I’ve been skiing since I was two, but growing up in Vail, Colorado, I spent 95 percent of my time making turns in-bounds. How differently things would have been for me had I been born in, say, 2010. After several years of rapid development in AT gear, touring has gotten so popular that Vail groms now learn to French-fry on skis designed as much for the ups as the downs. The stuff remains expensive, but you get a heck of a lot for your money. Mount the Marker Kingpin binding on the Gear of the Year–winning backcountry ski from Black Crows and you have an exceptionally versatile setup. It's a reminder how important gear is to our playtime and why, for many of us, it’s the most valuable investment we make.