This spring, we embarked on a mission from the Universe: To identify and use a pant that might cross nicely between resort skiing and backcountry. Finding the perfect pant is of course impossible, as the only thing in the universe that’s perfect is, well, the Universe. But we tried. One of the best I found is the OR Skyward 2 — it checks most of my wants.
Before we start: Yep, we covered Skyward in 2017. That was version one.
Ver2 regards the same design philosophy: “a functional ‘guide’ type pant with plenty of pockets, super breathable, featured, but not so laden with gadgets they belong on an Apollo space mission — as spacesuit pants.”
Thus, ver2 is nearly the same pant as ver1. Biggest change in my view is they’re slightly slimmer, and the AscentShell fabric has slightly more stretch. Both things I welcome. Speaking of Ascentshell: the idea here is something that performs close to hard-shell but has the hand of soft shell — from past experience I’d say OR achieved that, though in super-wet climes I’d prefer something on the harshell side of the equation.
I think my favorite change is the fit continuing to slim down. Perhaps the era of backcountry ski pants that look like circus attire is now history?
So, let’s take a look at these. We’ll continue to use them and report back. (I did ski them a few days this spring, but not enough for an honest ‘long term’ test. That’ll come later from our testers, when the Colorado resorts open back up. They’re well-made and functional, so the important thing for shoppers is the details.)
What else? If I’m purley ski touring, I like pants with a simpler feature set, but I do like these as a crossover. And they’ll work fine as dedicated tour pants if you want something with more pockets, thigh vents and such. A pleat in the knees reduces friction when you’re articulating up lusty couloirs or down waterfall bump runs. The Ascentshell fabric has what I’d call a “friendly hand,” like you’re petting a kitten. Weight is reasonable, I’d all it average. Recommended.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.
I found there were 2 benefits to a horizontal pocket openning vs a vertical pocket openning. Things don’t fall out of pockets as easily as with horizontal opennings and there is physically more room on the side of the pant to make the vents longer
I like thigh pockets, a flap with velcro closure is a lighter compromise
i’m skinny so I like suspenders, arcteyx make good ones so i had some of those loops sewn into anther brand of softshell and i swap the arcterxy suspenders over
I’ve put a pair of these through the wringer this year. I love them for backcountry adventures but reach for something else for lift access days. They move so nicely while skinning and have a great feel, they breathe well, and they have the right number of pockets for me. I like the power strap slot. I like the cut although the rise between the crotch and the belt could be a bit smaller. The crampon patch could be just a little bigger (or maybe my steps when I’m kicking myself should be a little smaller…).
My few problem areas:
I wore through the seam in the crotch, maybe from a lot of skinning, maybe I popped it in a single deep lunge in the skin track.
The thigh pockets end right at the top of my knee cap which gets annoying if I’m carrying a blue book or rite-in-rain notebook in one of those pockets which I do frequently. They work great for a light pair of gloves or a thin beanie/toque or maybe a small snack though.
They soak through quickly when sitting in PNW “powder”, hasn’t been a problem when standing though.
How different are these from the excellent OR Trailbreaker? Heavier? Warmer & more weatherproof? At first glance pockets/vents seem similar.
Love the trailbreaker, would be interested to check out something similar or improved.
My dream is that one day OR brings back the Trailbreaker. I obviously lead a shallow existence…..
Ogi, they still sell the Trailbreaker, and they’ll be “updating” them next fall. We’ll see what that really entails. If they were slimmed down a bit and still included the knee pad pockets, I’m on board!
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