Ski Gloves – What Works and What Doesn’t

November 30, 2016 D'Arcy McLeish

When hitting the slopes, ski gloves are one of the key pieces of gear that can truly make or break your day. Sure, you need skis that work, waterproof jackets, layers, helmets, and poles; all of those things are essential. But the deal breakers are boots and gloves. Both are critical to your interaction with the snow. Both, if not working properly, can turn an epic powder day into an epic nightmare, stressing the importance of high-quality snowboarding and ski gloves. For this post, we’ll stick to gloves but boots are as important and can be read about in an earlier post here. 

The Hestra Army Leather Heliski. A Guide's Favourite. Warm, Comfy And Bullet Proof. Photo - Hestra Gloves
The Hestra Army Leather Heliski. A guide’s favourite. Warm, comfy, and bulletproof.
Photo – Hestra Gloves

Choosing the Best Ski Gloves and Mittens: Essential Tips and Recommendations

Ski gloves are often overlooked. People spend lots of time shopping for the glory pieces of kit in their getup; skis, for instance. Then, when it comes time to buy gloves, they grab whatever is on sale and make do. This is the first mistake. Having the right glove or mitten is critical for a few reasons. First, keeping your hands warm and dry helps make everything a little easier. When you shop for ski gloves, look for one that can insulate your hand. Wet, cold hands just don’t work as well as warm, dry hands.

The Flylow Gear Blaster Glove. One Of My Faves. Photo - Flylow Gear
The Flylow Gear Blaster Glove. One of my faves.
Photo – Flylow Gear

Second, buying any old pair of gloves might mean limited function and dexterity. Gloves are handy if you can actually do things in them, like grip your poles, grab your skis, open your zippers, etc…Third, gloves have to fit. In the case of leather gloves, they will break in and stretch, so proper fit is essential. Testing ski gloves to see the gloves on the market and what the gloves offer is important. See what works for you before you buy anything. A new pair of ski gloves will just last longer with the proper care. Which brings me to the most important point: what type of gloves should you buy?

You Need Good Gloves For This... Photo - Caton Garvie
You need good gloves for this…
Photo – Caton Garvie

Aside from super light spring style or ski touring gloves (where synthetic materials can be a better option), I am a fan of leather. Sure, there are lots of synthetic options out there, some of which may be fairly good, but leather is the best. Period. These gloves are warm enough for skiing and snowboarding. Leather gloves can be waterproofed, break in nicely, provide a good level of dexterity, even in a thick, severe cold weather style glove, and last. Leather is tough and durable and if treated properly with waterproofing wax, it doesn’t freeze and stiffen up and will last several years.

An Amazing Option From Arc'teryx - The Rush Glove. Photo -
An amazing option from Arc’teryx is the Rush Glove.
Photo –

There are a lot of choices out there for gloves. Some leather gloves incorporate a Gore-Tex membrane between the leather and the lining, providing more waterproofing. All leather gloves require treatment with wax compounds to make them truly waterproof. The Gore-Tex leather gloves are probably the warmest style of leather gloves because, even if the leather gets soaked, your hands stay dry. The glove our ski guides favour, which is a big gauntlet-style leather glove available with a Gore-Tex option, is a good example of this, perfect for any snowboarding occasion.

The Black Diamond Kingpin Glove. Photo -
the Black Diamond Kingpin Glove.
Photo –

As a ski patroller, I need something that can put up with daily abuse and only leather can do that. Synthetics last about a week on the job as they are just too susceptible to tearing from rough and sharp edges. Leather protects against all that. Some of my favourites over the years have been the Hestra Army Leather GTX,  Kinco Ski Glove, Flylow Blaster, Black Diamond Kingpin, and the Arc’teryx Rush Glove. All are fairly warm and have proven to be tough, comfortable and, if treated regularly, waterproof.

The Hestra Army Leather 3 Finger Glove. A Good Hybrid Choice For Very Cold Days. Photo -
The Hestra Army Leather 3 Finger Glove. A good hybrid choice for very cold days.
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In cases of extreme cold, especially if you’re not doing a whole lot out there, your hands need mitts. Mitts are like having ovens on your hands. They are warm, comfortable and cozy. But they do lack dexterity. If you are thinking about mitts, though, the same principles apply. Get leather. Hestra even makes the lobster claw gloves, which are a 3 finger hybrid between a mitt and a glove. It has a little more dexterity than a mitt and is waterproof. These are a good choice for very cold days when you still want to be able to grab things efficiently.

The Kinco Pig Skin Ski Glove. Pretty Much The Workhorse Of Professional Ski Patrols Across North America, It's Cheap, Tough And Comfortable. Definitely A Favourite. Photo -
The Kinco Pig Skin Ski Glove. Pretty much the workhorse of professional ski patrols across North America. It’s cheap, tough and comfortable. Definitely a favourite.
Photo –

In terms of fit, if you do decide to buy leather gloves, get them a little on the small side. Leather stretches, especially when it’s being used in a wet, cold environment. The liner of the glove, much like the liner of a boot, will pack out as well, so if you buy them large or “just right” in a few weeks, they will be too big. So do yourself a favour and get them a little small and be patient with the break-in period. Once that’s passed, you’ll have a pair of comfortable, durable, and warm gloves that can handle just about anything.

Make sure you do your research to find the perfect ski gloves for your needs. Then, book your trip and hit the slopes in comfort!

Be safe, ski hard, and keep your hands warm.