I love to ski. Like, really love to ski. And now that I have kids, I want them to love skiing, too. I’ve been careful not to push them too hard, but I’ve also been consistent and weathered many tantrums and complaints. The result? Both of my children (my son is four, my daughter is six) had to be pulled off the ski hill a couple weeks back because they were having so much fun.
There are lots of tips I can give parents who are teaching kids to ski. (Bring Skittles! Stick with it!) But there’s one that’s been on my mind a lot lately: spend way more than you’d like to on good gloves. I’ve learned the hard way that most kids’ gloves are shit. When your little rippers wear those gloves, their hands get cold. Cold hands make for grumpy kids, and grumpy kids do not want to ski.
Case in point: last season my daughter and I got on the very slow, very rickety double chair at Sandia Peak Ski Area outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a day when temperatures were in the teens. Her hands were icicles before we were even halfway up, and I shamefully resorted to promising her a new toy if she could just sit tight until we got off and could warm up in the hut.
I won’t mention the brand she was wearing that day. But I will recommend one pair of gloves and one pair of mittens that we’ve used since that do a much better job of keeping small hands warm.
For small kids, I highly recommend the Youth Montana Gore-Tex Mitts from the North Face. At $50, they’re more than you might pay for your own gloves, but they’re worth every damn penny. My daughter was wearing these gloves earlier this season on a day when once again the temperatures were in the teens, and she never complained of cold hands.
They’re a top-shelf choice for a few reasons. First, since they’re mittens, there’s less chance of individual fingers getting cold. And since I buckle my daughter’s boots and do the other fine-motor jobs related to her ski gear, there’s little fuss involved. Second, they’re packed with 150 grams of partially recycled synthetic insulation, which is just enough to fight off numbness on cold days but not make the gloves so bulky that they’re hard to use. Wet, cold mitts are a guarantee that your ski day is over. But thanks to the Gore-Tex liner, my daughter’s hands are always dry. As someone who reviews gear for a living, I (and my kids) get a lot of sportswear for free. But this pair I purchased full price at a shop. I’d pay the $50 several times over if it meant continuing to enjoy ski days with zero meltdowns.
I also recommend the Kid’s Rover Gore-Tex Gloves from Dakine ($60). These are fingered, so they’re better for slightly older kids. As with the North Face mitts, a Gore-Tex liner guarantees dry hands, even on days when it’s nuking snow. The 230 grams of partially recycled synthetic insulation is plenty warm, and with goat-leather palms and fingers, your kiddos can fall as much as they want, carry their skis, and generally abuse the gloves without having to worry about tears.
There’s plenty of other gear I splurge on for them as well. I’m a strict believer in buying new boots. Fresh liners that aren’t packed out are less susceptible to the cold, and new shells are more rigid (old, floppy boots make it harder for children to control their skis). My favorites are the Dalbello Menace 1.0 ($90). They’re not wildly expensive, and my kids find them warm, comfy, and relatively easy to get into.
Snow pants are the other piece of gear I think is worth good money. Cheap jackets seem to keep kids reasonably dry, but I’ve found that inexpensive bottoms wet out the minute your mini-me sits in the snow. Pants like the Patagonia Baby Snow Pile Bibs ($100) are worth the investment. They’re made from Patagonia’s waterproof-breathable H2No fabric and come with 100 grams of synthetic insulation. My daughter wore her first pair hard (lots of playing in the snow, lots of spilled hot chocolates), and they’re still totally fine.
At this point, I’ve recommended about $260 worth of gear, and your child isn’t even fully kitted out. Slightly ridiculous, I know. You certainly don’t need everything on this list. But if your kid ever complains about cold hands, feet, or legs, this gear will ensure everyone gets to stay on the hill and keep having fun.