Put your skins on. Take your skins off. Buckle your boots. Loosen your boots. Fuss with your bindings. Open your pack. Eat a snack. Take a photo. A typical day in the backcountry asks a lot of our gloved hands – far more than a day at the resort. Good gloves for backcountry skiing need to be weatherproof, dexterous, rugged and warm – but not too warm. Given the always-on-the-move nature of a day in the backcountry, the best backcountry ski gloves are equal parts ski and work glove all in one. In my opinion, the best solution is a leather ski glove. Leather palms and fingers are essential. Fortunately, I am not alone in my wish for all leather ski gloves, and most glove companies offer at least one all-leather option.
Here’s a handful of leather ski gloves that get the Off-Piste Mag seal of approval:
A stout, pile-lined Elk hide ski glove. The Altai Elkskin glove is my go-to ski glove. Essentially a cold weather work glove, the Altai Elkskin features a pile lining and a rugged build. The elk hide is thick and incredibly durable yet remains supple for easy handling of buckles, zippers and gear. If you are hard on gloves, these are the gloves for you. They hold up to firewood hauling, ski edge handling, snowmobile maintenance, and most importantly, they are dexterous enough for all-day backcountry touring wear. In traditional work glove style, the cuff is short, but there’s a velcro cinch to help seal out snow and cold. They strike a great balance of being warm enough for cold days and light enough for the skin track most of the time. On top of it all, they are made in the USA and reasonably priced.
Black Diamond Kingpin – $80
More work glove than ski glove, the Black Diamond Kingpin uses a full goat leather build for good dexterity and a soft feel. It’s uninsulated design make it great in mild conditions and as an uphill glove. The edition pictured is an older (well worn) model with a velcro cuff, this year’s version drops the adjustable cuff in favor of short gauntlet with elastic much like the Outdoor Research Aksel shown below. The Kingpin glove is a solid choice for mild weather and those looking for dexterity and minimal insulation.
Similar to the Kingpin, the OR Aksel glove is a lighter weight glove with a light wool-blend lining that adds warmth and extends its functional temperature range. The cow leather build is durable and soft right out of the package. The cuff is just long enough to overlap your jacket or tuck into your sleeve, and it makes a great uphill glove that is easily pushed to serve downhill duty in moderate temps – especially here in the Northwest.
While not a leather ski glove strictly speaking, the OR ExtraVert Glove is well matched to ski touring. It features a full goat leather palm and fingers with a stretch-woven back and cuff. The result is a lightweight and packable glove. It’s well suited to the skin track and easily pushes into downhill duty on milder days thanks to a lightweight wool-blend lining. The ExtraVert offers the dexterity you need to manage buckles and zippers and just the right amount of insulation to balance uphill and downhill wear in moderate temps. The goat leather is super soft, but not as rugged as deer or elk skin. The glove pictured is a few seasons old. The latest edition features new textured finger tips for even better grip and dexterity.
Black Diamond Patrol Glove – $130
A lightweight, insulated ski glove with leather palm and fingers, the Black Diamond Patrol glove offers a nice balance of ski and work glove features. Basically, BD merged a classic gauntlet style glove with a basic leather palm and fingers of a work glove. The Patrol is insulated with lightweight synthetic insulation and features a waterproof, breathable insert. The goat leather palm is and soft and lightweight. Overall, the Patrol is very packable, but not quite as warm as you might think, which actually extends its functionality as a backcountry glove but limits its appeal as a resort glove. The Patrol is my backup touring glove.
Black Diamond Guide Glove – $170
This is a seriously warm and rugged glove worthy of the coldest days and harshest weather. The Black Diamond Guide glove is not something for skin track in normal conditions. It is a cold weather, deep pow day glove. They are great resort day gloves and for serious cold, stormy weather. The Guide Glove is built to last, and what you lose in dexterity, you make up for in warmth. They are significantly warmer than the BD Patrol, and are the ultimate back-up glove.