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5 Myths or Methods for Keeping Your Fingers Warm


With near-record cold frosting windows across North America, I decided to look into a few of the techniques we always hear about for keeping our fingers warm, and find out if they are methods that really work or if they are just urban myths.

ice fingers canada
1. Mittens are warmer than gloves.
Method.  Keeping your fingers together rather than isolated makes a big difference.  With today’s technologies, gloves work in surprisingly frigid conditions, but if you have a problem with circulation or get cold more easily than most, mittens are your best chance of staying warm – provided you don’t need the dexterity.  Many experienced heliskiing guests use mittens because it doesn't take a lot of finger coordination to hang onto a ski pole and giggle.

2. Blowing on your fingers will warm them up.   
Myth.  While the warm, moist air from your breath will initially feel warm, the damp skin will quickly cool again and the moisture from your breath will make your fingers and gloves colder in the long run.  A better method commonly used by mountaineers is to put your gloves somewhere warm, like inside your jacket, (it doesn’t help if your gloves are lying on the ground, filling with snow while you’re warming your hands) and put your hands against the warm, dry skin of your neck.  Even better, be really, really nice to your adventure partner so they’ll let you put your hands up their shirt.  

3. Put cayenne pepper inside your gloves.
Mythical method.  This does stimulate circulation, but the trade off when you rub your eyes later in the day is hardly worth the slight increase in circulation.  Putting chemical heat packs in your gloves works much better and doesn’t require first aid eye irrigation if you get your finger near your eye while adjusting your goggles.   

4. Train your hands to stay warm.
Method.  Drive to work without wearing gloves, throw a snowball or two with bare hands, and generally push your own comfort zone with the cold at times when you will easily be able to warm up again.  Getting your hands used to the cold at home will make the cold in the mountains less shocking and more manageable.  

5. Drink some schnapps.
Myth.  While a sip of alcohol gives the sensation of warmth, in reality it cools your body overall because alcohol causes your blood vessels expand, bringing more blood to the surface where it cools before returning to your core.  The dehydrating effects of alcohol compound the problem and the loss in coordination will be hardly worth the brief sensation of warmth.  

Riding a ski lift can be a brutally cold experience.  Put on your hood, stash your ski poles under a leg so you don’t have to hold them and pull your fingers into a fist before your hands get cold.  Of course, if you’re heli-skiing with CMH, the ski lift has a heater with twin jet engines and you get to warm up between every run.


I often think back to your previous article about tips on staying warm in general and tell my kids that the best way to be warm is to not let yourself get cold in the first place. Limit the amount of times you need to take off your gloves or mitts so your hands don't get unnecessarily chilled. Great tips, thanks Topher!
Posted @ Monday, February 07, 2011 9:48 AM by Jane
Thanks for the tips Topher. I also found out that using silk liners help a lot, especially during those times when you want to take photos and have to expose your hands to the cold. With liners you never have to expose bare hands to the cold.
Posted @ Monday, February 07, 2011 3:04 PM by Christophe
The best tip for keeping your hands warm is to ski at easter in a sunny resort :-) My top resorts for sun being Cervinia or Madonna di campiglio. If you must ski mid-winter and I guess some people must, my first ski instructor in Italy had a neat trick. (This is in the 1970's before cruelty to 7 year olds was frowned upon) Hold out your hands and slowley begin to slap one hand on top of the other. Then faster and harder all the time have some mad Italian bloke scream and shout faster bastardo faster! Terrifying but the hands warmed up. 
Some sunny resorts here
Posted @ Thursday, February 10, 2011 7:10 PM by lc
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