The Heli-Ski Blog

10 expert tips for warm hands while skiing and snowboarding

Posted by Topher Donahue on Sep 19, 2013 8:22:00 AM

Snowboarders have all the advantage on this one. Since they only have one tool to deal with – instead of four – it’s a lot easier to keep the hands warm.  But regardless of how many boards you ride, these 10 suggestions will help you enjoy the coldest winter days.

keeping your hands warm


  1. Consider mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are warmer and you don’t really need the added dexterity of gloves unless you’re shooting photos.
  2. Don’t hold onto your board for too long with either hand while walking to the lift or boot packing for some freshies. The cold board and the pressure on your hands both contribute to your hands losing heat.
  3. Don’t let snow get inside your gloves. It takes just a moment of inattention to get a pile of snow inside your gloves – and all night to dry them out before they’ll be warm again.
  4. Make sure you can put your board on without taking your gloves off. Practice everything with your gloves on, even when it’s warm, so that when it’s cold you already know what to do.
  5. Practice keeping your hands warm from the moment you put down the coffee cup. When you’re cleaning the snow off your car, getting your gear out of the shed, and even driving the car before the heater gets going – keep your fingers warm! Use a beater pair of gloves and keep your best ones dry for riding, but protect your fingers long before you get on the hill. You can quite often track your cold fingers back to a hurried mistake in the morning before you even got to the first run.
 warm hands snowboarding


  1. Practice skiing without wrist straps. The straps restrict blood flow to your hands. Savvy backcountry skiers and Heli-Skiers don’t use them anyway because of the risk of catching a tree and injuring a shoulder, or even worse, in case of an avalanche or falling in a tree well your wrist straps will pin your arms down. (In fact, for safety reasons, CMH Heli-Skiing removes all wrist straps from their fleet of poles, and strongly suggests guests who bring their own not to use straps.)
  2. Let go of your poles every chance you get. Wrapping your fingers around your pole handles both limits the circulation to your fingers and conducts cold from the pole into your hands. When you’re standing in the lift line, waiting on the slope for your friend, or even sitting on the lift, position your poles so you can let go of them (tucking them under a leg on the lift works well) and ball your hands into a fist inside your gloves.
  3. Practice everything you do without taking your gloves off. Putting on your goggles, cleaning the ice off your bindings and boots, adjusting your buckles, putting things in your pockets, turning on your GoPro and even lighting a smoke (if you smoke you’re going to get cold hands even easier since nicotine is a vasoconstrictor.) 
  4. Dry your gloves every chance you get. Be it in the helicopter, snowcat, gondola or in the lodge.  Even if they’re still dry on the inside, go through the motions of drying them out. Experienced Heli-Skiers will carry a pair of thin liner gloves to wear during lunch, and stick their ski gloves inside their jacket while eating and drinking. Getting hot tea or soup on (or in) your gloves feels good at first – but later, not so much.
  5. Most importantly, don’t let you hands get cold in the first place. Once they’re cold, the most expensive gloves in the world will have a hard time making your hands warm again.  Practice keeping your hands warm all the time. Once it becomes second nature to move your fingers to improve circulation, keep them dry, keep your jacket sealed over your gloves, and be vigilant to your hands at all times, you’ll be amazed how you can keep your hands warm even in the coldest conditions.
Photos of warm hands and big smiles in the mega-deep powder of CMH Heli-Skiing at CMH Gothics and CMH Galena by Topher Donahue.

Topics: heliskiing, CMH Experts, Tricks of the Trade, resort skiing, Snowboarding, Heli-Ski Tips