BECAUSE THERE ARE neither lifts nor lodges in the backcountry, your gear has to be light, portable, and indestructible. Whether you prefer one board or two, the latest generation of both heartily endorses the "fatter is better" philosophy.
SNOWBOARDING | SKIING | CLIMBING | SAFETY
Voilé Split-Decision touring snowboard, 166 cm ($665)
Unified, it's a smooth-flexing, easy-turning snowboard. Split apart, the clever mounting plates turn the two pieces into touring skis.
Sims T. Sims 169 cm ($429), Nitro Aura-CL ($299), and K2 Clicker SST Pro ($199)
Extra-wide, this board's subtle sidecut and resilient wood core lend both stability at speed in any snow condition and a lovely snap out of turns in the softer stuff. Thanks to its K2 Clicker-compatible sole and what amounts to a plastic exoskeleton, the Aura melds soft-boot comfort with hard-boot precision. The Clicker is far lighter than any strap
binding, and entry and exit are simplicity itself.
Northwave Reset ($255) and Burton C14 ($300)
One of the best traditional freeride boots available, the Reset has an ultrasupportive Web liner. Your heel stays locked down, and an extra-stiff shell lends control in any terrain. Carbon composite in base and skyback, the C14 yields precise turns, and the overstuffed cushion in the straps will cinch you in.
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Lowa Struktura ($425) and Fritschi Diamir Titanal 2 ($338)
The Struktura's unique articulated tongue gives pinpoint flex precision for downhill control, while for hiking, the free-floating cuff has a huge range of motion. The Diamir looks and skis very much like a regular alpine binding, except that its rear end will detach for touring.
K2 Heli Stinx ($439) and Leki Vision Vario telescopic poles ($130)
The Heli is wide at the tip for effortless float in deep stuff, generously sidecut for clean carving, and stiff enough to handle nearly any kind of snow. The Vario's carbon-fiber lower shaft and ergonomically sculpted grip impart the sweet swing weight usually found only in high-end fixed-length models.
Tua Sumo ($485), Garmont Squadra ($550), and Rainey SuperLoop ($125)
Named for fat guys who move like athletes, this fat board fairly bounds through powder, thanks to its round flex and beefy torsional stiffness. Three different durometers (grades) of Pebax plastic, injected into three different molds, produce the next-generation tele boot: absolutely rigid torsionally and laterally, supportive and progressive in forward
flex, and sweetly supple at the toe bellows. With its robust stainless steel body, riveted toe bar, overengineered cable and spring system, and cable guides adjustable to your boots' flex, the SuperLoop is the Hummer of tele bindings.
Atomic Tour Guide Super Light ($298), Scarpa Laser ($519), and Dynafit Tourlite Tech binding ($320)
With a moderate sidecut, an even, slightly stiff flex, and athletic dimensions, the Tour Guide lets you hold a solid edge on hard snow, survive encounters with death cookies, and float blissfully in powder. The Laser's stiff shell and three buckles ensure enough beef for demanding descents, while a wonderfully cush liner, free-floating cuff, and Vibram sole
make for easy hiking. It's also compatible with standard bindings. The Tourlite has a pincerlike toe piece that fits into reinforced holes on compatible boots' toes, and pins mate with slots in the heels. Engage only the toe, and the heel is free for touring.
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Black Diamond Ascension climbing skins ($118) and Life-Link AEC poles ($110)
K2 Clicker Approach Ski ($299) and Atlas Model 1025 ($239)
The high-speed quads of the backcountry, these skins boast the best adhesive on the planet, and you can custom-trim them to fit your skis' sidecut. Although these poles are ostensibly fixed-length, you can pop the grip off and adjust the hidden cam-lever for two more inches. Bonus: The two composite shafts screw together to form an avalanche probe.
These miniature skis accept Clicker boots and come with their own skins, so snowboarders can kick and glide to the top. The burly aluminum frame and Duratek decking give the 1025 flotation a rubber ducky would envy, and the binding is spring-loaded, so the shoe's nose won't catch as you stride.
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Osprey Backside Pro ($189) and Ortovox Expert shovel ($79)
Foam panels along each side of this pack wrap, burrito-style, over skis, snowboards, or anything else you want to haul. Injection-molded magnesium-and-aluminum alloy makes for an unusually strong but lightweight shovel, and the asymmetric handle converts it into a hoe or rotates to accommodate either left- or right-handed use.
Ortovox M2 Avalanche Beacon ($299) and G3 230 cm Avalanche Probe ($55)
The M2 marries an analog transceiver's guts with an LCD digital readout. An engineer's fantasy come true, the LCD displays distance, induction line, and signal strength. Threaded with a stout cable, the G3's five aluminum sections fit together like a standard tent pole, and a thumbscrew pulls on the cable to keep them tightly connected.
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