The Bottom Line
Guidelines to make the most of winter: » If people start debating skiing vs. snowboarding, walk away. » Ski in La Grave, France, at least once. » Much better in theory than in practice: getting drunk midmountain. » In your pockets: ID, credit card, and the James BondmeetsCheech and Chong Bakoda Bentley multitool (; bakoda.com). » Contrary to popular belief, you're welcome to try the terrain park. Just wait your turn. » Though available in many sizes, jester hats are not for adults. » On that note, no cowboy hats. Ever.
Backcountry gear gets lighter, faster, and easier to use
If your idea of fun begins with a hike through the gates at resorts like Jackson Hole or Bridger Bowl, you may find things getting increasingly crowded. According to a new study by the Leisure Trends Group, about half of all active snowboarders and skiers now ride lift-accessed backcountry terrain. The good news, though, is that this has spurred the development of highly improved avalanche-safety gear. The new Mammut Pulse Barryvox avalanche transceiver ($399; mammut-usa.com), a beacon with a first-of-its-kind 3-D motion sensor that indicates which buried victims have a pulse, allows diggers to prioritize their efforts. G3's aluminum Avi-Tech shovel ($77) and Speed Pro probes ($60; genuineguidegear.com) lighten your rescue load. Store it all in Black Diamond's Covert AvaLung pack ($200; avalung.com), which integrates the company's avalanche breathing systema snorkel-like device that pulls oxygen from the snowpackinto a 2,000-cubic-inch hauler with an insulated hydration sleeve.M. M.
A REFORMED DIRTBAGJUST LIKE YOU
Minus the folding windshield and jerry-can racks, Toyota's new FJ Cruiser maintains the utilitarian sensibilities that made the original FJ a favorite of rescue workers, outfitters, and guys whose idea of detailing was hosing out the interior. The 2007 model, with its softer silhouette, fits in better during rush hour.
EVERY HILL A SKI HILL
Anatoly Pivarunas created his portable ski liftbasically a lawn-mower engine, a steel cable, stakes, and pulleysin 1964 but couldn't find any buyers in his native Russia. He emigrated to Toronto ten years later and turned his attention to building a successful engineering firm, dooming mankind to countless more uphill hikes. Then, two years ago, a friend suggested that Pivarunas try eBay. He updated his design with a 5.5-horsepower motor that can whisk solo skiers 500 feet uphill at 18 miles per hour and received 52 orders in just a few months. "I sold six in 40 years," says Pivarunas. "Now I can't build enough of them." $950; skilift.nashacanada.com JOHN BRADLEY