Gloves Vs Mittens: Which is Better for Skiing & Snowboarding

If you’re planning a trip to the mountains, it’s important that you invest in the right equipment. Not only will this mean that you’ll be safe but you’ll also be able to take part in some sports if that is what you want to do.

The most popular mountain sports are by far skiing and snowboarding and it’s important to ensure that your hands and fingers are kept warm to prevent any discomfort. The two main choices when it comes to handwear are gloves or mittens.

Both can be used for skiing and snowboarding but they do come with their advantages and disadvantages. The obvious aesthetic differences between the two are that gloves have little pockets for each finger which allows for more movement and control whereas mittens have one pocket for all fingers which means that there is more internal heat.

Although mittens are the warmer of the two options, they do compromise dexterity which can make it difficult to change equipment such as doing up zips or handling poles. In this guide, we’ve gathered everything you need to know when it comes to choosing between gloves or mittens for your mountain activities. 

Which is easier to move?

As mentioned previously, gloves allow for more movement thanks to the individual finger pockets. This means that they provide more dexterity so you can open small zippers on your backpack, hold your phone and camera much more easily or peel wrappers from your snack bars.

These activities are a lot harder to achieve when wearing mittens because of their oven glove style finish. You can easily grip onto things with a basic grasp but not tightly grip like you could with gloves. This is also because mittens tend to be thicker than gloves.

If mobility is an absolute necessity then you would be better off with gloves over mittens. You could use three finger mittens which are used by snowboarders where the index and middle fingers are together and the ring and pinky fingers are together. Although this provides more grip, they still don’t have the dexterity that gloves have. 

Which is warmer?

Another important factor that you need to think about is which option is warmer. Naturally, you’ll be up high in the mountains when skiing or snowboarding and especially if you are a beginner, there is a higher chance of falling over which can be incredibly cold on your hands on impact as well as dealing with the freezing temperatures.

When it comes to deciding which is warmer, mittens tend to be favored as all the fingers are gathered in one pocket which means that warm air can circulate more freely. There is also more space for the fingers in the one pocket which means that they will generate more heat as they move within it.

On the other hand, gloves tend to be in contact with surface areas more thanks to their concentrated grip and dexterity. This means that your fingers are more likely to be colder. Another important factor to know is that the fingers don’t have as much space within their individual pockets so less warm air can circulate around. 

When it comes to the warmth of the gloves and mittens, it’s also important to look at the materials used in its construction with thicker materials providing more warmth. Therefore, choosing options that have fleeced linings can be both comfortable and heated.

If you do choose mittens, you may find that they are warmer but if you have to keep taking them off to make adjustments then they are going to end up making your hands much colder in the long run as well as making your experience very stop and start.

Best option for skiers

When it comes to skiing, the choice is pretty much unanimous as the majority of skiers tend to choose gloves. This probably comes as no surprise seeing as gloves provide more dexterity which is needed to control the poles.

Mittens can easily be worn but if you are just learning to ski or are working with a new hill, then you may find it harder to balance or control yourself on unfamiliar terrain. Therefore choosing gloves will mean that you have a better chance of developing your skills and becoming better at the sport.

Wearing mittens for skiing can also take a bit of time to get used to as the pole can sit between the V shape of the thumb and finger but your grip won’t be as firm or controlled as if you were using gloves.

Using three finger mittens where there are three pockets can be a great compromise for those who want the warmth that mittens bring whilst also bringing a better level of control and balance when handling the poles.

Making sure that you choose a high quality pair of gloves or mittens whatever you choose that have added features such as waterproof materials and extra insulation will mean that you have a more enjoyable experience. 

Best options for snowboarding

On the other hand, snowboarders tend to opt for mittens as they don’t necessarily need the same dexterity that is required in skiing due to the absence of poles.

Due to the faster speeds achieved in snowboarding and the high amount of balance and control needed as there are no poles to keep you upright, having thicker mittens means that you can catch yourself safely should you fall while also meaning that your hands will remain insulated and comfortable.

There are some snowboarders who like to wear gloves as they find that putting on and taking off bindings is much quicker and easier at the end of each run; however, mittens can be easy to take on and off and make quick adjustments.

Which option you choose is dependent on your own preferences. If you are wanting to make sure that your fingers are warm at all times then definitely choose mittens but if you want to have more dexterity then choosing gloves is the best option for you.

If you own a pair of gloves and want to try mittens then see if you can borrow a pair to see if it is right for you and vice versa. This will give you better insight rather than splashing out on a quality pair of mittens that you don’t feel comfortable wearing. 

Qualities to look out for

Regardless of whether you want to do snowboarding or skiing, there are certain factors that you need to consider when doing your own research.

These different aspects can make a huge difference to your overall experience and will determine the quality of your product. Not only does it mean that you will know what to expect but it will also help to prevent any disappointment when they arrive. 

  • Materials

The first thing you always need to think about when choosing which gloves or mittens are right for you are the materials used in the construction. There are plenty of options at varying price points with synthetic materials located at the lower end of the scale and then more premium materials such as leather being sold for higher prices. 

Having leather aspects on your gloves or mittens can be great, especially when located on the palm as they can provide a great grip and are more durable than synthetic materials. Another wonderful attribute that comes with leather is that it is a rough material at first but then it loosens up and softens the more they are used and adjust to your hands.

