The mittens or gloves debate is best answered by the individual. Snowboarders may opt to own both styles, saving a layer mitten system for backcountry and cold, unpredictable weather days and wearing gloves at the resort or in warmer temperatures. Some prefer gloves for hand and finger dexterity, while others prefer mittens for simplicity and warmth. Most glove manufacturers market styles for both tastes.
Warm Fingers or Cold Dexterity
Mittens tend to be warmer for some people, but restrict dexterity, according to Weather.com. Gloved fingers do allow a degree of dexterity. However, unless you are wearing a thin "pipe glove" or spring weight glove that is low profile and not designed for cold temperatures, you lose dexterity. Leather is known to provide some sensitivity, but when your gloves are packed with heat-retaining insulation, they become bulky and imprecise. Gloves do provide close to normal finger and hand use when adjusting your helmet, binding straps or goggles, while mittens require some adjustment.
Your Body will Tell You
Snowboarding on a day when the temperature dips into the single digits and below will result in cold extremities, like fingers and toes. While toes are packed snugly into socks within a heavily insulated boot, gloved fingers are isolated. The blood flow to the fingers soon recedes to more important parts of the body that need protection from the cold. In mittens, all of your fingers are kept in close contact with one another, sharing their warmth and encouraging circulation. Gloves may also reduce blood flow just by their fit, even if they are non-restricting. Disrupting circulation spells discomfort in the cold, and overall, mittens don't seem to have this effect.
Slave to Fashion
Like many sports, snowboarding is governed by trends and fashion. Don't let this get in the way of being comfortable. Function should dictate your choices in your outerwear and equipment selection. In some circles, mittens are considered more fashionable than gloves, based on their practicality in cold temperatures. If fashion is preventing you from being warm, then it's a problem; select your gear for function first and fashion last.
Spring Ski: Fingers Free
Mittens are known to be warmer, but that can have its drawbacks, as well. Spring conditions are a good example of when and where not to wear a mitten. Warmer days will cause your hands to perspire, and your body sweats to cool itself off. But if the sweat can't evaporate, it will become too cold, according to Alpineadven.com. When the temperature drops, your hands stay wet and the chilly air creates evaporative cooling that cause your hands to become uncomfortably cold.
Both glove and mitten systems can be worn in layers. Glove liners are designed to wick, or pull away, moisture to keep your hands dry. When worn with an insulating layer that keeps warmth in, this is an adaptable system. A shell outer layer is then used to protect your hands from wind, snow and moisture. This three-part system covers a broad range of temperatures and can be adjusted throughout the day by adding or removing layers.