For most people, ski gloves are bought based on color (it’s gotta match the coat!), cost, and then fancy marketing names on the label that sound like they are going to keep you warm and dry. Like many pieces of skiing equipment, there is more to it than that. With different materials, advanced technology, and design features, skiers have numerous options when it comes to choosing the right ski glove for them.
Note that although this article is on “ski gloves”, it also applies for snowboarders. There is little difference between gloves for skiing and snowboarding. The reason you see gloves with one name or the other is purely for marketing.
In this article, I’ll review many of those features to help you make the best choice when choosing your next pair of ski gloves. For the most part, when looking at ski gloves you need to consider fit and comfort, warmth, and durability.
Ski Glove Considerations
Fit and Comfort
Naturally, your gloves need to fit properly and be comfortable. On the hill, you will be grabbing poles, getting on the lift, adjusting zippers, and now days you’ll probably be trying to use your phone. While it is important to be able to keep warm, you don’t want to the gloves to be so thick that you can’t do the tasks previously mentioned. Therefore, it’s important that your gloves fit properly. You want the gloves to not be too tight or loose so that they don’t hurt and still allow you to do what you need to do. The best way to get a good fit and maintain comfort is with gloves that use materials that are both warm and thin. Materials that are flexible also helps with comfort by expanding with your movements.
Everyone is different when it comes to cold hands. Some people can go out with thin gloves and be comfortable all day, while others may always be cold. A lot of it has to do with how active you are on the mountain. If you are in a lot of long lines and outdoor lifts, most people will tend to get cold hands. For warmth, it’s important to know what kind of skier you are and the typical conditions you ski in.
One important thing to consider is that if your gloves are too warm, you will sweat. Once you are sitting on the lift, this moisture will cause your hands to get colder. In this case, gloves with a moisture wicking material are ideal for you. Another good option is to keep multiple pairs of gloves in your boot bag. If you are a person who tends to sweat, change the gloves in middle of the day. The gloves will be dry and warm from sitting in the lodge all morning long.
Ski gloves can vary a lot in price. Part of that cost will be better materials that will affect how long they last. As well as the material, durability will also be affected by how you take care of your gloves. For example, leather ski gloves are probably the most durable but they will not last long if you do not take good care of them and coat them in a waterproofing wax when needed. Therefore, it is important to know how committed you are to taking care of the gloves. Leather tends to last longer, but many modern day synthetic materials are good and will be maintenance free.
Since more durable ski gloves tend to cost more, it is important to know how much you plan on skiing before committing the money to a well-constructed pair of gloves. But, if you ski often, more than likely the money will be well spent in giving you comfortable ski gloves that will last you a long time. I will review the different materials below that provide high durability.
So now we know what we need to consider when purchasing a pair of ski gloves. Let’s take a look at the variety of options.
Ski Glove Options
Gloves are constructed different ways. Each way has different pros and cons and it will depend on your preferences.
- Mittens - Mittens basically allow all of your fingers to be together in one area. The advantage is that your hand will be warmer because the fingers are keeping each other warm. The problem is that you don’t have the dexterity of being able to use your fingers separately. Therefore, you’ll need to remove your mittens for doing certain things like boot adjustments or grabbing trail maps.
- Standard Gloves – Gloves have individual compartments for each fingers. This allows the most dexterity thus allowing you to do numerous tasks without needing to remove your gloves.
- Lobster Mitts – This is a mash up of both mitts and gloves. While mitts have a compartment for all 4 fingers, Lobster mitts have a 3 finger compartment. The index finger has its own compartment allowing you to do certain tasks such as using your phone plus keeps the other 3 fingers warmer.
Hestra (Lobster Mitt example)
One of the most important features ski gloves can have is being waterproof. This material is placed between the shell material and the insulation. Having wet gloves is neither fun nor comfortable. Therefore, I highly recommend having waterproof gloves. Note that there is a difference between “waterproof” and “water-resistant”. Waterproof will keep moisture out.
