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Gloves Vs Mittens: Which is Better for Skiing & Snowboarding?

ski gloves vs mittens featured image
James Shaffer
By James Shaffer
Last updated on April 21, 2021
Table of Contents

When it comes to hitting the slopes, there's no doubt that a warm pair of gloves and mittens are an essential part of your gear! But newer mountain sports lovers often ask whether mittens or gloves are better for skiing and snowboarding

The simple answer is that either of the two is ideal for keeping your fingers warm, although there are some significant differences between the two. 

In the following article, we'll help you distinguish the fundamental differences between a glove or mittens for skiing and to figure out which style of hand warmers is best at keeping your fingertips toasty and protected while shredding up a storm! 

The Different Styles Of Hand Warmers

If you've ever been on a ski hill before, you've undoubtedly noticed that there are rarely skiers or snowboarders not wearing either gloves or mittens on their hands. That's because mittens and/or gloves are an essential part of any snow sports lover's mountain gear. 

However, when you look a little closer at what people are wearing, you'll see that there are several different styles of hand warmers you'll see on the mountain, including gloves, mittens, lobsters, and the ever-so-versatile 3-in-1s. 

Gloves

Hestra Army Leather Couloir snow Gloves

Gloves are your traditional hand warmers, where your fingers each have their separate range of movement. Realistically, these are the most popular type of hand protection. 

In terms of the difference between skiing and snowboarding, traditional 5-finger gloves are most often preferred by skiers since they can make it easier to hold onto your poles. But that's not to say that skiers can't use mittens. It's just that gloves offer more dexterity. 

Mittens

HESTRA ARMY LEATHER HELI SKI MITTEN

Compared to gloves, mittens tend to offer just slightly more hand protection, both from potential impacts to the hand and from the elements. 

In terms of body heat, during a cold winter's day on the mountain and even on warmer days, your body continually fights to keep itself warm. When this happens, your body draws blood and heat towards your core. In other words, your hands and feet are the first parts of you that will get cold. 

Unlike gloves, because mittens cover your entire hand, they offer a little more space inside, which can help you maintain your body temperature. However, a good quality pair of gloves, lobsters, or any other hand warmer made from something warm like Gore-Tex or wool, is still going to be good at keeping you warm. 

Therefore, the most significant difference between gloves or mittens is that mittens are slightly more popular for snowboard-style gear since they don't need as much dexterity as a skier does for holding onto a ski pole. 

Plus, unlike gloves, a mitten offers a touch more surface area, which provides you with slightly more protection from cold air and those breezy wind chills while you're shredding your way to the bottom of the mountain.

Lobsters

Ortovox Lobster Gloves Black Raven Men

Unlike gloves or mittens, lobsters offer a bit more in terms of versatility for skiing and snowboarding. Plus, they offer somewhat more warmth than just wearing ski gloves while still leaving your index finger free for gripping a ski pole.

Lobsters are somewhat of a hybrid between both styles of hand protectors, sharing elements of both gloves/mittens, which makes them a decent pairing for both ski fanatics and snowboarders to keep their fingers warm.

With lobster-style hand protection, the thumb and index finger have their range of motion, just like a pair of gloves. But the middle, ring, and pinky finger are all contained in the by a single "finger.", just like mittens, making them suitable even for ski lovers holding onto their poles. 

3-In-1 Hand Protection

Unlike the gloves and/or mittens I've mentioned so far, 3-in-1's offer the ability to switch back and forth between a finger-less glove, perfect for those warm days on the mountain, or a full mitten, for when the sun dips behind a cloud on those windier days. 

Similar to lobsters, 3-in-1s combined elements from mittens and gloves. But while the versatility of a 3-in-1 style is a significant advantage, the downside to this style of glove is that they're not all that great at offering protection to your fingers. 

That said, any type of good quality protection for your fingers, whether you choose gloves, mittens, lobsters, or 3-in1, is going to keep your hands and fingers warm and protected from that chilled mountain air. In other words, what style of glove you choose is totally up to you. 

Whatever style you choose, it's a good idea to invest in a good pair from a reputable brand like Oakley, Helly Hansen, or Burton Gore-Tex. 

Which Are Warmer: Gloves Vs Mittens?

In terms of which are warmer, I think it's safe to say that the only difference between the two will be the quality and material of either your hand protectors. All different materials offer differing levels of breathability, waterproofing, and protection from the elements. 

So no matter which style you choose, you need to make sure that you've selected a material that offers the best balance to keep your fingers as protected as possible! 

For instance, although shell materials like wool and leather offer excellent insulation capabilities, wool offers virtually no waterproofing, and leather fabrics don't offer much breathability. Therefore, these materials aren't ideal for spending extended amounts of time on the mountain, and especially not for warmer or wetter weather.

On the other hand, Gore-Tex is a unique fabric, designed in 1969, which can repel liquid, making them completely waterproof and simultaneously allowing vapor to pass so that the material is still breathable. This makes gloves, mittens, lobsters, and 3-in-1s made from this high-quality material the best match for longer days on the hills and all-weather usage. 

What Factors To Consider - Gloves Vs Mittens

The preference between the style of hand protection you'll choose mainly depends on your personal preference. But whether you're a skier or snowboarder will also influence the type of hand protection that's best for you. 

So when it boils down, if you're skiing, gloves are your best choice since they allow more dexterity for holding onto your poles. 

If you're either skiing or snowboarding, you can freely choose between a mitten or glove. But compared to gloves, a mitten also offers slightly more in terms of warmth and protection from the elements. 

Lobsters are a hybrid between a glove and a mitten, making them suitable for both snowboarders who want the best hand protection or ski lovers that need a bit more finger flexibility. 

