When you start getting ready for a ski or snowboard trip, the gear needs can pile up fast. Beyond the hard goods of skis, boards, boots and bindings, you need to prioritize staying warm and dry. And since blood takes longer to circulate to your appendages, outerwear essentials begin at your extremities. Choosing the right gloves or mittens can make the difference between being comfortable skiing or riding all day, and spending hours inside the lodge trying to warm up. Consider all the styles, materials and features to pick a good pair—your hands will thank you.
Types of Handwear
There are two basic types of handwear for skiing and snowboarding, plus a variety of styles depending on your specific skiing or riding plans.
Gloves: Ski and snowboard gloves are more nimble than mittens and feel relatively natural. These are the best option for skiers and riders who are handling a lot of equipment (especially poles). You sacrifice hand warmth compared to mittens since the fingers are separated, but this can also be an advantage during spring days.
- Pros: Dexterity, cooler in warm conditions
- Cons: Not as warm as mittens in frigid temperatures
Mittens: These keep your hands warmer since the fingers are grouped together and generate more heat, which makes them ideal for cold conditions or folks who have poor circulation. Mittens are less agile than gloves without the dexterity of individual fingers. They’re most popular for resort skiing and snowboarding, and less ideal for cross-country skiing or backcountry skiing and riding, where users need the ability to handle equipment.
- Pros: Warm and cozy
- Cons: Not as nimble as gloves, can be too warm in spring conditions
Gloves by Sport
Various disciplines have different needs for gloves. Select a pair based on the type of skiing or riding you plan to do.
Nordic Skiing: You’ll need a distinct pair of ski gloves for cross-country or skate skiing. Hands are crucial in these Nordic ski disciplines for gripping and poling. And since cross-country skiing is highly aerobic, you’ll need gloves that are not only warm but also breathable. Look for gloves that have a durable shell and extra grip on the palms.
Resort Skiing and Snowboarding: If you are hitting the resort slopes, you’ll often be spending as much time in lines and sitting on chairlifts as you’ll be making turns. You still want some dexterity in the fingers for carrying gear, adjusting boots, zippers, and goggles (not to mention handling poles for skiers), but most resort skiers and riders are going to prioritize comfort. Look for warm gloves or mittens that will protect your hands so that you can enjoy a long day on the slopes. One hybrid option is a lobster mitt that separates out one or two fingers from the main mitten compartment, offering a glove’s pincer-grasping ability to manipulate gear with the warmth of a mitten for the other fingers.
Backcountry Skiing and Riding: Finding the right balance between warmth and dexterity for backcountry touring can be a challenge. You will be handling a lot of gear and need to use your hands. Still, you’re also likely to encounter a range of conditions, and your body temperature will change rapidly from hiking or skinning uphill on exposed ridges and summits, to skiing and riding downhill. As a result, many backcountry users prefer a lighter pair of gloves for uphilling and gear handling, and then switch to a warmer dry pair at the summit. For backcountry performance, look for a glove that is highly breathable, dexterous, and has removable liners to help regulate temperatures.