Mittens or Gloves for Winter Skiing?

By TheComfyMuff | Winter Gloves Advice

Mittens or Gloves for Winter Skiing?

Having warm hands and feet is the key to a successful fun and pleasurable ski or snowboard trip. It’s amazing how quickly your hands can get cold the higher up the mountain you go, or the more time you spend in the snow. It only takes a small amount of moisture in a glove before your hands become a hindrance rather than a help. Being able to use your fingers for fiddling with zippers, boots, and backpacks is not only functional but also an important safety feature.

Thankfully gloves and mittens have come a long way with the advancement of super technical fabrics and fibers, ensuring your hands stay warm and toasty, while also wicking sweat and moisture away from your hands. But how do you decide if a glove or a mitten is the best choice for you? Let ‘s take a look at some of the pros and cons of both types, and hopefully, this will help you make a more informed decision.

Gloves vs. Mittens – the Age-Old Debate

The decision between using mittens or gloves has been a hot topic for many years and is a very personal preference. There are benefits to both, and although they both do a similar job, they are very different in look and feel. It’s important to know what things to look for in the construction of either gloves or mittens to ensure you make the best choice. Items such as thermal liners, shell fabric, moisture barriers, and durability will all help shape your decision, and we will look at these later.

The Benefits of Gloves

The main benefit of a winter glove is dexterity. With individual fingers, this type of glove allows for more manipulation of your fingers and as such is useful if you need to access rucksacks, bags, pockets, or continually fiddle with your boots or skis. This is handy for activities such as cross-country or backcountry skiing where you may be out in the cold for long periods of time. In these situations, access to your pockets and your backpack for food and nutrition is critical.

Having good dexterity is also beneficial for your average holiday ski and snowboarders, as gloves are comfortable and suitable for a wide range of temperatures and conditions. The general assumption with gloves is that you sacrifice some thermal properties compared to mittens as there is a greater surface area around your fingers for heat to escape. However, with the advancement in fabric technology, even in the lower-priced gloves on the market this really should not become an issue unless you are in extreme conditions.

The Benefits of Mittens

The main benefit of a mitten is that they tend to have better thermal properties and keep your hands warmer in extreme conditions. With mittens, the fingers are not separated from each other by fabric; as such, they generate more heat, which is retained within the glove.  The main complaints about mittens are that it makes you less dexterous, as you only have the thumb and the rest of your hand for gripping and maneuvering. If warmth is of the utmost importance, and you don’t need to keep accessing pockets and bags, then mittens are more than adequate for holding ski poles and fastening skis and snowboard bindings.

With low-level and spring skiing where temperatures can be warm, mittens can get very warm, and some people find this uncomfortable. At high altitudes and extreme cold conditions, mittens are superb at keeping your hands insulated and warm.

The Best of Both Worlds

A recent addition to the glove market is what manufacturers call a Lobster glove.  When you look at the glove, It is easy to see where the name came from as it replicates a lobster’s claw. The glove has three sections, for your thumb, forefinger and then your remaining three fingers are enclosed in a mitten-like glove.

This significantly improves dexterity while also improving thermal properties making your hands more maneuverable and warmer at the same time. This particular style can take some getting used to but provides a midway glove between that of a mitten and a regular glove.

Other Factors

As you can see it is a personal choice as to whether you prefer to use gloves or a mitten. There are marginally better thermal properties to a mitt, but this is traded off by losing dexterity, and of course, there is a halfway measure with the development of the Lobster. However, things like shell material, waterproof linings, and membranes, insulation and cuff style also have a significant impact on which glove is right for you.  Let’s take a look at a few of these things

Shell Material

Most gloves and mittens are made using a form of nylon outer shell which has been treated with waterproof properties. As well as being waterproof, it is crucial that gloves are also able to breathe, otherwise as your hand sweats the inside of the gloves will become wet as the water cannot escape.

When the inside of a glove becomes wet, there is a good chance that your hands will also become cold as the day goes on as the water starts to freeze. It is therefore essential, especially with mittens, that the mitt has some water wicking properties that allow the sweat to wick away from hands, while also stopping any more moisture getting in.

Leather is also a fantastic choice for an outer shell as it has natural water-resistant properties. When combined with a waterproof membrane it can provide an excellent glove that will last for years to come if appropriately treated and cared for. However, they do tend to be expensive.


Wet gloves are probably the primary cause of cold hands, so it is essential that you have a set of gloves or mittens that are not only waterproof but breathable too. Advancements in fabric technology such as Gore-Tex and other waterproof but breathable membranes create an essential “barrier” layer between your gloves lining and the shell.

In the majority of instances, it is moisture from your hands that causes wet gloves and in turn cold hands. It is essential, especially on mittens that they are lined with a quality breathable liner.  In recent years these liners also act as a wind-stop barrier which again adds an extra layer of protection in the cold.


There have been many advances in thermal insulation lining for gloves and mittens with liners such as Thinsulate and Primaloft keeping your hands breathable and toasty without the need for excessive padding. This is very important in gloves where thick padding would restrict the dexterity advantages of wearing a glove. Conversely, mittens tend not to have such technical construction and therefore use thicker insulation around the fingers.


Gloves vs. mittens is very much a case of personal preference, but your decision could be influenced by the kind of skiing or winter sport you intend to do. As we have highlighted above, there are several factors that you need to take into consideration regarding warmth breathability and dexterity that will play a part in your decision between a glove or mitten.

Think about the kind of skiing you intend to do and in what kind of temperatures and conditions you will be skiing or snowboarding in, as this will sway your decision. Whatever you choose we hope you have a fantastic safe and enjoyable time.

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