And lastly, there are 3-in-1s, another hybrid between a mitten and gloves. These don't offer all that much protection from the elements, but they do allow for the most versatility and dexterity. 

Plus, you also get the bonus of having touchscreen compatibility for those mountain lovers who often use their phones for listening to music while shredding. And for those who can't resist sending that perfect mountain vista Snapchat to your friends who are stuck at work and couldn't make it out with you that day. 

Touchscreen Compatibility

touch screen compatible ski snowboard gloves

One thing that wearing a glove, mitten, or lobster will prevent you from doing is using your touchscreen phone or device easily. A 3-in-1 glove or mitten is the best choice for touchscreen compatibility since you can easily remove the mitten, use your device, and then flip them back into mitten mode for more insulation.

However, some manufacturers sell gloves, mittens, and lobsters specifically designed with a unique fingertip material to allow for touchscreen compatibility. 

Electric Hand Warmers

Sometimes, you'll also see ski gloves and mittens that can be plugged in to provide you with electric heat while ripping down the hill on your next run. 

Electric gloves and hand warmers are great for those extra chilly mornings at the top of the mountain when the wind chill picks up or for when you're still out late, shredding the hill past sundown. 

However, heated gloves and mittens tend to be more expensive since they're more of a specialty product than a popular style of ski gloves. 

That said, if you're looking to add to your collection of ski or snowboard gear, heated gloves and mittens can be great for having just in case the weather changes, and you need a quick way to warm up.

Material & Waterproofing

gore-tex 3d render illustration
A 3D-illustration of Gore-Tex

Whether you choose a ski glove, mitten, lobster or 3-in-1 to help keep your hands warm, the most crucial factor you'll want to keep in mind is the material it's made from. 

The shell material of your glove or mitten will determine how much insulation there is, how waterproof, how breathable, and how flexible your hand protection genuinely is. 

However, it's ideal to look for a mitten or glove that offers a balance between these properties. 

Simultaneously, the materials used will also determine whether or not you'll get any touchscreen compatibility your hands will have. 

Additional Factors To Choose A Glove Or Mitten

Finally, one other factor to consider when deciding on a pair of mittens or gloves is the build. 

For instance, some mittens and gloves have wrist cords, which are a bonus to help keep your hands warm. 

You can tighten a glove or mitten with wrist cords to help keep snow and moisture out. Or you can loosen the fit, which allows for a bit more breathability to your hands. 

Additionally, mittens or gloves with strings are ideal for younger skiers and snowboarders since they can be adjusted to fit smaller hands that are still growing. 

FAQ - Gloves Vs Mittens For Your Hands

Now that we've covered the main differences between the different styles let's go over some of the most frequently asked questions we get from skiers and snowboarders. 

Are gloves or mittens better for skiing? 

For skiers, your ski poles are an essential part of your gear, and to properly hold and maintain a good grip with your fingers on your poles, you'll need the mobility and agility offered by a good pair of ski gloves. 

Of course, that's not to say that you won't be able to hold your ski poles while wearing mittens. But gloves simply make it easier and more comfortable to maintain your grip. 

Which style is best for snowboarding? 

Because snowboarders only use their arms and hands for balance, it doesn't matter which style of hand protection they choose. 

In other words, for boarders, it all boils down to your personal preference.  

Why do you need gloves to protect your hands when skiing or snowboarding? 

To put it simply, you need some sort of protection for your hands while you're on the mountain. 

When your body is exposed to the cold wintry elements that are so common during ski season, it works hard to pump blood to your hands and feet to keep your body warm. 
As your body constantly works to keep itself warm, it will focus on keeping your internal organs warm before your feet and hands. 

In other words, your hands, fingers and toes are often the first parts of your body to get cold when you're outside during the winter. 

So whether you prefer two skis or a snowboard, having a good, high-quality pair of mittens, gloves, lobsters, or hand warmers is essential to keeping your fingers warm and yourself dressed appropriately and comfortable for tearing up the slopes!

Why do snowboarders often wear mittens instead of gloves? 

As we've mentioned, snowboarders don't need as much mobility or dexterity in their hands and fingers, especially compared to ski fanatics who need to maintain a good grip on their ski poles at all times. 

That's why you'll often see snowboarders who prefer wearing mitten styles instead of gloves. 
However, this is by no means a rule of any sort for snowboarders, which means they can use both styles without impacting their performance.

Are mittens or gloves easier to move?

They're not any easier to move, but gloves simply provide the user with more mobility and dexterity in their fingers. However, mobility essentially boils down to the material either a glove or mitten is made from. 

For instance, gloves and mittens made from materials like nylon might be a bit stiffer at first, whereas softer hand warmers made from synthetic fabrics will be easier to flex and move your fingers while wearing.

Wrapping It Up - The Ultimate Snow Sports Debate

ski gloves vs mittens featured image

In the end, whether you prefer wearing gloves or mittens for skiing or snowboarding is entirely up to you. 

However, wearing either gloves, mittens, or lobsters is essential when it comes to keeping yourself dressed appropriately and your hands as safe and comfortable as can be while hitting the slopes. 

Make sure to take some time to think about what you prefer between the two, and don't forget to keep breathability, waterproofing, and dexterity in mind before deciding whether to purchase gloves or mittens for this upcoming snow and ski season! 

If you're looking for specific product recommendations, check out our guide to the best snowboard gloves for the season.

James Shaffer

James Shaffer

James is a veteran snowboarder and skier. His passion for snow sport dates back to his early life growing up in Colorado. He spent his early adulthood as a ski instructor around popular locations in Europe but is now back in Colorado.
Published April 21, 2021
Last updated April 21, 2021
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