Downhill Suspects

Skis and snowboards to carve every mountain

Nov 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

WHEN IT COMES TO the serious business of sliding downhill, the French don't trouble themselves with petty categories; to them, all alpine snow sports are summed up in the word glisse. North Americans are, of course, slightly quicker to diversify—and spoiled as we are with so much varied vertical, why shouldn't we be? From the powder dream of Alaska to the scratchy violence of a New England boardercross course, our hills drive innovation in winter equipment for the entire planet.

This season's offerings are no exception. Skis continue to grow wider for better flotation beyond the groomers, and the sidecuts—the stick's hourglass shape designed to help you turn—now reflect the needs of terrain skiers instead of wonkish ski instructors. Even bindings have been rejiggered: Forget the drill and screwdriver; the latest fittings snap or slide into place, extending ski life and improving energy transfer.

Snowboards, meanwhile, continue their ascent up the learning curve, crafted now from laminated wood cores reinforced with layers of carbon fiber. Gone, too—or going, anyway—are step-in bindings. A new generation of lighter and stronger strap bindings have quickly cut to the front.

The pros, of course, have expensive quivers of terrain-specific rides, but you need not follow their lead. One pair or board will probably be fine for your favorite mountain. If the mood strikes, though, you can build up your own impressive roof-rack arsenal. We've held our grueling auditions and paired up the perfect boards and skis with the best terrain you'll find on this side of the pond. Vive la glisse diversité!