Photo:Louis Arevalo/Tandemstock

How To Choose the Right Ski and Snowboard Gloves

How To Choose the Right Ski and Snowboard Gloves

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. 

Shell Materials

Most ski and snowboard gloves are waterproof and, hopefully, breathable. There are a few different materials or options for the outer layer or shell of the glove or mitten. 

  • Nylon and nylon blends are commonly used for ski and snowboard gloves with a waterproof membrane and synthetic or down insulation. 
  • Gore-Tex is a proprietary technical material used for much outdoor clothing and is one of the most durable, waterproof, breathable options for gloves. This material is used for the shell or a technical membrane within leather gloves. 
  • Leather gloves will be nimble and durable, and many leather styles have synthetic waterproof membranes. Leather gloves do need to be treated with wax for waterproofing but work well if maintained often. Leather is also one of the most durable materials for gloves and does not freeze or stiffen up when cold. 

Down vs. Synthetic Insulation

  • Down is lightweight, warm, and highly breathable. Gloves with this insulation will be warmer and less bulky than synthetic gloves. However, down does not insulate well if it is wet. Down insulation is ideal in cold and dry climates and particularly warm when combined with a highly waterproof exterior and mitten design. 
  • Synthetic is most common in ski and snowboard gloves because it is more affordable than down and maintains warmth in wet conditions. Synthetic insulation materials also dry quicker.

Additional Features

Glove liners: Many gloves or mittens come with removable liners, which makes them extremely versatile in a broad range of temperatures with the ability to wear either the liner or shell on its own, or combined. Liners are also easy to wash and can be bought separately and replaced. 

Touch-screen capability: If you plan to use smartphones or other electronics with your gloves on, think again. Touch screens are heat-sensitive. You'll need a pair of gloves with touch-screen capability integrated into the index fingers if you want to use your devices without taking the gloves off.  

Nose wipe: Many glove designers add soft fabric swaths to the glove's thumbs so that you can wipe cold and runny noses without chafing. It might sound gross, but you’ll appreciate it on the chairlift.

Long cuffs: On cold and snowy days, a more extended glove cuff is ideal—the length will help keep warmth in and snow out.   

Wrist Cinch: Most glove cuffs tighten two ways: with a cord or a zipper. Zipper gloves typically have a shorter cuff that fits under the ski jacket, while a more extended cuff with a cinch cord can sometimes fit on the outside of the coat, providing a tighter fit to keep out snow and cold air. 

Heated gloves: With a range of heat settings and battery power from 2 to 8 hours, rechargeable, heated gloves are ideal for extreme cold. 

Strap integration. Some skiing gloves offer a loop or tab that allows you to clip in or attach directly to a compatible pole, forgoing the need to weave your glove through a pole’s wrist strap. Other gloves feature an internal lanyard or leash cord for your wrist  that keeps the gloves attached, on or off—a nice added benefit, especially on kids’ gloves—that prevents them from getting lost in transit or when removing gloves to adjust all that other gear.

How To Choose the Right Pair

Ultimately, you may want a different pair of ski or snowboard gloves for various sports and conditions. So, deciding on the right pair comes down to how you plan to use them. 

Do you ski or ride in extreme cold, or do your hands become cold quickly?

Consider a down mitten with a highly waterproof shell. 

Are you handling a lot of gear, and is dexterity essential for you?

Look for a leather glove with a Gore-Tex membrane and synthetic insulation. 

Do you plan to exclusively tour the backcountry, or go Nordic skiing?

Look for a sport-specific style. 

Are you a fair-weather skier or snowboarder who likes sunshine and drinking hot beverages inside the lodge on storm days? 

Try a pair of waterproof synthetic gloves with a removable liner for versatility.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.