1. MSR Lightning Ascent
Best For: Backcountry Ramblers
The massive decking on the Lightning Ascents will keep you afloat in most snow conditions. If you do find yourself sinking, snap on the included five-inch extenders to double the surface area. The trade-off for buoyancy: weight. Each shoe is a hefty 2.2 pounds, so don’t expect to sprint in these pontoons. From $270.
(a) Wear Them With: The North Face’s waterproof, insulated Iceflare Mid GTX boots; they’re comfortable when the temps plummet below zero. ($160)
2. Rossignol X-ium Skating WCs S2
Best For: Skate Skiers
If you’re a decent ice-skater, kicking along groomed tracks in the WCS S2s will feel very familiar. At just 19 ounces, these carbon-tipped skis weigh less than a pair of Rollerblades. The honeycomb core puts a spring in the glide that makes them ideal for skate-skiers looking to take their game up a notch. ($700)
(b) Wear Them With: The rest of Rossi’s X-ium line, including the low-profile X-ium WC Skate boots ($510), ultralight (0.4 pound) X-celerator Skate NIS bindings ($115), and X100 poles ($320).
3. Louis Garneau Course 721
Best For: Snow Runners
At 1.6 pounds each, the Course 721s are among the lightest snowshoes on the market—and, at only 7 inches wide, among the slimmest. The aluminum frame is gently tapered toward the heel for a natural running stride, and the crampons maintain traction on packed singletrack, which is where these perform best. ($250)
(c) Wear Them With: Salomon’s Speedcross 3 trail runners, which feature aggressive tread, mud guards, and quick laces for winter running. ($145)