Throw Down the Gauntlet
Ski gloves go mano a mano.
The North Face Surge, $90 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Gore-Tex Like all the gloves that follow, these came through both sink tests without allowing a drop inside. The Surges feature the same wretched rubbery palms as the North Face Montanas, but otherwise they boast a completely different blueprint. Each glove has a removable spandex liner that can be worn alone, or removed to make the thinly insulated Gore-Tex shell suitable for warm conditions (aka spring gloves). Together, they make a warm, comfortable glove that breathes well. Worth the steep price? No way. (If you choose to go with the North Face, consider moving up a size. I wear larges for this brand but mediums in all others.)
Mountain Hardwear Flipside, $59 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Mountain Hardwear Conduit This pair has a straightforward design that gets the job done. The supple goatskin palm and fingers allowed me to deftly zip and unzip my jacket and easily pop a token into the batting-cage slot. (They made for the best batting gloves, too. Heads up, Alaska Goldpanners!) They aren't as heavily insulated as others, so may not protect as well in extreme cold. The Velcro cuff also worries me a bit: The strap-and-buckle design seen on other gloves assures a better fit and seems more durable for the long-term. While the gloves aren't much to look at, this was the only competitor to break the 10-point barrier for value. The Flipsides are the least-expensive safe bet.
Bronze Medalist: DAKINE Cobra GT, $69.95 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Gore-Tex DAKINE is a relative newcomer to the ski gear industry (they started out making surfboard leashes), but their gloves have quickly earned a solid rep. This pair combines top-tier fabrics with rugged construction. Again, I question the Velcro cuffs, but they fit great and the supple leather palms give a firm grip. One drawback: The bred-to-shred appearance is way too extreme for my extremities. Slip these neon suckers on and you've instantly got something to prove, whether it be that you can outski Bode Miller or that you're a cosmonaut pimp from the future.
Silver Medalist: Marmot Randonnee, $100 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Gore-Tex XCR ("eXtended Comfort Range"—eXtra breathable, eXtra money) This pair does the Marmot name proud. Built with the best materials, this sturdy design provides day-in, day-out comfort. These gloves have the softest, grippiest leather palms in the pack. Pole plants are painless. If your hands are still too cold wearing this toasty pair of gloves, you probably don't want to be skiing. Aside from a negligible poofy feeling on the inside, the only real flaw I noticed was the sky-high cost. Price apologists would counter that this pair will weather at least three seasons of steady use, and therefore are worth every penny.
Gold Medalist: Spyder Whistler, $85 Waterproof/Breathable Fabric: Spyder XT.L Although the Spyder gloves posted impressive scores in all events, their performance on the slopes transcends the numbers. The fit is snug but they aren't unwieldy in any way—no constriction, no bunching up of material. The Whistlers feel tailor-made. Without wetness, cold, overheating, or other discomfort in my hands, I was so content skiing that I nearly forgot I was wearing the gloves at all. Now, that's the mark of a true champion.
Scott Elder is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.
Illustration by Nina Frenkel. Photographs by Scott Elder.