Hi Anna, In addition to the clothing choices, I think it’s also important to consider the following points. I apologize if some are obvious, but many of my clients have found some of these points to be game-changers.
1. Consider your core temperature and clothing systems. Being fed, hydrated, and warm enough will help with circulation at extremities. Consider all possible contributing factors. While some athletes prefer *feeling* cooler during exercise, staying a little warmer with your layers may help quite a bit with temperature at your extremities/digits. It takes practice refining clothing systems so that you can be warm enough without sweating. Consider your average temperature for the day, not the extremes. Some people avoid getting too hot at all costs, but then they never get warm enough to have warm fingers. Be aware of the effect of strong wind on your clothing systems. Some climbers swear by liner gloves for tasks requiring more dexterity, but this is a personal preference – one solution that I won’t recommend for everyone. Resort skiing is really challenging with all the downtime on the lift getting cold, and all the temptation to hold metal or remove gloves. Many resort skiers don’t practice adjusting clothing or boots with gloves or mittens, but it’s surprising how many tasks skiers can do without removing them. Cell phones and other electronics provide a temptation to remove gloves. If you need to check your phone often or consult your phone/gps, you could use the touchscreen friendly glove liners. Try not to check phones or tech in a place where the wind is strong.
2. Consider your behaviors. Holding a bare ice axe, grabbing carabiners/screws or the shaft of aluminum ski poles or chairlift bars, or overgripping your axe/poles/handholds could quickly increase heat transfer and make your hands colder. It’s easier to keep your hands warm by putting ski poles under your thigh on the lift, not grabbing any metal on the chairlift, reducing a tight grip (sometimes a tight grip feels necessary with bulky mitts or gloves) on your axe/poles/holds, or avoiding removing gloves or mittens (especially when handling metal like crampons, axes, poles, carabiners, etc.). Long breaks in the backcountry, less vigorous exercise, and not protecting yourself from strong wind/weather will also make you colder. Being aware and vigilant can go a long ways to manage your temperature. It’s easier to be ahead of potential problems (e.g. adding layers immediately when you take a break before you feel cold, or adding a shell mitt on top of a glove while skinning on a windy ridge).
3. Your activity. Your pace and your activity level can affect your temperature at your extremities. Increasing your exercise intensity will increase metabolic heat which can increase core temperature, and increase the temperature at your extremities. Skiing longer pitches, going 5% faster on your uphills, or skiing steeper or more physical terrain can make you warmer. Going a little harder/faster can really change the temps in your fingers. Doing some of the dynamic warm up and movement prep from the Cham Mtn Fit will really warm you up if you are out skiing, especially after a long chairlift ride or a break.
There is some liability in relying on heated gloves, socks, or handwarmers/toewarmers. There is additional planning and then there is the reliance on the batteries or activated carbon. Ice climbers, mountaineers, and backcountry skiers often use vigorous arm circles, flapping motions, or arm whips to quickly increase circulation in their digits. Some of this can even be done while walking on simple glaciers. While it might look a little ridiculous in front of your ski friends, doing 30 seconds of really vigorous arm movements will have a much more pronounced effect than the 15 minutes waiting for activated carbon to get warm enough to start warming your fingers. I vouch for the ridiculous arm circles for immediate help with cold digits. You can use this on your high peaks and alpine climbs anytime you are on simple terrain or at a belay.
I have poor circulation but because I’m considering the methods above, I’m often wearing much lighter gloves or mitts than most of my clients and my peers.
I hope that this helps!