For this year’s backcountry skiing pants I’m using four choices, all softshell.
For midwinter cold temps both on and off the resort I picked up a pair of Cloudveil Zero G pants. An insulated soft shell (Primaloft), Zero has the features I like in a heavy duty softshell pant: hip wallet pocket, ski boot gaiters and built-in suspenders (as well as loops in case you feel naked without your studded belt). Being insulated and seam sealed, these pants can be a bit warm on the uphill, but in testing over the past few weeks I found that the super breathable Schoeller fabric gives them a wider temperature range than expected. Only gripe is that the cuff zipper is unprotected (weather flap is inside rather than outside), and will no doubt get lunched sooner or later. But the zipper doesn’t look to difficult to replace, and Cloudveil’s customer service is good so I’ll not loose sleep over this. In all, perhaps the most versatile insulated ski pants I’ve ever owned.
When temperatures warm up in late January, an insulated pant is frequently too warm for me. For that scenario I’ll be using the un-insulated Cloudveil Rayzar softshell pant (pictured). These still have built-in suspenders and gaiters, but sadly lack a rear wallet pocket. I guess I’ll have to live with that heinous omission, but doing so is worth it as these really are a fine piece of equipment.
And what about tropical conditions while spring skiing or summer alpine backpacking? Cloudveil’s Switchback pant is the first of my two choices for such. With no gaiters and no suspenders, this is more of a conventional around-town style pant than other softshell bottoms on the market. But that’s the idea; something simple, cool, light. Something that wears as well while getting a sandwich at Subway as it does on top of the Grand Teton. Same goes for my other lightweight fave, the Marmot ATV pant. These are made from slightly heavier fabric than the Switchback but are still light enough for summer alpine use. By having both, I’ve got one pant for really warm temps (Switchback), and one for cooler spring days and warm winter climbing ski sessions (ATV).
We also have a woman’s point of view on the Rayzar, here is Lisa’s take:
Cloudveil has been making softshell active wear for years now and I have been a fan since Lou brought me home a pair of Cloudveil Schoeller pants years ago. They were comfy, good looking and I wore them for years, steadily reeling in complements along the way. Just last winter a friend asked me where he could get a pair for his wife and it was her loss when they were all sold out when he went shopping. But I’ll have to give him a call because they’re available again and lucky me, Lou brought home a new pair yesterday. Now I really can’t wait for ski season to start. I may have to put the laundry aside and join the crew at Montezuma this weekend.
The Rayzar pant is made with Schoeller fabric, a stretch blend that really does what the tag says. It is exceptionally sturdy yet ultra-lightweight and luxuriously soft. High-grade and high-tech, Schoeller is abrasion resistant, breathable, repels water and the most important feature, is extremely flattering. These are truly an exceptional, all-mountain pant and I feel pretty fortunate to have a new pair hanging in my closet. Won’t let them hang too long, though. The slopes are calling and now I’m ready!
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.