When it comes to outdoor activities, there is a simple rule: cold hands and feet mean a miserable day. Even if it snowed three feet the night before and you're standing on top of an untracked glade, if you've lost all the feeling in your hands it's time to go inside. Fortunately, there are some simple solutions to keeping your extremities warm.
Your most essential gear will be a quality pair of gloves or mittens if you're planning on being outdoors for a long day of skiing. You'll want gloves that can repel ice and snow and are durable enough to stand up to the abuse of riding chair lifts, T-bars, and rope tows.
Ski gloves have a number of unique qualities that set them apart from something you'd wear for chopping wood, hunting, or other outdoor activities. The outer material is typically top grain leather or a synthetic such as nylon or Dryshell ®. They are insulated with Insuloft ® or Primaloft ®, synthetic fibers that have all of the benefits of goosedown, but are much more durable. You'll find material like Dyna-Therm ® on the inside of gloves that is soft and comfortable to the skin, and absorbs moisture and perspiration.
Mittens are the answer for people who are looking for maximum warmth. Most high quality mittens are made from the same materials as ski gloves, but allow the fingers to stay together, resulting in more warmth. Some models even have convenient "exit zippers" that allow you to open your mittens so you can use your fingers to find your car keys without having to take them off.
There are a number of accessories that you can add to your gloves or mittens for added warmth on exceptionally cold days. Most ski shops carry lightweight glove liners that you wear inside of your gloves. Glove liners add an extra layer to your hands and work like the insulation in your attic, making the most use out of the heat you already have.
Another simple and relatively inexpensive way to add warmth to your extremities is to buy commercial hand warmers. One company, Grabber Warmers, produces an entire line of air-activated pouches that you wear inside your gloves or mittens. They also make similar a product designed to be worn inside your socks to keep your toes warm. Hand Warmers come in packs of four for $40 and offer up to 10 hours of comfort.
Look into buying electric glove liners if you're willing to spend a few extra bucks. Electric glove liners operate on the principle of a portable electric blanket. Hundreds of small wires run through the fingers of a soft, synthetic glove liner, powered by a small battery pack that you tuck inside the sleeve of your parka. Check out Body Warmers for a complete list of their products.
There are a number of tricks you can try that are used by professional ski instructors when all of your equipment fails to keep your pinkies warm on a particularly blustery day. Remove the pole straps from your wrists and allow your arms to dangle by your side while standing in the lift line.
Keeping your arm straight, "throw" your arm into a vigorous arc, forward and backward. The idea is to use centrifugal force to send the warm blood from under your arms (one of the warmest places on the body) down to your fingers. You'll get moderate, temporary relief from chilly fingers by swinging your arms forward and backward for a few minutes.
Of course, the best way to prevent your fingers from getting cold is not to let them get cold in the first place. Always wear your gloves when walking to and from the car. Carrying cold skis and poles will set your hands up for trouble later in the day. If your gloves become wet from melting snow, exchange them for dry ones immediately.
Smart skiers always keep an extra pair of gloves in the car or their ski locker. Try locating a hand dryer in a restroom if you don't have an extra pair of gloves. Most hand dryers blow out warm, circulating air and will get you by for an hour or two until you can exchange your gloves.
Try using one of the many commercially available boot and glove dryers on the market when you get back to the hotel. The DryGuy makes a variety of products that are lightweight and easy to pack in your suitcase. They plug right into a standard wall outlet and can usually be used to dry both your gloves and your boots. Stay warm.