Ski Glove Buyer's Guide
Learn everything about ski gloves. Helpful advice and information.
Welcome to our Ski Glove Buyer's Guide. In order to assist you in buying the right gloves or mittens we have created this comprehensive information guide about every variable of ski glove design and materials used in their construction.
There are two main styles for gloves and mittens: Short-cuff (that fit under the cuff or sleeve of your jacket) or Long-cuff (Gauntlet-Style with forearm closures that fit over the cuff or sleeve of your jacket).
This ski glove buyer's guide is for the average skier or rider who only wants to buy one pair of gloves or mittens that works best for most days.
1. Which style, short or long? This really comes down to whether you prefer to wear your glove cuffs under your jacket sleeves. Short-cuffs are essential for wearing under your jacket sleeve. They are functional irrespective of weather. Long-cuff (gauntlet-style) gloves offer an ease of putting them on/removing them that short cuffs with Velcro® do not. Long cuffs are King when the snow is deep and the weather is foul. Learn more about the pros and cons of each style
2. Removable or sewn-in fixed liners ? Removable liners can be really nice. They can be exchanged with other liners, removed for faster drying or machine washing and they can be used by themselves as an effective second pair of light mittens/gloves. The problem with removable liners is that they are often difficult to re-seat in the correct position inside the shell. And when your hands are sweaty, it could be trouble. That's less of a problem with mittens, but gloves can be a crap-shoot, depending on the design of the glove. When you try them on at the store, make sure they come apart and go back together easily, because when you're out in the elements it will be much harder. The fundamental problem with removable liners, that's hard to avoid in most ski gloves, is that the liner is not fixed so the gloves rarely fit exactly right, and dexterity is often compromised. The liner (in most designs) moves relative to the shell every time you move your hands. Learn more about the pros and cons of different ski glove liners
Free the Powder specializes in designing removable liner ski gloves that fix all these issues - our X Series. Check them out
3. What type of insulation, and how much? There are many types of insulation used: sheep's wool, cotton, fiber pile, goose down feathers, and the branded synthetic fibers like Thinsulate®, Thermolite®, Qualofill®, PrimaLoft®, or Breathefil™. Rule number 1: never use cotton as an insulator -when it gets wet, it stays wet and cold. Both wool and synthetic materials stay warm when they get wet, and they dry very fast. Wool is a bit heavy, and breathes significantly less than modern synthetic materials. Natural goose down feathers and PrimaLoft® synthetic are warmer than other synthetics per ounce of weight, but their loftiness often is too warm, lacks breathability, and decreases dexterity. Your hand feels like they're floating in there - which can be really good, really bad or somewhere in between. Lofty insulation for your gloves is great when it's brutal cold, or when you require less dexterity. For general everyday use in skiing and snowboarding, I prefer less lofty insulation like Breathefil™ or Thinsulate® because they are really warm for their lack of loftiness, so you are not sacrificing grip and dexterity for warmth, or vice versa.
The amount of insulation is usually measured by its weight in grams (per square meter). The amount and warmth depend on the type of insulation, but generally, anything under 100 grams is for warmer days, 30+ degrees F or for those whose hands run warm. 100 grams is just about perfect for your average winter day, 20-30 degrees F. 100 grams or more is for cold days, below 20 degrees F. It's great to have such gloves or mittens for the cold days, but they have more limited use unless your hands are always cold, you are outdoors with low activity level, or the gloves are extraordinarily breathable. More than 200 grams is for seriously cold conditions, sub-zero, and expeditions in the high mountains or Arctic.
