Gloves or Mitts? The Skier’s Debate

October 23, 2013 Katie Burrell

It’s a classic debate amongst skiers and snowboarders: gloves or mitts for better dexterity and warmth? Losing the mobility and dexterity of gloves can be restrictive, but having to ball your fingers up in your gloves can be painful. Opting for mittens with synthetic insulation might be the solution. Ultimately, numb hands can be a day-ender. So what’s the trick to keeping your hands warm and dry?

Bare Hands. Impressive, But Unnecessary. Photo: Dave Silver
Bare hands are not recommended for snowboarding; a good pair of gloves or mittens with insulation is essential. Impressive, but unnecessary. Photo: Dave Silver

I asked Cory Biagi, the Hestra rep for BC, which gloves he would recommend as the best at keeping your fingers alive and well out there in the elements…

Pros and Cons of Mitts and Gloves

Ensuring you have the right pair of gloves or mittens with sufficient insulation can transform your experience on the slopes. “There are pros and cons of both mitts and gloves,” says Cory. “Five-fingered gloves give you great dexterity, whereas mitts keep your hands warmer. Hestra makes a “three-fingered” glove that gives you great dexterity and also gives you the warmth that you would find in a mitt.”  I’ve seen these three-fingered numbers, and as much as they look a bit like dinosaur fingers, they work. Ski industry professionals use them because they allow you to have the option of either putting all of your fingers together or separating them to work more efficiently, without having to take your entire glove off. Mittens keep your fingers together, allowing you not to get cold fingers and stopping you from getting cold hands. This is a great feature when you are heliskiing or snowboarding because you are required to put your skis or board on and off every run, and fiddling around with ski straps in mitts can be challenging unless they offer better dexterity.


Gloves offer hand protection and allow you to better get hold of your ski poles. Snow gloves or lightweight gloves help you grab the full surface area when you are busy skiing or snowboarding, something mittens might not do when you are skiing down a mountain. When you go for gloves, you should try to find something ideal for activities. You don’t have to use them just to ski and snowboard; it is just nice to have protection against the extremely cold air.


Chris Rubens Demonstrates How The Throwing Of Devil Horns Could Be Difficult In Mittens. Photo: Bryn Hughes
Chris Rubens demonstrates how the throwing of devil horns could be difficult in mittens. Photo: Bryn Hughes

For heliskiing specifically, Cory recommends the Heli Gloves. Why? To develop these gloves, Hestra worked with people who heli-ski the most: ACMG ski guides. Together, they designed a warm and durable glove that would last through harsh conditions—the ideal winter gloves, incorporating breathable materials and synthetic insulation for fun in the snow. The Heli Gloves (aptly named) are great because of the impregnated goat leather for maximum durability, pre-curved finger design for a natural fit, over-the-cuff gusset to help seal out snow and a removable insulated liner.

Seth Morrison Dropping In With A Good Set Of Hestra Gloves On. Photo:: Blake Jorgenson
Seth Morrison dropping in with a good set of Hestra gloves on. Photo: Blake Jorgenson

There is nothing worse than buying something over and over for it to fall apart on you in one ski season. Cory was happy to share the ultimate tip to make sure that your gloves last as long as possible. “Balm the leather regularly, and your glove will resist moisture, wear and tear better. The best way to do this is to apply the leather balm, moisten the leather a little first, and rub in the balm until the leather is saturated. Do this in the evening and let the balm absorb during the night.”

Hestra’s traditions go back to 1936, when Martin Magnusson started the company in the town of Hestra, Sweden. In 2012, fourth-generation Magnussons, Anton and Niklas, obtained their journeyman certifications in glove-making to keep the craftsmanship alive. Hestra’s mantra is “for hands, by hands.” Maybe that’s the trick. 

Keep Your Hands Warm So That You Can Enjoy This Whole-Heartedly And Whole-Handedly. Photo: Randy Lincks
Keep your hands warm so that you can enjoy this whole-heartedly and whole-handedly. Photo: Randy Lincks

If you don’t already have a pair of Hestra gloves for your heli-ski vacation and think that they sound exactly what you’ll need, you’re in luck. We sell Hestra gloves at our shop up here; they are waterproof and breathable, and you can get your guide to recommend their favourite pair (they use them too) for skiing or snowboarding.


 When you have your gloves ready to go, contact us and let Last Frontier help you test those ski gloves or mitts out.