1) Waterproofness (15 possible points): All competing gloves are touted as "waterproof" by their manufacturers—no dubious designations like "water resistant." One point was given for each minute of survival during the two five-minute sink tests. If, for example, a pair lasted three minutes in the first dunk and two in the second, it received a score of five. Perfect tens were awarded a five-point bonus.
2) Warmth/Breathability (10 possible points): As I carved my way down the hill, did they keep out the cold while blowing off steam? Were my fingers frozen on the chairlift? Did the gloves become sweaty kilns at the batting cages?
3) Performance (10 possible points): This category covers comfort and dexterity. Major concerns: Did the gloves become constrictive when I squeezed the poles? Did the palms make a firm grip? Could I zip my parka easily?
4) Style (5 possible points): Let's be honest, when it comes to ski gear, it isn't only about how well things work. Skiing is one of the most fashion-conscious sports. Looking cool matters.
5) Value (based on formula below): Some of the gloves I tested cost more than twice as much as others. Did they perform twice as well? To factor in value, I tallied up the previous results, multiplied by 20, then divided by the list price.
RANKINGS (worst to first)
Marmot Borealis, $40 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Marmot MemBrain The Borealis gloves have an excellent pedigree—reputations for quality don't get much better than Marmot's—but these gloves bring shame to the family name. This is the only pair that failed both dunk tests, turning in pathetic survival times of 50 seconds in the first round and 33 seconds in the final. They provide decent warmth and comfort, that is, until the water seeps in and drowns the fun. Suitable for winter yardwork or dog walking, but not skiing.
Columbia Freedom, $40 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Columbia Omni-Tech The Columbia entry failed the second immersion test (35 seconds), but did OK until then. The Freedom gloves have respectable warmth and a good fit, which is maintained by buckled straps across the backs. The synthetic palm made a secure grip on the poles, and overall they handled the mountain fairly well. But in the batting cage they overheated fast, and some of the stitching had come loose by day's end. In the looks department, it's tough to make black and gray unappealing, but somehow Columbia found a way. Still, for $40 (or a low $16 I found on Amazon.com), they're not bad.
The North Face Montana, $50 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: the North Face HyVent These North Face gloves outperformed the Columbias with one major exception: the rubbery "Toughtek" material covering the palms and insides of the fingers felt, and gripped, like latex cleaning gloves. Worse, the palms aren't sewn down across the middle, which causes uncomfortable folding in the grip with every pole plant. Not too shabby for the price, but a few dollars more will buy something that's watertight.