Put your skins on. Take your skins off. Buckle your boots. Loosen your boots. Adjust 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. Backcountry ski gloves 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. Leather gloves are an easy choice for ski touring. Leather palms and fingers are essential. Fortunately, there are lots of options. The biggest differences revolve leather type, insulation and cuff length.
Here’s a handful of leather ski gloves that get the Off-Piste Mag seal of approval.
The Altai Elk skin gloves are my go-to glove. If you are hard on gloves, these are the gloves for you. The elk hide is thick and incredibly durable, yet it remains supple for reasonable handling of buckles, zippers and gear. 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 between being warm enough for cold days and light enough for the skin track most of the time. There’s a break-in period for these gloves. Try heating them for a few min in the drier and then rubbing in a good wax or sealer, and they will start to take the shape of your hand. They are made in the USA and reasonably priced.
Black Diamond Kingpin – $89
More work glove than ski glove, the Black Diamond Kingpins use a full goat leather build for good dexterity and a soft feel. They’re lined but not what I would call insulated. They are great in mild conditions and as an uphill glove. The edition pictured is an older (well worn) model with a velcro cuff, the current version drops the adjustable cuff in favor of short gauntlet with elastic much like the Outdoor Research Aksel shown below. BD gives it a 20F-35F temp rating. The Kingpin gloves are a solid choice for mild weather and those looking for dexterity and minimal insulation for use on the skin track. Shop for Black Diamond Kingpin gloves
The Outdoor Research Aksel gloves are a lightly-insulated, all-leather glove. It’s like a BD Kingpin with a bit more warmth. A wool-blend lining adds enough insulation to extend its range beyond just uptrack use. The cowhide build is durable and soft from the first wear. The cuff is just long enough to overlap your jacket or tuck into your sleeve. They are a great uphill glove that are easily pushed to serve downhill duty in moderate temps – especially here in the Northwest. They’re the kind of glove you can wear all day long provided the weather is reasonably dry. Shop for the OR Aksel glove direct from OR
Black Diamond Patrol Glove – $149
A lightweight, insulated ski glove with leather palm and fingers, the Black Diamond Patrol gloves are true ski gloves. Basically, BD merged a classic gauntlet style ski glove with the leather palm and fingers of a work glove. The Patrol is insulated with lightweight PrimaLoft Gold insulation. Its goat leather palm keeps it soft and lightweight. They are very packable, but not quite as warm as you might think, which actually extends their functionality as a backcountry glove but limits their appeal as a resort glove. The Patrol is my backup touring glove. Shop for the Black Diamond Patrol glove.
Black Diamond Guide Glove – $179
ThBD Guide Gloves are a seriously warm and rugged glove worthy of the coldest days and harshest weather. They are not something for skin track in normal conditions. They are cold weather, deep pow day gloves. They are great for resort days and for serious cold, stormy weather anywhere. They are 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. Shop for the BD Guide glove.
While not a leather ski glove strictly speaking, the OR ExtraVert Gloves are well matched to skin track laps. They use a full goat leather palm and fingers with a stretch-woven softshell back and cuff. The result is a lightweight and packable design. They’r great on the skin track and easily push into downhill duty on mild days thanks to a lightweight wool-blend lining. The ExtraVert has the dexterity you need to manage buckles and zippers. The goat leather is super soft, but it’s not as rugged as cow, deer or elk skin. The gloves pictured are a few seasons old. The latest edition features new textured finger tips for even better grip and dexterity.
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