Are Gloves or Mittens Better for Skiing?

Ski Expert Hunter R. tackles the age-old debate—do you want to be wearing gloves or mittens while you're skiing? See her suggestions below!

A woman holds her skis while wearing black mittens.

Photo courtesy of Rossignol

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Which are better for skiing, gloves or mittens? If you participate in any snow sports, I bet you’ve had this argument either with someone else or as an internal dialogue. So, let’s break it down. I’ll walk you through what’s important to know, things to look for and consider when you are shopping for new winter gear, and my top picks for both gloves and mittens!

Gloves vs. Mittens

On a really basic level, there are two key factors to consider when comparing gloves and mittens. 1. Mobility: Gloves have better mobility since each finger can move on its own. This might come in handy if you need to make adjustments to your boot buckles or bindings, use your phone to coordinate with friends to get an après beer, use a zipper, or unwrap a candy bar while you are on the lift. 2. Warmth: Mittens are generally warmer — there is only one pocket for your hand to be in, so the body heat can be shared.

Those two things should help you start to narrow down which is a better option for you. There are three other big factors to consider when choosing a side of the gloves-versus-mittens argument — material and construction, breathability, and the fit on your hand.

Material/Construction

A graphic with a GORE-TEX glove that shows the outer shell, insulation, and inner lining.

Photo courtesy of GORE-TEX

There are four parts of a glove or mitten:

Outer Shell

The outer shell is the part you see on the outside of the glove or mitten. It will either be synthetic, leather, or some combination of the two.

Synthetic material can be a bit lighter and normally has waterproofing or water-repellent coating on the outside so your gloves or mittens never feel wet.

Leather is generally pretty sturdy and, when maintained well, is also waterproof and water-resistant. Most synthetic shells have a leather reinforcement in the palms and knuckle area to provide extra durability. That being said, if you are planning on having one pair for a long time and are pretty harsh on gear when you're outside but take care of it when you get home, leather is the way to go.

Membrane

Under the shell is the membrane. This part is important to pay attention to, as it holds the key to waterproofing, windproofing, and breathability. There are a few different options here but I will just talk about the three most common ones.

GORE-TEX is the best in terms of providing waterproofing and windproofing without compromising too much on breathability or stretchability. ​​Polyurethane is the next step down; it is still waterproof and breathable, but it won't hold up as well in the long term.

The last most common option you’ll find for membranes is some type of wind-resistant fabric, normally Windstopper®. It is not waterproof, but it’s very breathable and still quite warm if your hands normally stay dry. Gloves with Windstopper normally have an outside coating of water repellent, so your hands won’t get wet in light precipitation.

Insulation

Insulation will either be made with down or synthetic. Down is excellent and the warmest option if your hands stay dry, but if your gloves tend to get wet or your hands are super sweaty, you may want to move on to the next option. Synthetic insulation maintains its warmth even when moisture is present and it is generally a bit less bulky. There are a few different options when it comes to synthetic insulation, the two most common being PrimaLoft® and Thinsulate™.

Lining

The lining is the part you can feel on the inside of the glove or mitten. It is usually made from either fleece or wool and has some synthetic material to wick moisture away from your hands.

Breathability

Given the info above, you probably have a pretty good idea of how to find a glove or a mitten that will fit your needs for breathability. If you have sweaty hands and get something very warm and not very breathable, you are going to end up cold and unhappy. If you get something super breathable and your hands tend to be cold—same story. Make sure you factor this component in!

Fit

Someone holds their ski poles while wearing black gloves.

Photo by Steve Johnston

Fit is often overlooked, but it is so important. When a glove or mitten is too big, it loses a lot of its warmth capabilities since more cold air can get inside and there is more area inside for your hand to have to warm up. If a pair of gloves is too big, it also gives you less mobility because there will be extra fabric at the end of the fingers, inhibiting you from being able to use your fingers.

When buying online, glove and mitten manufacturers will almost always provide a size chart to help you find the right size given the width and length of your hand, which can easily be measured with a tape measure or ruler. When you try on your gloves or mittens, you should be able to comfortably fit your whole hand inside without too much trouble. The fit should be snug, but not so much that your fingers feel like they are being constricted when you make a fist.

Features

Here are a few other options you might come across when looking for your new pair of handwear:

Lobster Gloves

If gloves and mittens had a baby—your pointer finger is free, your thumb is still free, and your other three fingers think they are in a mitten. They’re popular mostly among snowboarding-mitten enthusiasts because they’re basically mittens but they make it easier to adjust your bindings with that extra finger free.

Liners

If you have particularly cold hands or often take your handwear off, liners are a great investment. They are very thin and meant to be worn inside your glove or mitten. Here are a few I like:

Heated

If you are doing your winter sports in really cold climates (cough Whiteface cough), or if you have tried to keep your hands warm and can’t find anything that works, I would say heated gloves or mittens are worth the investment. They can get pricey so it wouldn’t be my first recommendation for an everyday glove, but there are some good options out there. Here are some of my favorites:

Touchscreen Compatibility

Someone looks at a map on their phone while wearing black gloves.

Photo by Mael Balland

If you find yourself taking your gloves on and off a lot to take photos or Facetime your mom from the top of peaks, there are a lot of gloves and liners with touchscreen capabilities in the pointer finger and thumb.

Leashes

Leashes allow you to attach your glove or mitten to your wrist so you don’t drop or lose them when taking them on and off, especially on the chairlift.

Skiing vs. Snowboarding: Are Gloves and Mittens the Same for Each?

Mostly. Snowboard-specific gloves are a bit more reinforced on the palm and knuckle area since snowboarders have more contact with snow and bindings than skiers. Lobster gloves are also a bit more popular with snowboarders, as mentioned above. Skiers tend to like gloves a bit more than mittens, as the added dexterity is nice for holding onto ski poles (a big generalization).

So...Which Is Better?

Stratton Matteson smiles while going uphill on skis. He holds his poles with black gloves.

Stratton Matteson for K2. Photo by Colton Jacobs

Sorry to disappoint you, but it entirely depends upon your personal preference, comfort, and needs. Here are a few of my favorites of each to help narrow down your search!

My Top Choices

Best Gloves

Best Mittens

Backcountry Skiing and Splitboarding

Cross Country Skiing

Spring Skiing and Warmer Days

If you have any questions or if you want to get set up with the best gloves or mittens for your needs, reach out to a Ski Expert here on Curated. We'd be happy to help you make the choice!

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Written By
Hey there! My name is Hunter and I grew up in Ogden, Utah - one of the most underrated places for skiing IMO (but shh don't tell your friends). I considered leaving the state for college for all of five minutes until I realized the access to skiing, climbing, etc. in Utah is unparalleled. So I just...

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