Something to consider, the more breathable the glove, the more insulation it can use without making your hands too sweaty when the temperature rises. When a glove uses a "waterproof" membrane insert like Gore-Tex®, then you have to be conscious of too much insulation because the membrane is much less breathable than no-membrane. And those sweaty hands are going to turn cold. Learn more about ski glove insulation
4. Battery Powered: ski gloves with heaters have become very popular. In theory, that seems like a great idea to guarantee toasty hands. In practical use, they present several inescapable problems. Learn more about battery powered heated ski gloves
5. Dexterity: Gloves are better for dexterity, but you give away something really important, warmth, which gives a mitten much more versatility on a given day. Dexterity can be achieved in a mitten if you choose one size smaller than you would normally wear in a glove. Learn more about ski glove dexterity
6. Grip: The grippiness of a glove or mitten is created primarily by the surface of the palm. Sometimes grip patches, common in work gloves, are helpful, but in my experience they are mostly just cosmetic. They exist to make you think they grip well. Soft leather offers the best grip. And the real secret is in the tanning process of the leather. Free the Powder makes the grippiest gloves on the market due to our process of emulsion in fatliquors. Learn how FTP Gloves are made with such grip
7. Mittens or Gloves? For many of the reasons listed above, a mitten gives away some dexterity but offer more flexibility in a range of temperatures. Your fingers together retain a lot more heat, which might make you think your hands would get sweatier than wearing gloves. Not necessarily. I find having more air around my fingers allows for better circulation and breathability. I have poor circulation in my extremities so mittens are a much better one-glove solution for me. It really is up to individual needs and preference. Gloves v. Mittens Guide
8. Water-proof membrane or not? This depends on temperature, wetness of the environment, and activity level. Skiing and snowboarding being winter activities, it is usually cold outside. And most days, it is not wet, so a primary focus on wetness protection from the external environment doesn't make much sense for an everyday ski glove. But, if you are using the glove or mitten during low activity levels or when it's really wet, then water-proof membranes can be really nice. The membrane keeps most of the wetness out, while the low activity level keeps the hand from creating its own moisture through sweat. Forget the hype, Gore-Tex® and other water-proof membranes are essentially plastic bag liners that keep the water out, but also keep the water in (sweat). Even the best of them are much less breathable than no-membrane. Once wet inside, they are very slow to dry. Backcountry skiing and riding throws a bit of a wrench into this question, because it depends on the activity: if strenuous hiking and skiing is your game, then breathability is by far the most important variable to consider. That is when water-proof membranes may be a liability. But if you are ice climbing (with slow melting ice) or heading out on a backcountry tour that may include rain, then a water-proof membrane may be essential. Learn more about water-proof membranes
As a glove designer, I spent an entire ski season (100+ days) wearing a membrane glove on one hand and a non-membrane glove on the other. The rest of the design characteristics were exactly the same. Most of the time, membranes caused me to have clammy hands, whereas the non-membrane glove was almost always dry. On days when it was raining, both gloves got saturated with water. For me and my team of testers, the membranes were much less effective in most conditions than the ultra-breathable, no-membrane gloves. Learn more about the importance of breathability in ski gloves
Someday, when we find a "waterproof-breathable" membrane insert that works to our satisfaction, we will offer them in our gloves. We are working on that. Stay tuned.
A better "waterproofing" option for your ski gloves is a design that balances the problems of external water penetration with internal sweat production. Guide to water-proofing of ski gloves
9. Wrist leashes: (often referred to as glove leases, wrist straps, idiot leashes, or retention straps) these sometimes-helpful additions to gloves and mittens are very popular, especially with snowboarders, climbers and kids. It's really up to your personal preference whether you want to be tethered to your gloves. Here are instructions to add wrist leashes to our gloves or any others.
10. Leather or Synthetic? A glove that is all leather is form-fitting on your hand and looks cool. But, leather is less breathable than nylon Taslan, Cordura or softshell material. A leather-less palm will cause the glove/mitten to fall apart much faster and significantly decreases grip and dexterity. Guide to Leather Ski Gloves
11. Type of leather, treatment, and reinforcement: Leather palms are essential for a ski glove designed to last. But not all leather palms are created equal: the quality of the leather and the use of reinforcement patches are essential:
Three types of leathers are most common: cowhide, goatskin, and deerskin. There are always exceptions based on their tanning process, treatment, thickness and quality, but in GENERAL:
· Deerskin (typically shiny yellow colored) is the softest and most dexterous, but it gives away significant toughness due to its thinness.
· Goatskin is tougher, but a little less soft and dexterous than deerskin. A great balance, which is quite popular.
· Cowhide is the toughest, but often gives away a bit of softness and dexterity. The interesting thing (and something to look out for) about cowhide is that the range of thickness and quality vary greatly.
More important than what animal the hide came from, is what type of tanning process it went through when it was made. Learn how leather is made for ski gloves
Free the Powder uses premium soft cowhide. Our leather uses a unique tanning process to maximize grip and toughness, while maintaining the highest possible softness and dexterity. We then put a cowhide leather reinforcement patch over the already tough cowhide leather palm. Learn more about reinforcement patches
The history of ski gloves is ruled by the axiom "you get what you pay for," but not with Free the Powder Gloves. We sell the highest quality gloves for less. Why? Because that's what we always looked for when shopping for gloves ourselves. And after too many years of being unable to find them, we decided to make them ourselves. I hope our ski glove buyer's guide was helpful in your buying process.
Chase Stewart - Head Designer and Founder
Free the Powder Gloves
Here are links to more of our glove guides:
- Which FTP glove model is for you?
- Guide to Backcountry Ski Gloves
- How to Choose How to Buy Guide
- The Best Ski Gloves: A comparison
- Keeping your hands warm while skiing
- Raynaud's Syndrome & Skiing
- Snowkiting Gloves
- Ski Racing Gloves
- Snowmobiling Gloves
- Ski Patrol- Mountain Work Gloves
- Ski Instructor Gloves
- Winter Work Gloves
- Women's Ski Gloves
- FTP Ski Glove Liners
- What makes us different?