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Our Ski Glove Design Philosophy

 

Having spent more than 3000 days in my life as a backcountry skier, mountain climber and ski racer, my goal was to make the toughest glove with the best grip, dexterity, and dryness - and offer it at an actually affordable price. In order to achieve this goal, and to satisfy the high standards I hold for products for myself, I started with an extensive research and development program that encompassed an entire ski season. Assisting me in my daily tests was a team of the most dedicated backcountry skiers and ski patrollers at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah.

Each variable of glove design was tested in more than 50+ prototype pairs of Free the Powder-made gloves. The variables:

  • Type of leather (ie. cow, goat, pig).
  • Size and placement of palm reinforcement patch.
  • Types of leather tanning and water-repellent treatments.
  • Type of insulation (ie. PrimaLoft®, Thinsulate, Thermolite®, Fleece).
  • Amount of insulation (in grams).
  • Type of liner material.
  • Type of nylon upper material (ie. hard-hell versus soft-shell materials).
  • Types of durable water repellent (DWR) for nylon.
  • Types of waterproof membrane inserts (ie. Gore-Tex®, eVent®, Hipora®, Porelle®).
  • Length of cuff (long-short-medium).
  • Closure of cuff (ie. Gauntlet cinch, Velcro®, hook-loop tab).

Every day of my testing protocol involved the use of a glove or mitten on one hand that included a different set of variables than the other hand, so I could test one variable versus the other. I had previously thought that my 3000+ days recreating in the mountains had made me an expert on winter gloves, but I learned after a season of extensive testing of glove design variables that I had in fact been rather clueless.

Free the Powder’s glove design encompasses four equally important aspects:

Breathability: The most frustrating variable tests we performed were with “waterproof” membrane inserts. I wanted to find a waterproof membrane that was in fact as waterproof and breathable as advertised. It took more than 100 days of testing with a membrane glove on one hand and a non-membrane glove on the other to come to terms with the truth: one does not currently exist, as advertised. I had various levels of moisture on my membrane-gloved hand most of the time from sweat build-up, which led to a constant cold-warm-cold cycle. The temperature and environmental factors did not matter.

On the very wettest days of field-testing, my “waterproof” membrane glove got saturated nearly as fast as my non-membraned glove. Water seems to always find a way in, especially when you need to remove your gloves. The real difference was when the rain stopped: the ultra-breathable glove with no membrane dries much faster, while the membrane glove remained wet until it was finally placed on a heat source.

I ultimately abandoned “waterproof” membranes, having come to the conclusion that maximum breathability gives a glove its widest range of climatic versatility and comfort. Waterproof membranes are really just a "plastic-bag-on-your-hand" strategy of waterproofing. A better approach to "water-proofing" of ski gloves focuses on proper tanning and treatment of the leather, proper DWR (durable water repellent) treatment of the nylon, use of premium thread between sections of the gloves, proper closure system at the wrist, and most importantly, highest quality skill in stitching the seams.

Someday, when we find a "waterproof-breathable" membrane insert that works to our satisfaction, we will offer them in our gloves.

To further advance our gloves' breathability we focused on the following variables:

  • We use natural leather that is softer and more breathable than more rigid leather.
  • We do not use a petroleum-based sealant on our leather, but a fatliquor immersion that stops water from soaking through, while maintaining its breathability. When you see a leather palm on a ski glove that has no level of moisture at all on the outer surface, you will know that you are looking at leather whose pores have been completely sealed, rendering the leather un-breathable. Also note that petroleum-based sealant degrades the leather, shortening its usable life.
  • The liner: we use a combination of the thinnest, warmest insulation Breathefil with Thinsulate® and 100% polyester fleece. By maximizing breathability, the glove requires less insulation to overcome the sweat moisture problem associated with waterproof membranes. 200 grams of thinner, dense insulation is excellent for a wide swing in temperatures.
  • We use 4-way stretch softshell nylon instead of the more commonly used Cordura or Taslan hardshell nylon. It’s nearly as tough and much more breathable.

Toughness: Our focus on toughness has four parts:

  • We use natural cowhide, which is much tougher than the more commonly used goatskin. Ours takes longer and costs a little more to achieve its goatskin-like softness. Our cowhide is super-soft!
  • We use a leather reinforcement patch on the palm. We place tough on top of tough.
  • We use 4-way stretch softshell nylon on the back of the hand and wrist.
  • We use double stitching wherever possible with the toughest thread available.

DuPont™ and KEVLAR® are trademarks or registered trademark of E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Dexterity and Grip: Perhaps the most unique aspect of Free the Powder Gloves is our focus on dexterity and grip for a cold weather insulated glove. To achieve the best results we employ the following:

  • Use of non-rigid materials that stretch and conform to your hand. 
  • Maximum breathability: Dry hands are essential to the best grip possible.
  • Premium cowhide, tanned and treated for maximum softness and grip.
  • Thin, dense insulation that retains excellent warmth.
  • Both our Long-Cuff and Short-Cuff models are designed for premium dexterity and grip, but our Short-Cuff glove is particularly unique. It employs an over-sized hook & loop closure for maximum grip on your wrist. The better the glove grips your wrist, the less the palm moves. Watch Major League baseball players regularly re-tighten the straps on their batting gloves. That is to maintain optimum grip.

    Cuff length: Free the Powder Gloves makes both Long-Cuff and Short-Cuff gloves. The Long-Cuff glove has a cuff longer than most other ski gloves, for the purpose of having a 100% seal from the elements in an easy-on, easy-off design. The shorter, Velcro-cuffed glove is of medium length, with cuffs that can be worn over the coat or under the coat. The sleekness and low profile back-of-the-hand makes sliding them under the sleeves of your coat a breeze, while the wider than normal, broad Velcro patch gives you the ability to tighten the wrist closure as much as you like, creating a near-perfect seal if you chose to wear them over the coat.

    Please note, there is also a secret in our short cuff gloves that I will now share to deflect some criticism of our cuff, which some have referred to as, "Bulky": many, if not most of us, have some level of circulatory problems in our extremities (humans did not evolve to live in very cold climates or we'd have different anatomy and protections like a polar bear or seal). One of the primary reasons for cold hands are the thin blood vessels that lie close to the skin's surface at the wrist. I experimented with wrist closures that actually improved the circulation in my hands. The cuff that worked best was a really warm, insulated cuff. For me, it was a miracle. I hope it will be for you as well.

    The best thing I can say about Free the Powder gloves is that their incredible breathability and toughness allows me to wear them backcountry skiing in the winter and clearing brush and chopping wood in the summer, with equal comfort and performance.

    Thanks for considering our gloves,

    Chase & Shannon Stewart

    glove design philosophy free the powder

    Team Free the Powder