How to choose your ski gloves and mittens
Are you looking for a great pair of ski gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm this winter? Like the majority of other winter sports, for skiing you’ll need to find gloves that provide the best combination of warmth, protection and dexterity for your sport. There are loads of options out there so in this article we’ll help you make the choice that’s best for you for skiing and snowboarding.
Gloves, mittens or 3-finger gloves?
Ski gloves are the most common. Each finger is individually protected which provides the dexterity needed for more precise hand work and for holding on to your ski poles.
The warmth provided by ski gloves is appropriate for most of the conditions you’ll find at ski resorts in winter. Forget about using trail running gloves or cross-country ski gloves which are generally too thin.
The wide range of ski gloves that are available makes it fairly easy to find men’s, women’s or unisex gloves that are suited to your particular activity whether it’s alpine skiing, freeride skiing, ski touring or snowboarding.
When your fingers are in contact with each other the warmth they generate is shared, which means mittens are the best option if you have sensitive hands or when you’re going out in very cold conditions.
Manipulating things is usually more difficult with mittens than with ski gloves but they are easy to take off and put back on when you need to do precise work with your hands.
Mittens are great for snowboarding because there are no ski poles to hold and snowboarders’ hands are often in contact with the snow and therefore more exposed to the cold.
Kids’ mittens are popular with young skiers who like how easy they are to put on as well as their practicality.
There is also a type of mitten with separated fingers inside. They are not as warm as regular mittens, but they provide a bit more dexterity.
--- Check out the Salomon Native Mitten.
Three-finger gloves, or lobster mitts, combine the thermal protection of mittens while approaching the precision of gloves. The middle finger, ring finger and pinky are grouped together while the thumb and index finger are separated which makes it easier to grab small objects like a ski pass.
Choose the right amount of warmth
It’s important to choose the right gloves based on the day’s weather. Cold hands can ruin a day of skiing but so can wearing gloves that are too warm which results in sweaty hands, which can be really uncomfortable.
If you’re looking for the best way to protect your hands for the entire ski season, you have two options:
Have several pairs of gloves with different thicknesses:
- light ski gloves for mild conditions
- thicker gloves for winter temperatures
- possibly a pair of thick gloves or really warm mittens for polar temperatures or if you are sensitive to the cold
Combine multiple layers:
Like the 3-layer system used in clothing, you can slide a pair of thin inner gloves inside your gloves when your hands get cold. You can use over gloves or over mittens that then add extra warmth when needed.
You can also find 3-in-1 gloves that facilitate the creation of a 3-layer system by providing a modular set of glove liner, glove and over glove.
It’s important to note that gloves with a lining feature one of two types of insulation:
- Synthetic insulation stays effective even when wet and dries quickly. Synthetic insulation is recommended if you are active, if your hands sweat easily or if the conditions are wet.
- Natural down provides excellent insulation against the cold and is lightweight. Down is sensitive to humidity and is therefore recommended for really cold and dry conditions.
There are also heated gloves that are powered by a battery built into the cuff. Although the price of these gloves is very high you should consider them if your hands get cold with normal gloves and mittens or if you’re regularly out in extremely cold temperatures. Those who suffer from cold-related problems should take a serious look at heated gloves.
Choose the right waterproofing
In addition to protecting you from the cold, your ski gloves also need to protect your hands from wet snow and protect them from the wind. This is the purpose of a Gore-TexⓇ type membrane and various other technologies developed specifically for ski gloves.
Gloves with a Gore-TexⓇ type membrane will provide you with a higher level of protection against moisture from the snow. These gloves are also breathable to keep your hands from sweating. This additional technology increases the price of the gloves, but they are very effective when conditions are bad.
To learn more about Gore-Tex® membrane, read our article, “What is Gore-Tex?”
Other technical characteristics
The right size
To find the right size, measure the length of your hand from the index finger to the base of your palm. Next measure the width of your hand about 1cm below the base of the fingers (fold visible). Then refer to the manufacturer’s table to find your glove size.
Be careful. Gloves that are too tight don’t insulate as well. You also won’t gain any dexterity by squeezing into a smaller size because your hand movements will be hindered, especially when you’re trying to squeeze something.
To ensure good protection against the cold, be sure to choose a glove size that’s large enough so your fingers will be free to move and not packed together. If you’re between two sizes and don’t know which one to pick, choose the larger one as long as you’re not sacrificing too much dexterity, especially when it comes to holding your ski poles. If this is the case, it will help to use a glove liner.
Short cuffs or long cuffs
- Short cuff or standard under-the-sleeve cuff
Gloves with short cuffs, or normal cuffs, are designed to be covered by the sleeve of your jacket. So, the sleeves of your jacket need to have Velcro on the end which makes a seal with the glove to keep out snow and wind.
- Long cuff to be worn over the jacket
On the other hand, some gloves and mittens feature a long cuff that goes over your jacket sleeve to make a seal. An elastic cord can be pulled to tighten the cuff around the jacket to complete the seal.
A glove leash is an elastic cord with a loop at the end that you pass your hand through to secure the glove to your wrist. A leash makes a lot of sense for skiing because it keeps you from losing your glove or mitten when you take it off.
You can usually cinch the glove around your wrist with an adjustable piece of Velcro or elastic cord. Be careful not to overtighten to the point where it interferes with blood flow.
Reinforced palm and fingers
For added durability, some gloves feature reinforced palms and fingertips. Leather is often used but synthetic reinforcement like Kevlar also works really well and stays flexible. These reinforcements are especially essential in snowboarding to protect your gloves from snow abrasion.
You’ll also find gloves with fingertips that connect with touch screens so that you can use your smartphone without taking off your gloves.
Hot tip for keeping your hands warm: wear a beanie!
To protect your hands from the cold you must first warm up your body. When we’re cold, our body focuses blood circulation on our vital organs and away from the extremities. Having cold hands and feet is the first sign of a drop in your overall body temperature.
You also lose a lot of heat through your head. That’s why putting on a hat is an excellent first step towards protecting your body, and therefore your hands, from the cold.
If you get cold easily, wear warm clothing that is designed for skiing or snowboarding like a fleece midlayer, an insulated ski jacket or even a down jacket.
To find out more, here’s some additional reading: How to dress for skiing.
You now know everything you need to know about choosing the right pair of gloves before you go skiing. Your ski day will never again be ruined by cold hands!