Preferably one with gobs of comfort and safety features

buyer's guide
(Courtesy Sweet Protection)

Sweet Protection Switcher MIPS ($249)

After more than a dozen testers placed the Switcher on their noggins, all agreed that it was the most comfortable helmet they’d worn. It accommodated a wide range of head sizes (pressure points were nonexistent) and handled temperature swings with aplomb. We’re talking 50-­degree corn-harvesting days at Snowbird and ten-degree bone chillers with 60-mile-per-hour winds on the summit of Oregon’s Mount McLoughlin. Credit the abundance of vents—18 on top and two at the front—all of which can be micro-adjusted using a single knob. “Even with gloves on, this helmet can easily be changed from the warmest on the planet to something a cyclist would wear,” one tester said. The Switcher ticked all the important boxes for a stalwart lid—including MIPS construction, to help reduce rotational forces in the event of a crash—and it nailed the little stuff, too, like a magnetic closure on the strap. But what really pushed it into Gear of the Year territory was the fact that male and female testers alike loved their respective versions. “Definitely not shrinked and pinked,” as one put it.

Men's Women's

buyer's guide
(Courtesy Scott)

Scott Symbol 2 Plus D ($220)

Best for the Backcountry

The Symbol 2 had the most venting of any helmet in our test, dumping heat in seconds. All that breathability, coupled with featherweight construction (at 1.2 pounds, it was the lightest we tested), made this the top pick for working hard in the backcountry. Testers didn’t get clammy while skinning up peaks in southern Oregon and Northern California. Sometimes the Symbol 2 vented a little too much; it was drafty on a 15-degree powder day at Big Sky, although nothing some strategic Buff placement and fine-tuning of fit couldn’t solve. Big-eared buyers, beware: the pads may make you claustrophobic.

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buyer's guide
(Courtesy Poc)

POC Obex Spin ($200)

Best for the Resort

The Obex Spin earned points for eschewing the bulbous, chunky construction so common in resort models. “This helmet is one of the classiest I’ve tried,” a tester said. “It sits close to my head and is stylish, lightweight, and minimalist.” The vents are easy to adjust with gloves on, and audible clicks let you know exactly where they’re positioned. The side pads are well designed, cupping the ears, not smushing them, and “keeping you warm without leaving you deaf,” said a tester. The only knock on the Obex: the front vents don’t close all the way, which gave testers ice cream headaches in below-freezing temperatures.

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buyer's guide
(Courtesy Salomon)

Salomon Sight ($180)

Best Fitting

The women’s Sight earned its spot with a clever innovation: an inflatable air bladder, rather than a dial or strap system, adjusts the fit of the helmet. Push the button on the back five or six times to firm everything up; a separate release button lets the air out. While this may sound gimmicky, it’s incredibly effective, and testers gave the helmet high marks for comfort. One who had a background in thermodynamic engineering couldn’t wrap her head around how well the bladder kept its shape despite the pressure change that comes with a 7,000-vertical-foot ski descent. Said another: “Beyond the air bladder, it’s sleek and elegant. The Sight breaks the mold of women’s helmets.”

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Après

The Best Skis of 2019

A complete revamp of a classic leads the cream of the crop from our test in Snowbird, Utah (Courtesy Völkl) Völkl M5 Mantra ($825) How do you freshen up a ski you’ve been making for 12 years and already redesigned four times? You blow it up entirely. That’s what Völkl’s German engineers did with the brand-new M5. Their goal: keep one of the most versatile all-mountain skis in history relevant. Not only did they succeed, but they created the best ski of the year. How? By bringing back underfoot camber for better glide and rebound, decreasing the width (from

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Après

The Best Alpine Ski Boots of 2019

Comfort and performance in a lightweight package   (Courtesy Nordica) Nordica Promachine 130 ($849) Best for All-Mountain Racing The Promachine’s anatomically shaped liner and shell, which seamlessly blends plastics of varying thickness, improve feel without compromising capability. This helps translate the subtlest movements from your feet to the ski, making it our favorite for tight trees. Buy Now (Courtesy K2) K2 Recon 120 ($650) Best for Gram Counters Just 3.6 pounds but hardly wimpy, the Recon is one of the lightest inbounds boots on the market. It drops weight by thinning the shell where strength isn’t crucial, like the sides and toe, but still

