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 are 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 notable exception was the Swisswool Freeride from Ortovox. These gloves kept our hands warm in nearly all conditions. Like nearly every other glove in the test, they fell short on the waterproof ranking, though.
Many glove designers have gone to great lengths to ensure that they incorporate features into their gloves that help give skiers a solid grip on their poles. From leather reinforcements on the palms and forefinger to 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 LaSportiva Tech gloves edging out the other gloves because of its grippy palm and thin design.
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. The LaSportiva Tech gloves outshined the others in this category because of their thin design and limited padding, but most of the other gloves still scored high in this category.
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 durability of the gloves. Although it’s hard to gauge a glove’s durability after only a season of testing use, it doesn’t take long to get a pretty intuitive feel for how a glove might hold up to years of use and abuse. The thick leather and synthetic materials used in the GTX, Xplore XT, and MTN Crew gloves stood out from the other gloves this year and left little doubt as to how they would hold up in the long run.
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 unnoticeable it feels when you’re wearing it. This year, the Ortovox Swisswool Freeride gloves stood out from all the others with the merino wool lining, soft leather, and flexible fabric on the back of the gloves that made them a joy to wear in nearly all conditions.
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 Scott GTX and Leki Xplore XT gloves were the most feature-rich of the gloves tested this year, and each one included not just the expected features, but some pleasant surprises as well.
There might not be a perfect ski glove for every person, but based on our test, the Ortovox Swisswool Freeride comes pretty close to fitting that bill largely because it was so comfortable to wear. The glove has a simple, straight-forward design that functions well and kept our hands warm while still providing a good grip on the poles. The other gloves in the test were all within a couple of points of each other for the simple reason that they are all good ski gloves. Each has its own strengths and drawbacks, so choosing the one that works best for you really comes down to looking at the features each glove offers and deciding which attributes are highest on your priority list based on 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 not given much thought, 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 perform 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 determining each of the glove’s ranking in this category. Some gloves used double stitching on the seams while others were simply single-stitched. 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 naturally 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 choose is to try them both and it won’t take long to gravitate toward the one that fits like a…well, like a glove.