I have probably gone through 30 plus pairs of skiing pants in my 30 plus seasons as a skier, snowboarder and telemarker. I remember my first pair of ski pants as a three-year-old. The pants didn’t repel water, they didn’t breathe, and they definitely didn’t look cool. But that didn’t matter back then, I was just happy to be charging down the slopes. The dawn of ’80s saw outdoor apparel take a major leap forward with Gore-Tex fabric. Unfortunately, the new technology was interrupted by the stretch pant fad. And yes, I had a pair of black stretch pants with neon green and pink trim. The ’90s witnessed the growing popularity of snowboarding and freeride apparel. Boarders brought a sense of fashion and wearability to the industry. It seemed logical that a company would eventually marry the functionality required by backcountry skiers with the details demanded by resort bound skiers. And along came FlyLow.
FlyLow was founded by Dan Abrams, Greg Steen, Ethan Valenstein, Scott Steen and Braden Masselink. As seasoned alpine and telemark skiers, all of them noticed that ski pants were getting tighter and lighter. Backcountry skiers are notorious for focusing on weight, so skiwear designers made pants lighter with just enough waterproof fabric to fend off water. However, most would come home with blown out knees or ripped seams. So they instead opted for mountaineering gear. The problem was that mountaineering pants work while mountaineering, not skiing. Dan decided that if he couldn’t find the perfect pair of ski pants, he would make them. He and his buddies decided to launch FlyLow Gear in 2000 with the vision of making apparel that would satisfy the needs of serious skiers on and off-piste. I first heard about FlyLow through Telemark Skier Magazine editor, Josh Madsen. FlyLow caught my eye because it was tailor-made for backcountry freeriders like myself. I bought my first pair last October.
The FlyLow Chemical pant is made of a three-layer Intuitive fabric. When you touch it, it feels strong and solid. The fabric has breathability rating of 8000g and is waterproof up to 10,000mm (10,000mm of rain in 24 hours). You might think this sounds like all other pants with high waterproof ratings. Those numbers don’t mean anything unless the pants are fully seam sealed and taped. Most manufacturers only provide a waterproof coating like DWR or Teflon. The Chemical Pant has fully taped seams. These seams ran the test this past weekend at the Summit at Snoqualmie where it rained over half an inch in a 5 hour period. The pants kept me dry. Unfortunately, my jacket did not.
At only 875 grams, the Chemical Pant is no-nonsense apparel. It doesn’t sport twenty pockets. It has two in the front and two in the back. The cross ventilation system features 18 inch outer vents and 9 inch thigh vents. They have no insulation, so make sure to decide how to layer for whatever type of adventure you’re embarking on. The pants were ideal skinning up Hyak in the Cascade Mountains two months ago. I felt comfortable, and they were roomy enough for my big thighs. They also feel and look durable. I ripped through my last pair of ski/snowboard pants after only half a dozen wears. The cuffs usually get sliced up from my ski edges after only a few runs. The Chemical Pant solves this by adding reinforced Cordura Fabric at the knees and cuffs. After 11 trips this season, I don’t even have a scratch on my cuffs.
I urge anyone out there to take the Pepsi challenge against the FlyLow Chemical Pant. At a suggested retail price of $275, they are sound investment for the long haul. I don’t foresee myself shopping for new pants next season. Thirty years later, someone finally got this thing right.