On the left, a skier in a pair of white Columbia Sportswear bibs opens her jacket and smiles at the camera. On the right, a skier in red ski pants adjusts her jacket on a beautiful sunny day. 
SKI & SNOW

Ski Pants Versus Bibs: What’s the Difference?

We take a deep dive into the benefits of ski pants versus bibs to help you decide which option is best for you
BY DAVID YOUNG
If you’re going to be out on the slopes all day, you need a good pair of ski pants—it’s hard to enjoy those silky powder turns if your bottom half is freezing cold. When it comes to choosing snow pants, you have two options: regular ski pants or ski bibs. Both choices will keep you warm and dry, but there are some subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between the two.

Your choice is, of course, a matter of personal preference, but each style has its benefits. To better understand the differences so you can make an informed decision on which option suits you best, we reached out to Ashley McNeish, a Mt. Bachelor team athlete and former FIS Alpine ski racer, to help us with our guide to ski pants versus bibs.
A skier wearing blue camo Columbia Sportswear bibs opens his jacket in a snowy powder field.

What is the difference between ski pants and bibs?

Ski pants and ski bibs both keep you warm, dry, and protected when you’re skiing and snowboarding, but they’re designed differently, McNeish explains, with ski pants covering just your legs and ski bibs extending over your chest like overalls.

Both are waterproof and windproof (assuming you're choosing high-quality performance options) and they both typically have insulation, although simple shell options are available too.

Generally speaking, ski bibs tend to offer a slimmer fit while ski pants are often looser, with both available in a variety of styles.

And the extra coverage ski bibs provide over the chest often includes a pocket for more storage.

Ski Pants

  • Waterproof and windproof
  • Cover just the legs
  • No suspenders
  • Typically looser fit
  • Rear and side pockets
  • Best for moderate to cold climates

Ski Bibs

  • Waterproof and windproof
  • Cover legs and chest
  • Have suspenders
  • Typically slimmer fit
  • Rear, side, and chest pockets
  • Best for moderate to extra cold climates
A skier stands in a snowy landscape folding back the zipper of his Columbia Sportswear ski pants to reveal a warm Omni-Heat liner.

Ski pants

Ski pants are great for skiers and snowboarders who are looking for a simple option that’s easy to put on and take off. They’re comfortable to wear and work well in moderate climates where the temperatures don’t get especially frigid.

What are the benefits of ski pants?

The simplicity of ski pants tends to be one of their greatest assets, McNeish explains. “I grew up ski racing in snow pants. They are really easy to get on and off, and they’re significantly easier to go to the bathroom in,” she says.

“I love them. The only drawback is that you can sometimes end up with a gap between your jacket and your pants where snow can get in. This isn’t too big of a deal because most ski jackets have powder skirts to prevent this, but sometimes they lift up a bit when you’re leaning forward.”

Ski pants tend to be slightly looser fitting than bibs. The idea is for them to fit comfortably and allow for free range of movement without being too baggy.

Ski pants that are too long or loose can get snagged on obstacles or allow cold air to seep in. And if they’re too tight, they can be uncomfortable and restrict skiing movements.

The goal is to strike a nice balance in the fit, and always wear them over good thermal baselayers.
 A skier wearing blue camo Columbia Sportswear bibs takes off his jacket in the middle of a ski slope. 

Ski bibs

Bibs are a great choice for backcountry scenarios where you may encounter a lot of powder. The extra coverage over the chest offers additional protection from the snow and cold, along with more storage space. This gives them a utilitarian feature that’s perfect for carrying extra gear like sunscreen or hand warmers.

What are the benefits of snow bibs?

Some people find ski bibs to be more comfortable than ski pants because having suspenders instead of a waist belt offers skiers the comfort of more fluid movement on the slopes.

In addition to helping to keep the snow out, the fuller coverage and snug fit tends to make ski bibs a better option in colder climates where the low temperatures might be more extreme.

“You never get that gap in your lower back where snow can get in,” McNeish explains. “It’s a cleaner feel. I like how many pockets bibs have—it’s awesome having that extra storage space.

“Plus, I think they're really fashionable. They look good without a jacket on. They're fun to wear around in the parking lot—although I know some people like the look of pants better. It really depends on your preference.

“The con for bibs is that you can’t go to the bathroom very easily. They make that part a little more difficult. And some people find them more restricting.”

How should ski bibs fit?

Ski bibs tend to fit a little snugger than ski pants, but should not be so tight that they restrict your movement. They should fit comfortably and allow for a full range of motion while walking and skiing.

And as with ski pants, you will want to wear them with thermal baselayers and perhaps even a light puffer jacket.

What type is best for you?

Now that you have more information about the differences between ski pants and bibs, you’re better equipped to decide which is right for you. There’s no correct answer—it all depends on your personal preferences and style. Some skiers and snowboarders even like having both options for different occasions.
Ready to make a decision? Check out our selection of ski pants and bibs.