Ski gloves seem simple enough, but they are in fact infinitely more complex than most people realize. Hence, finding the right pair can often be an exercise in frustration – especially if you find out halfway through the ski trip of a lifetime that the gloves you shelled out a serious chunk of change for don’t perform well in the conditions you happen to be skiing in. To help make sure skiers get the gloves that best suit their hands, and the conditions they plan to ski in, we evaluated several different aspects of each of the gloves. Here’s how they compared in each of the categories.
Being one of the most critical elements of a ski glove, it would seem like this would be the feature that manufacturers would put the most emphasis on. Based on our tests, however, that isn’t necessarily the case. The most noteable exception was Black Diamond’s Guide Gloves that were by far the warmest gloves in the test. The Hestra Fall Line gloves weren’t as warm as the Guide Gloves, but they also weren’t nearly as cumbersome, providing a good compromise between warmth and bulk. Most of the other gloves in the test were warm enough for mild days on the slopes, but not nearly adequate enough for those times when the temperature dips down near freezing.
Many glove designers have gone to great lengths to ensure that they incorpoarte features into their gloves that help give skiers a solid grip on their poles. From leather reinforcements on the palms and forefinger to outseams on the fingers and even articulated knuckles and pre-shaped curve design, all the gloves we tested had a least two features built into the design that allowed for a good grip. Because of that, every glove scored relatively high in this category, with the Fall Line edging out the other gloves simply because it included nearly every possible design feature that gave it a superior grip.
Although related to grip, a glove’s dexterity is actually a separate feature altogether. From zipping and unzipping your coat or the fly on your ski bibs to pulling your balaclava over your nose or loosening the cap on your flask, there are countless simple, but essential, tasks that pop-up a thousand times during the course of any given ski day, and each time you’re forced to remove your gloves to accomplish those tasks, your hands get a little colder. So while dexterity might not be at the top of the list of features you tend to look for in a good ski glove, it’s a design feature that can actually go a long way toward keeping your digits toastier on especially cold days. Both the Fall Line and Mute Sensor gloves displayed the kind of dexterity that allowed us to keep them on most of the day while the poor fit of the Compulsion OutDry made it necessary to remove them so often that it was almost easier just to keep them off.
Ski gloves might be one of the most essential pieces of equipment in your pack, but they certainly aren’t one of the cheapest. At least not if you have a pair that has any chance at all of protecting your hands from the elements. If you’re going to shell out that kind of cash, you want to make sure they gloves are going to last. Although most of the reputable gloves are made from either leather or synthetic materials, there is still a wide degree of difference in the durabilty of the gloves. Black Diamond’s Guide Gloves stood out in the test as the sturdiest of all the gloves, leaving no doubt that they would hold up to a lifetime of rugged use if not more. The Fall Line and Mute Sensor gloves also had extremely solid consturction and scored very high in this category. The Fission and Trift held up well during our test, but they didn’t inspire the same kind of confidence that they were quite as bulletproof as the gloves mentioned above.
Ski gloves do you no good if you don’t wear them, and if they aren’t comfortable, who’s going to want to wear them? A glove’s comfort has to do with much more than just the materials sewn into the inside. Comfort has to do with how the glove wraps around your hand, how it conforms to the natural contours of your fingers, how natural and unnoticable it feels when you’re wearing it. This was another category that the Fall Line came out on top, but the Guide Gloves, Mute Sensor, and Fission were all nipping at its heels. Each of them had slightly differnet attributes that contributed to their overall comfort, but the combinations of each created gloves that were easy to wear all day long. This was another area where the Compulsion OutDry failed miserably because of the poor sizing.
Features & Design
It’s not practical to test for every possible attribute being built into today’s ski gloves because no two gloves contain all the features that any given skier is looking for. From wrist leashes and jacket clips to a soft nose wipe or a sewn-in liner that doesn’t pull out each time you take the gloves off, there are little things that manufacturers incorporate into the design of their gloves that might not seem like a big deal, but can actually go a long way toward making your skiing experience significantly more enjoyable. The Fission scored the highest in this category largely because of the thoughtful overall design of the gloves, but the number of non-essential features incorporated into the Guide Gloves and Mute Sensor made them only a step behind in this category. The impractical design of the Trift, and the fact that it included almost no added features, made it score very low in this category.
There might not be a perfect ski glove for every person, but based on our test, the Hestra Fall Line comes pretty close to fitting that bill. The thoughtful design, solid construction, and impressive warmth-to-bulk ratio made the Hestra Fall Line the one glove we’d choose if we had to pick a single pair to wear on all of our skiing adventurers. Both the Guide Glove and Mute Sensor were close behind, however, much of the minimal difference between the scoring of these top three gloves could easily be overcome by the conditions you’re skiing in or your personal preference. Do you want a synthetic glove, or do you like the traditional feel of leather? Do you want to make sure to keep snow out of your cuff or do you prefer the freedom of movement that an under-the-cuff glove provides. How cold do your fingers tend to get when the temperature falls? When you’re looking at which gloves are the best choice for you and the conditions you will most likely be skiing in, start with the big determining factors, then work your way down to the little details that often make the biggest difference. Understand, though, that at the end of the day, much of the determination is going to come down to that one all-important, but impossible to quantify, element – how does the glove feel on your hand? Get out and try on the gloves that score high in the features that are most important to you and see how they feel. If you have friends who have a pair, give them a try for a couple of runs. Just don’t make the mistake of overlooking this essential piece of equipment.
