Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants Review
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Good ski pants are crucial to a good day in the backcountry. You use them all day, likely many days in a row and they will see all sorts of conditions. Like most back country skiers, I ski in a variety of conditions and at different levels of exertion, even in a single day. I’ll start out hoofing uphill, sweating and panting. Then eventually I stop, try to get cold, and point the planks down, facing the cold and wind. They need to keep me warm but vent and oh yeah, I need a place for an energy bar. With so many variables, weather, terrain and effort, I need a pair of ski pants that can be used for anything. The Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants fit the bill perfectly.
The Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants show what can come from well thought out use of fabrics and features. As with any ski pant, the fabric is the key component. OR went with Gore Windstopper X Fast soft shell fabric and it comes with some pretty big performance claims. The cut allows for movement without being baggy and the articulated knees help. Side tabs allow you to adjust the fit as needed and you can resort to the belt loops if you really need to. You can’t help but see all the zippers, six in all. Two on each leg are for storage, while along each side is a long venting zipper. And these are not just regular zippers, these are DWR coated zippers for a smooth glide and to help keep snow and moisture out. Inside the top stash pocket of the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants is an internal pocket designed for your avy beacon. Features you can’t see but are still nice are the internal gaiters and taped seams in the most needed areas.
Stopping the Wind and Staying Warm
So on paper these softshell pants can’t miss, but it’s on the mountain that they need to prove their worth. Starting with the largest component, the Gore Windstopper X Fast soft shell fabric straddles the trifecta of stopping the wind, keeping you warm and still allowing for ventilation. This near mythical feature is often touted but rarely achieved. Keeping the wind out is the first part of staying warm. The X Fast does a tremendous job of keeping chilling winds out. I encountered some whipping winds on a day tour through Butler Gulch and at the top of A-Basin. On both occasions the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants kept me plenty warm with just a pair of basic wicking long johns underneath. With the wind kept a bay staying warm was no problem. I was even comfortable as I stood in line for a chair during some inbounds testing.
Breathable, no Really
On my high exertion days like touring up Loveland Ski area and during an early morning randonee race at A-Basin, these pants were outstanding. In mid-teen temps during the one hour race I never had to use the zippers the fabric vented that well. At Loveland the temps were higher so a simple pull of the zipper was all I needed. On a long day tour I simply adjusted as needed. The side zippers are long enough that if you’re touring on a super sunny day you will have plenty of room to show some leg and let the heat out. The zippers tabs are big enough to use with gloves on and slid easily.
I was very happy with the fit of the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants, they fit like my favorite pair of jeans. There is plenty of range of motion without being baggy in all the wrong places. The side Velcro tabs at the hips provided all the adjustment I needed to keep my size mediums from slipping down. But if you need to, you can fit a pair of OR suspenders to these pants. The lower back has a bit of a rise to keep any way ward snow from surprising you.
With high marks for the major component the details didn’t disappoint. The extra pockets made it easy to keep chap stick and an energy bar easy to grab. I don’t think I need four pockets, two would do for me, but they don’t hurt the performance either. I didn’t really use the dedicated beacon pocket however. Certainly not because I don’t use a beacon, I do, but I’m a bit old school and stick to the shoulder and hip sling. The DWR on the zippers is a small touch that you don’t know you’re missing. The internal gaiter in the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants kept the snow out on those lucky days when the snow was well, over the boots. The gaiters have a small slit in them to accommodate boot buckles, a nice touch that helps with quick transitions and keeps the snow out when touring. I can’t speak much to the reinforced cuff as those elements can take many season to truly show their grit. But given the rest of this pant I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed.
Final Verdict of the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants
A dependable, versatile pair of softshell pants are one of two of the most important bits of apparel for a backcountry traveller. Find a good pair and you’ll hang on to them for as long as possible. With a long list of features that proved themselves on the mountain, I have a feeling the Outdoor Research Valhalla Softshell Pants will long be my go to softshell pant. To find more information on these pants visit www.outdoorresearch.com