Raynaud's Syndrome, Skiing and Ski Gloves

I was inspired to start a ski glove company to help fix my problem with Raynaud's Syndrome.

I have been a sufferer of cold hands and feet my entire life due to poor circulation in my extremities.

What exactly is Raynaud's Syndrome?

It is a vascular condition in the blood vessels of human extremities (hands and feet) that causes reduced blood flow. In order to minimize the amount of heat lost, the small arteries that supply the skin with oxygen constrict or narrow. This narrowing effect is excessive in those with Raynaud's. The obvious symptoms are cold hands and feet. Often symptoms can be seen visually with discoloration in the skin as the pigment transitions from white to blue to red. The cause is almost always frigid temperatures but sometimes symptoms can appear due to emotional stress. Those effected by Raynaud's are more often women and onset usually begins in your 20s, 30s and 40s. Children are effected in lower numbers (probably due to higher metabolic rates), but will show the same characteristics and symptoms as adults.

My experience with Raynaud's

I grew up ski racing and have spent my entire adult life as an everyday ski bum in Utah. Most of that time has been spent suffering from cold hands and feet. I have tried everything you can think of to solve the problem, including:

Hands - thick liners, thin liners, Gore-Tex liners, heated gloves, battery-powered, every type of insulation you can think of, mittens, three-fingered gloves, and on and on...

Feet - stiff alpine racing boots, soft freeride boots, alpine touring boots, climbing boots, tongue liners, wrap liners, custom foam liners, battery-powered heated liners, and on and on...

I have read every theory and proposed remedy under-the-sun regarding Raynaud's and circulatory issues. Not much of this advice ever worked for me.

The bottom line, in my experience and opinion:

Most people who get cold hands and feet easily have some type of physiological difference / condition that decreases blood flow to their extremities. Most people never find a solution because they are too narrowly focused on the ambient air temperature (cold) as the problem and try to solve the problem with more bulk / more heat. What makes circulatory issues so problematic is, so often, the solution that works at 0 degrees or colder (more bulk, thicker liners), may actually decrease circulation in such a way that the same bulky liners make your hands sweaty-then-cold at 15 degrees or warmer. This has been my problem. It is the tell-tale sign of classic Raynaud's Syndrome. 

The much more effective solution addresses the underlying cause -poor circulation. 

 My remedy (the design characteristics of Free the Powder Gloves):

  • Gloves and mittens that breathe exceptionally well. They prevent the biggest cause of cold hands, sweat moisture, and keep the blood moving.
  • Mittens, mittens, mittens. And always choose mittens with liners that keep your fingers together. No separation of the fingers. Keeping fingers together maximizes blood flow. If you're not willing to wear mittens, your primary issue is something other than cold hands.
  • Size up and don't be fussy about larger fit. Roomier fit gives your hands more space to breathe. If your fussy about sizing, your primary issue is something other than cold hands.
  • If you're a woman, considering buying unisex sized gloves or Men's gloves that are bit wider. More space for hands to breathe.
  • Heavily insulated glove wrists. The blood vessels that deliver blood to your hands and fingers come very close to the outer surface of the skin on the inside of your wrist. They need to be protected and insulated.
  • Insulation that is "thin" and dense, instead of lofty insulation that loses its' thermal dynamics when compressed (gripping ski poles).
  • The glove needs to balance its "water-proofing" by focusing as much on interior sweat moisture production as exterior water penetration. Forget "waterproof" membranes unless it's really wet, where air temperature is not the problem. Gore-Tex and other membrane inserts are moisture barriers that will trap moisture and make your hands cold. When it's cold, it is rarely wet.
  • Oh and one more point - get the blood flowing by warming up before skiing. (ie, walk fast in the parking lot or once on the snow, run in place with your boots on, climb stairs fast, ski aerobically, etc). If you start cold, you'll stay cold, no matter what you wear.

Everyone's issues with the cold are different and my theories are by no means guaranteed to work for you, but they changed my skiing experience for the better. Hope they help for you.

(If you want advice for our recommendation to deal with these issues, choose any of our mittens.)

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