Although they are often overlooked, ski gloves are one of the most important tools in a skier’s arsenal. To give readers a better appreciation of how gloves perform in different conditions, we tested these gloves in every possible real-world skiing condition we could – from blue-bird days on the resort to cold, wet, blizzardy conditions that keep most sane skiers home. Because warmth and waterproof are such critical elements, we also subjected each of the gloves to an ice-bucket challenge where the gloves were worn for 30 minutes while submerged in a bucket of icy water. In each of these tests, we ranked the gloves based on how they performed in each of these categories:
Each of the gloves were tested in a variety of real-world skiing conditions to see how warm they kept our fingers while moving down the mountain as well as riding up on the chairlift. Each of the gloves was also subjected to the ice bucket challenge and were ranked on how soon we were able to feel the cold of the water through the gloves and whether or not any water got past the outer layer.
The gloves in the test were ranked on the grip they provided on ski poles in a variety of conditions. Did wet snow make them slide? How well could we feel the pole’s grip through the padding of the glove? Did they become stiff and unresponsive when especially cold? Each of the gloves was ranked on these, and other, factors to help you know which ones allowed us to keep hold of our poles.
Good dexterity is a difficult goal to achieve with ski gloves designed to keep fingers from freezing. To see which gloves stood out from the others, we performed as many everyday tasks as possible with each of the gloves on – from operating zippers and reading trail maps to adjusting goggle straps, boot buckles, and even trying to play a round of poker while sitting on the deck between runs. We figure the more of these types of tasks that you can perfom with your gloves on, the warmer your fingers will stay, and the happier you’ll be.
It’s difficult to make a determination of a glove’s durability after a single season of use, regardless of how hard you might be on the gloves during that season. But there are several factors we looked at when determing each of the glove’s ranking in this category. Some gloves used double stitching on the seams while others were single. Some gloves had a thick layer of leather with reinforcements in the palm and forefinger while others had but a single layer of thin leather. Plastic clips and thin wrist leashes didn’t score as high as more durable materials that were likely to stand up to several more seasons of rugged use. In the end, continued use of the gloves made it pretty apparent which ones were designed to last.
There’s really only one way to determine how comfortable a glove is, and that’s to wear it. A lot. We wore each of these gloves as much as possible, and as the season progressed, there were certain gloves we found ourselves natrually reaching for when it came time to pack for a ski trip and those were inevitably the ones that were the most comfortable to wear all day long.
Features & Design
When everything else is equal, it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. Ski gloves are no different. If two gloves have relatively similar fit and feel and warmth, the one that includes the little added features that make life on the slopes a little better is going to be the one you reach for, so we ranked these gloves on how many of those “non-essential” features they included. We also looked at the overall practical design of the glove and whether it was apparent that the glove was designed for skiers by skiers or if it appeared that it was created by a fashion-focused designer who probably thinks ‘mogul’ is a business term.
While there are many attributes to consider when choosing the right ski glove, the two main characteristics to look at are style and material. The vast majority of ski gloves come in two basic styles – over the cuff or short cuff. As the name implies, over-the-cuff, or gauntlet style gloves are made with a wide “skirt” on the bottom of the glove that is designed to fit over the top of the cuff of a ski coat and cinch down to help prevent any snow from getting inside the glove or up the cuff of the ski jacket. The design does help keep hands and wrists drier and, thus, warmer, but the major drawback is the increased bulk of the gloves and the hassle of having to tighten and release the cinch string when taking them on and off. Short-cuff gloves eliminate that hassle with a slimmer, less bulky design that’s made to be worn under or next to the cuff of ski coats. While this provides for more freedom of movement, it also increases the likelihood of snow getting inside the sleeves of jackets when drifting through especially deep pow.
The other major consideration when choosing a ski glove is whether to go for a leather glove or one made from synthetic materials. Chat rooms and message boards are full of opinions on this subject, and nearly every skier in the après bars will be more than happy to provide a couple dozen reasons why one material is far superior to the other. And while each material certainly has its highlights and drawbacks – synthetic tends to be more durable and waterproof while leather is typically more comfortable and provides better dexterity – there is no hard and fast rule to either of the materials that doesn’t have an exception lurking in the shadow somewhere. The bottom line is the material that suits each skier best will be the one that he or she likes the best. The best way to chose is to try them both and it won’t take long to gravitate toward the one that fits like a…well, like a glove.