Another great material used is velcro which can be found in almost every pair of winter gloves or mittens as they allow the gloves or mittens to be adjustable so they fit you perfectly and ensure that the heat is locked in at all times.

Other gloves and mittens have small pockets installed so you can minimize the amount of stuff you are carrying at one time. The exterior of the gloves and mittens should be a rougher material that is durable and reliable so it lasts a long time and isn’t easy to damage if you fall over while practicing. 

  • Breathability 

Following on from the materials, making sure that the gloves or mittens are breathable is another incredibly important element to consider when making your decision. Having a breathable material will prevent your fingers from getting sweaty or clammy while still keeping them warm at the same time. 

Having sweaty or clammy hands can be dangerous as you may not be able to keep your grip on your poles as strongly and it will also be quite an uncomfortable experience for you.

Buying a pair of gloves or mittens that incorporate membrane technology such as Gore-Tex will mean that moisture can escape through tiny holes while blocking any wind or water from outside from coming in. This can be expensive but it is worth the investment to heighten your enjoyment and give you a fulfilled and comfortable experience. 

  • Waterproofing

Another important factor to think about is whether the gloves or mittens are waterproof. No matter what budget you are working with, always make sure that they are waterproof. It goes without saying that you want to prevent any water from getting into your mittens or gloves and making your hands cold and uncomfortable.

When you are looking up specific models, you’ll be able to see the waterproof rating so you can be assured of how protected your hands will be if you fall in the snow or if you visit the mountains during a heavily snowy period. 

  • Insulation

Always remember to look into the insulation quality of the gloves and mittens. Just as it is important to think about the waterproof aspect, the insulation is also equally important. This will determine how warm your hands and fingers will be when you are wearing them during activities.

For those who want to make sure that the insulation is included with their mittens or gloves, consider a pair of heated options. These have tiny flexible batteries sewn into the cuff which heat elements throughout the structure of the glove or mitten.

The batteries can last between 2 to 8 hours depending on how hot you have the setting. Having versatility in choosing how warm you want the gloves or mittens will make your experience more enjoyable and customized to your comfortability.

They are costly to get ahold of but it is worth the extra money for those who place insulation above everything else. The rechargeable batteries mean that you don’t have to worry about replacing them as you simply charge them up overnight and they will be ready to go the next day. 

  • Touchscreen 

Lastly, for those who know that they want gloves and want more advanced features in their gloves, look into whether they have touchscreen compatibility. This means that the fingertips of the gloves are made from materials that can operate phones or cameras without having to remove the glove from the hand.

This keeps your hands warm at all times and also means that you don’t have to miss out on those cool mountaintop selfies. The majority of gloves on the market don’t have touchscreen compatibility in them and the ones that do tend to be thinner in materials meaning that you may be compromising a higher insulation level.

For those who want touchscreen gloves, you can always wear glove liners to add an extra layer of warmth. This can take some time to get used to but it can easily be done. 

Keeping your hands warm

Hopefully by this point you have a general idea of whether you want to invest in some gloves or mittens and you know what to look out for when doing your own research. However, there are some handy tips that can help you to keep your hands warm regardless and stop you from becoming uncomfortable while you ski or snowboard.

It’s important to follow these as it means you can concentrate on having the best time possible as well as meaning that you won’t be distracted while you are trying to ski or snowboard. Here are three tips that you should follow to keep your hands warm:

  • Put your gloves on before you go outside

The first tip is the most important and will determine how much insulation and heat your hands and fingers will be exposed to during your day. If you put your gloves or mittens on while you are outside, you are ultimately trapping the cold air into your hands and fingers which will mean that they won’t be able to heat up at any point and will make the experience very uncomfortable for you. 

By putting your gloves or mittens on while you are inside, you are trapping the heat so your hands and fingers will be able to fight against the cold weather outside. A great tip for fighting against cold hands and fingers is wearing glove liners which means your skin isn’t exposed to freezing and harsh conditions should you take your gloves or mittens off. 

  • Avoid clenching your fist

When faced with extreme conditions, there are certain things that humans do subconsciously to balance out the body tension. When exposed to cold or freezing temperatures, there is an urge to clench the fist in order to provide heat to the hands and fingers and promote blood circulation.

However, winter gloves and mittens should be fitted tight around the wrist using velcro so clenching the wrist can actually have the opposite effect and decrease blood circulation without making any difference to your hand and finger heat. 

  • Ensure that your core is warm

Having warm hands and fingers is super important when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. When the whole body starts to get cold, the hands and feet are the first parts of the body that will start to suffer.

Making sure that the full body is kept at a warm temperature without being too hot will ensure that your hands and feet will remain heated throughout the day. Wearing materials such as fleece can ensure that you are layered and insulated at all times. 


Whether you are a skier or snowboarder, there are plenty of options available for you and there isn’t a right or wrong way to prepare yourself when it comes to choosing gloves or mittens. 

Making sure that you select an option that is comfortable for you to wear that still provides the insulation you would expect in freezing conditions will mean that you will have a more enjoyable experience overall.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or have been going to the mountains for years, having the right gloves or mittens will mean that you can focus on bettering your skills without worrying that your body is not warm enough. 

James Apfel