Warm Hands

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Gear
Ski East 1204

Drop most people at the top of

Wildcat, Sugarloaf or Jay Peak on a morning when the wind's ripping and the mercury's below zero, and they'll likely race to the base like heat-seeking missiles. But when Eastern weather is at its worst, dry, warm hands mean the difference between another run and running for cover.

Click the slideshow below for photos of some of our favorite gloves and mittens.

Determined to find the warmest gloves and mittens out there, we had manufacturers send us their best, then braved sub-zero temperatures to put them to the test. A few key points quickly became obvious:

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Dry hands are warm hands. That's achieved by combining a shell, weatherproofing layers and insulation in a breathable design that allows moisture to escape while retaining warmth. If a glove doesn't breathe, it won't keep you warm.

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A rugged shell provides durability and protects the interior components. Look for reinforced palms and fingertips and abrasion-resistant materials all over.

> Insulation-down is warmest-traps air so it can be warmed by your body's heat.

> Pole-feel is nice, but thicker mittens and glove-in-mitten designs are warmer.

> Design elements are important, too. Vents, removable liners and heatpack pockets help regulate temperature. Models with cuffs that incorporate a snug, fleecy wristlet and a long gauntlet with cinch-cord deliver the most warmth and protection.

While all models tested would perform well at temperatures in the high single digits or above, there were clear winners for extreme-cold conditions. These models might not be the best for active skiers who like the moguls, glades and rough stuff-they're just too warm for high exertion.

MITTENS

WARMEST Go ahead, bring on the arctic conditions, as long as you've got either of these two Gordini goose-down models: Da Gore Goose Mitt ($80) or Da Goose Gauntlet Fingermitt ($70), a glove-in-mitten design. Close behind was Cloudveil's Enclosure Mitt ($90), another glove-in-mitten design, with wristlet, gauntlet and Primaloft One insulation.

CONTENDERSGates' DownHill Mitt ($75) and Kombi's Downy ($80) are classic leather-and-down mittens with fleece wristlets. Swany's X-14 Exchange Mitt ($74) is a rugged glove-in-mitten design, with Dupont Triplex insulation, heatpack pocket and fleece-lined gauntlet.

ACTIVE SKIERSReusch's Karakorum XCR Gore-Tex Sub-C ($119) combines a leather outer with Thinsulate insulation and a fleece-lined gauntlet.

GLOVES

WARMESTBlack Diamond's Guide Glove ($150), with 10-ounce Primaloft insulation, a long gauntlet and a removable waterproof liner, is worth every penny on a cold day.

CONTENDERSSeirus' G-III Neofleece Component Glove ($65) combines a removable fleece liner with a softshell, insulated outer glove. It also features a removable insert and dual ventilating zippers that open to a mesh heat-pack pocket. Gates' Gore XCR Leather ($110) has Primaloft insulation, a padded back and a fleece wristlet. Grandoe's stylish Sovereign ($65) has extra fingertip insulation, a fleece-lined gauntlet and a heatpack pocket. Kombi's Primaloft-insulated Gore V ($54) has a fleece wristlet. Hotfingers' CXZ1 Zone ($55) utilizes three kinds of Thinsulate. Swany's techy-tough SX-13 Exchange Glove ($74) has a heatpack pocket, Dupont Triplex insulation and fleece-lined gauntlet.

ACTIVE SKIERSSeirus' All-Weather Softshell System ($110) has two stand-alone softshell gloves, both insulated and weather proofed. The inner glove has a snug Lycra wristlet, and the waterproof outer glove has a ventilation pocket and a gauntlet. For high-energy backcountry skiers, Manzella's Tec-SSH ($55), with Schoeller Softshell exterior and Primaloft insulation, is surprisingly light, durablle and warm. Just keep moving.

DECEMBER 2004