Roy Kittler sports the Summit Verbier combo in XL. Klaus Polzer


Feel at home on the biggest mountains

Tested: The North Face Summit Verbier Jacket & Pants

By: Klaus Polzer December 22, 2023

When choosing a ski outfit, it is hard to go horribly wrong these days—as long as you opt for something technical that fits your body type and general preferences. If you count yourself among the more demanding backcountry skiers, however, you might have a more specific check list. The Summit Verbier combo by eminent outdoor brand The North Face will tick most of the boxes on such list. We had the chance to test this top-level kit in our snow-blessed early season in the Alps.

The Summit Verbier jacket and pants represent the pinnacle of technical outerwear designed for skiers and snowboarders from The North Face, so all materials are top notch. Both are made from 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric featuring the famous membrane that guarantees to keep the elements out while still being highly breathable. As a bonus, the top layer of this fabric is made fully from recycled materials. Zippers are YKK and are of the waterproof type where this is required. We had a kit in size XL; it wasn’t exactly super-light weight at 870 g for the pants and 850 g for the jacket but that’s nothing that will bother you unless you are heading for the longest or highest ascents. In exchange, the outfit felt pretty robust, so it should handle some abuse in tight trees or from the stray contact with a ski edge, but it’s far from the feel of the sturdy 3-layer armors of the old times. The Summit Verbier combo was very comfortable all day long, and the waterproofing worked faultlessly even on a rather wet day, just as you would expect. I tested the outfit during some resort skiing and on two ski tours in the Bavarian Alps in the first half of December, as well as for a day of shooting with our man Roy Kittler—188 cm tall—as model for my photography in Kühtai, Tyrol.

We found some suitable test conditions this early season. Klaus Polzer

Usually, the limelight of clothing reviews goes to the jackets, but let’s talk about the pants first. These bib pants are not your regular ski pants, and that’s what I really liked about them. A bib style is pretty common for freeride pants, but this specific variant opens from the side with one long zipper and actually has no waist belt, or any kind of waist fixation at all. Some might call it simply a bag, but I find this a particularly useful design for ski trousers that are primarily worn in the backcountry, in deep powder or inclement weather. However, you should be aware that this is not a tight fitting kit. If you like your clothing right next to your body, you probably should look elsewhere. Personally, I really enjoyed this type of design. It is particularly nice when wearing a back protector; in fact, testing these pants was the first time that my protector vest didn’t conflict with the waist of my pants. Maybe this is a problem that only I have, but with other pants, the back protector often gets hung up on the waist of my pants. Not this time! The pants are held by suspenders that run freely through a loop at the back, and therefore need adjustment only on one side. It’s a clever design that allows the bib to follow all body movements effortlessly. On our shooting day, Roy found it a bit loose and would have preferred a different setup. I didn’t have any problems with it, which might be due to the pants riding a bit higher on me due to my slightly smaller height.

Bib style a.k.a. bag style. Klaus Polzer

There is no shortage of technical features on the Summer Verbier bib. In total, there are five pockets; the most useful pair in my opinion is at the front of the thighs, my preferred place to store anything in pants while skiing. They are pretty deep and offer plenty of space, but have some straps and smaller inner sleeves to keep things like beacons or phones in place in case you like to store them there. There are also loops to attach things that you want to prevent from getting lost. There are two pockets at the waist which are great to put your hands in when waiting around, and finally one big pocket at the chest–again with some inner organization–which is a good spot to keep things like credit cards or keys. There are two ventilation zippers at the inner thighs with a mesh fabric guarding the openings, a robust armor against edge contact at the inner calf and classic snow gaiters. The bottom width of the legs can be adjusted with a zipper and three buttons; they are still rather wide even in the tightest setup, which might annoy some ski tourers, but I managed to fix all problems simply by flapping up the cuff while on the ascent.

1. Ventilation zippers... Klaus Polzer
2. ...and useful pockets. Klaus Polzer

One final thought about the fit. These bib pants are really wide, particularly in our test size XL, so the idea is to wear any mid layer or isolation underneath the bib, and only wear a shell jacket over the bib when skiing. For touring, this is great since your core is sheltered against wind even when wearing only your base or mid layer. This eliminates the need for carrying a windbreaker or light jacket for the ascent. For added ventilation, the side zipper of the pants that goes down to the knee can be opened from the bottom. The only thing missing at these pants is actually an equivalent ventilation zipper on the opposite side. However, the loose fit still allows for good breathability. Only in springtime, when it really gets hot and you want to flap the bib down, I might see a little problem with the design, and you may want to bring an extra belt for this instance—or use a cord which I usually bring on tours anyway. I tested this setup briefly and it worked, though only for a short stretch since it was too cold to walk without wind protection. The only time when the bib design proved sketchy was when visiting a notoriously messy public toilet. There is a lot of cloth to keep track of, so you’ll want to be on guard—there are danger zones beyond the slopes!