Gore-Tex® is one of the better materials for waterproofing gloves. It provides waterproofing and allows breathability. Naturally, gloves with Gore-Tex® will be more expensive. There are a variety of other materials out there with different names such as North Face HyVent® or the Marmot MemBrain®. These are basically fabrics with a laminated coating made of polyurethane. These materials are cheaper and waterproof. But, there are less breathable then Gore-Tex®. Another material is Hipora®. This material is more stretchable than other polyurethane coatings and is good at allowing moisture to wick out. Real Leather gloves are water resistant and if a wax like finish (such as Sno-Seal) is added on top, they will be waterproof.
The shell material is either going to be leather, synthetic, or a combination of both. Leather gloves are typically made of cowhide or goatskin. Synthetic are made of a variety of materials and are cheaper than leather. The advantage of leather is that it is water-resistant, very soft, and offers the quality look of leather. But, synthetic shells have come a long way with waterproofing, breathability, and quality and can cut the cost of ski gloves significantly.
Many ski gloves will use the same material on the palm as everywhere else. But, in some cases, that will use a different material for better grip. Goat-skin leather is used by many professionals since it is very soft giving the skier superior dexterity and an excellent grip compared to synthetic materials.
There are numerous materials used to insulate ski gloves to keep your hands warm. But, having the thickest and warmest isn’t necessarily what is best for you. The type of insulation and amount depends on how you ski, the weather, and if you are just naturally cold. Here are some types of insulation that can be found in ski gloves:
- Down – Down insulation is perfect for very cold and dry conditions. The material traps air which keeps your hands insulated, but if it gets wet, it will not work as well. It is also very slow to dry.
- Fleece – Not the warmest, but it is the most comfortable. It is often used in conjunction with other insulation like Primaloft®.
- Primaloft® – This is one of the best materials and is found on higher end gloves. Excellent for wet conditions. It is not as warm as down material but it is more breathable and water-resistant.
- Thinsulate™ – This material is made of microfibers that provides amazing insulation with less bulk. It is often found in gloves and mittens that advertise dexterity as their main feature.
- EnduroLoft and HighLoft are all high rating types of insulation.
Removable Insulated liners
An excellent way to manage warm and cold days on the mountain is by having removable insulated liners or dual layer gloves. This is pretty simple. If it’s a cold day, you keep your liners in the glove giving you an extra layer of insulation. If it’s warmer, you remove the liner giving you less insulation. This helps keep your hands from sweating and getting wet. Removable liners are common amount a variety of price ranges. This sounds like a perfect feature, but it will make the gloves a little bulkier and less dexterous. You can also simply use the liner fir the very warm days. This is a feature I would highly recommend.
If you are one to use hand warmers, you definitely want zippered pockets. These pockets are also useful for RFID cards or money.
Some gloves come with a pre-curved or articulated fingers. This means the fingers are made with a slight curve making it a little more comfortable when gripping your poles.
Aside from the fingers and hand, the cuff length also has an impact on comfort. Basically there are three styles to look for: undercuff, cuff length, and gauntlet styles.
- Undercuff – These gloves are shorter and tuck into your ski jacket. They are not as warm but they offer more agility with less bulk getting in your way of wrist movement and are easier to ventilate.
- Cuff Length - Cuff length models go to the wearer's wrist. This requires you to tuck your jacket over the tops of the wrist of your gloves. Cuff length gloves are typically more dexterous and often not quite as warm.
- Gauntlet Style - These offer a much longer cuff that extends past the wrist to their lower forearm. Gauntlet gloves are generally warmer and offer decent protection. They also offer slightly less range of movement in your wrist. Gauntlet styles come in short and long lengths.
Black Diamond (Gauntlet Style)
Touch screen sensitive thumbs and index fingers
With the number of phones on the mountain, the ability to use your phone without removing your gloves has become a must for many skiers. Some manufacturers now offer touch-screen compatibility. With this feature, you can take photos or video without taking your gloves off.
Some gloves have battery operated heat. If you always have cold hands, this can be a nice feature. Gloves with these packs are heavier, bulkier, and more expensive.
As you can see, there are many features in a ski glove to consider. Overall, you will get what you pay for. If you are a rare skier, then having a basic pair of ski gloves is perfectly fine. But, if you ski regularly, you will want to consider getting a pair of gloves that fit how you ski, the conditions, and the features that can help make your day on the mountain even better.