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Après

The Best Snowboards of 2019

Five decks that bring surf style to the slopes (Courtesy Weston) Weston Japow ($599) It’s no secret that snowboarders take inspiration from surfers. In everything from carving technique and aerial style to lingo and board shape, we’re closely aligned with our salty cousins. At Outside’s annual snowboard test at ­Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado, more than 30 riders put 86 decks to the test in variable spring conditions, and the consensus was that, now more than ever, designers are encouraging a surfy approach to snowboarding. Case in point: the surf-inspired Weston Japow was our top-rated board this year,

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Après

The Best Alpine Touring Bindings of 2019

You’re only as good (and as safe) as your connection to your skis   (Courtesy Dynafit) Dynafit ST Rotation 10 ($600) Several years ago, the brand that launched the tech revolution in the eighties introduced a turntable heel to prevent pre-release. The new Rotation improves upon that model, with a centering function at the toe that makes lining up the back of your boot with the heelpiece more precise. 2.2 lbs Buy Now (Courtesy Salomon) Salomon Shift MNC ($650) The Shift, developed in collaboration with Atomic, is like no other binding ever made. It has an alpine-inspired step-in heel and

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Après

The Best Alpine Touring Ski Boots of 2019

The season’s backcountry boots demand to be pushed to the limit (Courtesy Scott) Scott Celeste III ($750) The latest edition of the women’s Celeste is roomier in the lower portion of the shell and in the cuff, making it a tester favorite. Scott kept the smooth forward flex from its previous design, so the Celeste performs more like a ski-mountaineering boot than a four-buckle powerhouse. With 60 degrees of motion, it climbed just as well. 2.7 lbs Buy Now (Courtesy Salomon) Salomon S/Lab MTN ($975) Updated with Salomon’s Custom Shell HD technology, the new S/Lab MTN is heat moldable,

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Après

The Best Nordic Skiing Gear of 2019

Hammer like the gods in this cross-country kit   (Courtesy Craft) Craft PrimaLoft Stow Light Jacket ($160) With 60-gram synthetic fill, this lightweight puffy is loose and breathable enough to keep you warm without overheating. Stuff it into its pocket when the mercury rises. Men's Women's (Courtesy Fischer) Fischer Twin Skin X-Lite EF Skis ($349) If kick waxing gets you down, invest in these skis with wee climbing skins in the bases. The X-Lite EFs aren’t as fast or light as race sticks, but they’re great for a mellow tour. Buy Now (Courtesy Start) Start Ultra Gel Wax ($28) Unlike typical

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Après

The Best Ski Poles of 2019

Six pairs of sticks that can keep up (Courtesy Salomon) Salomon MTN Carbon S3 ($150) Salomon’s ingenious wrist-release system—a hard tug pulls the strap free from the grip—means no worrying that your poles will turn into shoulder-separating leashes in the trees. Tough foam extends six inches below the grip for extra purchase when choking up, and the lower portion of the carbon shaft is reinforced with Kevlar for durability. Buy Now (Courtesy Grass Sticks) Grass Sticks Original Custom ($89) After burning through aluminum poles season after season, we invested in a pair of Grass Sticks. And we’ve used them

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Après

The Best Splitboarding Gear of 2019

Because boot-packing takes too long (Courtesy G3) G3 Alpinist Plus Glide Skins ($184) G3 tweaked the mohair-to-nylon ratio in its Alpinist skins to suit a variety of conditions and terrain. Our favorite: the 70 percent mohair, 30 percent nylon Glide. It’s downright zippy on low-angle tours. Buy Now (Courtesy Arc'teryx) Arc’teryx Beta SL Jacket ($299) A quality shell is a must on any backcountry mission, even if it mostly lives in your pack. Arc’teryx’s Beta SL tips the scales at less than 11 ounces. And with its cinchable hood, slim fit, and two-layer Gore-Tex, we were more than happy

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Après

The Best Goggles of 2019

New lens designs are improving the view even on low-contrast days (Courtesy Atomic) Atomic Count 360° HD ($200) Dual-lens goggles have been the standard in winter sports since the 1960s. Just like with thermal windows, the air between the first and second lens has an insulating effect, reducing fog. But flaws inherent in that construction (refraction, image mirroring) have dogged designers. Despite advances, the view through a single lens is just better. Atomic solves this conundrum with the revolutionary Count 360° HD, which features two lenses fused together. Double-thick plastic compensates for the loss of that thermal air layer,

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