Men’s Summit Verbier Bib Trousers

3L Gore-Tex with outer layer made from 100% recycled Polyester

Inserts include 4% Elastane

Made from 100% Nylon

Non-PFC Durable Water-Repellent

Available Sizes
S-XXL (Inseam Size S: 74 cm; Inseam Size L: 86 cm)

Available Colors
Almond Butter Pitcher Plant Print; TNF Black

Let’s move on to the Summit Verbier jacket. Compared to the pants, the jacket is a rather traditional design. One thing that stands out is that there is no full snow skirt, only a kind of half skirt at the back that can be clipped into the pants. It’s a design that works surprisingly well once you manage to figure out the clip-in process, which had a rather steep learning curve for me. However, chances are you are going to ski that outfit with a backpack fitted tightly to your torso whenever a snow skirt is really necessary, so you won’t miss much if you don’t clip that hook into place. The bonus is that you don’t have to deal with a snow skirt when you don’t need it; I really dig this design choice. 

Other than that, the jacket is what you expect it to be. It has a two-way zipper with a wind guard underneath at the front. It has a big hood that fits a helmet when you wear one; if you don’t, you can slim the hood down with an elastic cord at the back and you can adjust the front opening with another elastic cord. The waist has an adjustable elastic cord as well, and the sleeve openings are adjustable with Velcro straps. In addition, there are some elastic bands at the sleeves to further tighten things down (which I didn’t figure out how to really use and didn’t need) but there are no snow gaiters. I think this is a wise choice, since many base and mid layers have integrated gaiters these days and they do get annoying when you have to stack multiple copies on top of each other—though this is a matter of personal taste. 

A classic hard shell look. Klaus Polzer

In terms of technical features, there are of course under-arm ventilation zippers. The collar is high and roomy; it could be a touch tighter for my liking, but you might disagree when wearing a layer or two with a high collar underneath. The inside of the collar has an added soft fabric that feels nice on the skin and doesn’t collect much snow as some other variants of this feature tend to do. There are plenty of pockets. How many pockets a good jacket needs to have is obviously a matter of personal taste; in this case, I probably could do with fewer pockets. That being said, (almost) all pockets in this jacket are well thought-out and serve a purpose. The highlight is the left chest pocket that can be opened both from inside or outside, and features an inner sleeve and strap for a mobile phone as well as a port for headphones. On the inside of the jacket, there are two open mesh pockets to quickly store things like gloves. On the outside there are two big chest pockets, one with a little strap inside, and two big pockets at the waist. The latter are a bit hard to get to due to a snow guard on top of the zippers and—at least in my opinion—are a bit useless for the intended application since this is where most of the time the waist strap of the backpack will sit. Better to have than not to have, you might say, but it adds a layer of cloth and therefore makes the jacket bigger than necessary when you want to store it away in a backpack while on the way up. Again, a question of personal preference.

1. Connect your phone... Klaus Polzer
2. ...or connect jacket with pants. Klaus Polzer

There’s one more detail that is a testament to the thoughtfulness of the designers at The North Face. Of course, the jacket includes a little pocket for a ski ticket at the left arm. This pocket also serves double duty by including a goggle cleaning cloth on a detachable strap. It’s a good spot to include this—usually these are found in chest pockets where they are sometimes hard to use. However, when you have to open the pocket with your lift ticket in order to get to this feature, I found it a bit precarious. Then I realized that inside the pocket was another little sleeve that is closed by a Velcro and has the size of a standard ski ticket. You just shouldn’t forget to use this safety pocket, or overlook it as I did in the beginning.

Men’s Summit Verbier Jacket

3L Gore-Tex with outer layer made from 100% recycled Polyester

Non-PFC Durable Water-Repellent

Available Sizes
S-XXL (Back Length Size L: 82,5 cm)

Available Colors
Pine Needle-Chlorophyll Green; TNF Black

Roy tries to get away with the test outfit. Klaus Polzer
Mission completed: The outfit is tried and tested. Klaus Polzer