For 20 years I have been skiing in a pair of uninsulated shell pants and a pair of long underwear. Things generally work out just fine. I've never liked insulated pants as they cause me to get hot, especially on days where I'm doing a bootpack or two, which, in general, is most days. I have zero pairs of insulated ski pants in my rather large catalogue of personal gear. People offer them to me and I turn them down.
So consider me an initial skeptic of the burgeoning ski knickers trend. Yes, they've been around in some form or another for a long time, but major brands, such as Arc'teryx, have lately brought their own versions of ski knickers to the market, and they're showing up on the floor of the Outdoor Retailer show, and in the trendier ski shops across the west.
Yet another layer. The whole idea of them made me sweaty.
If you know where this is going then just trundle over to the Stio site and buy them already (if they're not sold out).
I had a pair of Stio's Fernos Knickers, but I had not tried them out.
But I did have an early ski trip this winter planned at a place that's known for dark and cold Decembers—Jackson Hole—so I threw the knickers in my bag. I didn't wear them the first day, and, per usual, I loathed sitting on the cold chairs of the upper mountain. I typically push my friends to ski all the way down the the tram where I wouldn't be forced to sit on a cold bench that was no more than 12 degrees.
Second day: I wore 'em. It was glorious. Tedious laps with my children suddenly became comfortable moments of super parenting. Sitting on Sublette, a chairlift known for ripping ridge winds and cold rides, was a pleasure, as much as sitting on that chair can be.
The big test came when I headed up Jackson Hole's Headwall bootpack. I unzipped the vents on my outer pant shell and hoped for the best. I did get a touch warm, but the Fernos' Primaloft Gold Active shed the heat and moisture well. I wasn't soggy and I didn't get cold as I zipped back up and charged down through the 15-degree air.
I had four days of skiing left and I wore them every day. I even wore them for a pickup hockey game with the kids.
A week later, I headed to Telluride, where the temperatures were in the high teens with gray skies. I did not pack the knickers, and it was a mistake. Sitting on Telluride's chairs 12 and 14 in the flat light, the cold seeped through my shell pants and my thin inner layer to chill me before I ever started down. I hiked the ridge above chair 12 as vigorously as I could to try and gain some warmth. Without sun, and without much of anything holding in the heat I generated, I got cold quickly once I started skiing.
Of course, this is the way skiing has always been, at least for me. The tradeoff of packing two pairs of pants, one of them bulky and insulated, simply wasn't worth it. But now I knew there was a better way. Now I knew that my comfort level didn't have to yo-yo, and I didn't have to give up all of my shell pants to get it, either.
There will certainly be times—say a sunny March bootpacking day at Aspen Highlands—when I'm not going to want an insulating layer on my legs. But for those cold parts of winter when the sun angles are low and the snow is so, so good, know that I'll be wearing my knickers.
Stio Fernos Knicker: 10/10 - $199