haven’t been noticeably hot in the sun. They are tough and have resisted damage in tight trees and snags. I expect to use these for years in all weathers.

  31. Daniel April 27th, 2016 5:25 am

    hmmm…don’t get the problem really…

    I use shell pants (with either thick or thin 3/4 length long underpants, that’s it.

    that does for me winter or spring…

  32. dude, where are my pants? April 27th, 2016 11:31 am

    The problem is i and lots of others have issues with overheating even in colder conditions sometimes. If you don’t have that problem, well consider yourself lucky 🙂

    I tour in very thin and breathable softshell pants, albeit with vents, all through the colder winter months with either the thinnest possible baselayer or nothing and virtually never feel cold.
    Spring skiing and mountaineering becomes basically undoable without a pant extraordinarly biased toward breathability.
    The Ferrosi is nice but no vents which is actually ok in this case. Big problem is they aren’t made for skiing so don’t fit over ski boot cuffs.

  33. XXX_er April 27th, 2016 4:54 pm

    I’m pretty sure somebody out there tours in their PJ’s or possibly nothing at all but I think the burning question to be answered is what works better and why?

    Becuz its cheap and/or you are not decerning is not really very interesting

  34. Jim April 27th, 2016 8:59 pm

    Prana Zion Khaki is a good spring pant, stretch, light colored, zip thigh pocket, breathable. Worked well on sunny days on glacier in Alaska Range last week.

  35. Jim Milstein April 28th, 2016 8:04 am

    As per XXX_er’s speculation, I’ve tried touring in nothing at all, but the lack of pockets was a deal breaker.

  36. See April 28th, 2016 8:18 am

    I may not be discerning or interesting, but I am cheap. For spring skiing, light, breathable soft shells work for me. A lot of different material gets labeled “soft shell.” For hot weather, I prefer pants that take the edge off the wind without blocking it.

  37. See April 28th, 2016 9:36 am

    I hear ya Jim. I want to try a skin suit.

  38. Lisa May 22nd, 2018 6:28 pm

    What? No review of any of sporthill’s 3SP fabric pants?
    Nothing beats 3SP in my experience. Which includes OR cirque, Patagonia Guide, and REi Talus. And wool. Oh and 60/40!
    3SP is so perfect for vigorous or spring skiing!

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