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This season’s best for climbing up and ripping back down

Shed a little weight from your backcountry setup

The year’s best powder hounds

You’re only as good (and as safe) as your connection to your skis

The season’s backcountry boots demand to be pushed to the limit

AT gear keeps getting better and better at handling the down.

Backcountry boots are stiffer and more powerful than ever.

The race is on to create the perfect beyond-the-ropes setup.

The first 16-DIN tech binding, the new Beast features a “return to center” toe piece. As you ski, the binding deflects to absorb shock. It’s one of the reasons, safety-wise, alpine-style bindings outperform tech bindings.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Black Diamond Custom boots

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Marker Duke bindings

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Volkl Nunataq skis

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain The new four-buckle Titan was the toughest of the test—thanks to its overlap construction and progressive flex. “Ultimate ski control,” said one tester. “Stiff as an alpine boot.” Yet it has a comfy walk mode and tech fittings for any binding. 8.8 lbs;…

Good for Big Mountain When it debuted last year, Marker's Duke changed the AT-binding landscape with its alpine-binding-like toepiece, stout construction, and best-in-class downhill performance. New for this season, the Baron is every bit as tough but in a slightly lighter (1/3 lb per pair) package with less DIN…

Good for Telemark With the same cut and rockered tip as the Coomback, the Gotback was our favorite all-mountain tele-ski. But if you ski mostly groomers, you might want something with more edge grip: Although testers loved the way the early-rise tip plowed effortlessly over crud, some wished it…

TELEMARK Good for Touring Finally, a fatter offering from Ski Trab. The handmade Stelvio Light XL outskied every other superlight entry in our test. “A ski mountaineer's dream,” said one of our peak-seeking purists. “It's like it's not even there,” said another, noting how surprisingly powerful the carbon-wrapped, honey­comb…

ALPINE TOURING Good for Touring The Virus Tour, designed by extreme-skiing pioneer Glen Plake, impressed testers with a split, hinged tongue that allows seemingly limitless articulation for skinning or scrambling. “Incredible range of motion,” said one tester. We also love its smooth, if somewhat soft, flex. A thermomoldable EVA…

Good for All Mountain While a few of our old-school testers found the unchanged 01 too powerful, our hard-chargers once again loved it. Because of its underfoot cartridge-and-cable routing and lots of heel retention, every ounce of your energy gets transmitted to the ski. Three different cartridge offerings allow…

Good for Telemark While not a women-specific boot per se, the NTN-compatible TX is now available in women's sizes, providing testers with their first look at this sleek boot-and-binding system. Across the board, the results were clear: NTN provided our women the most arcing power they'd ever experienced. Bonus:…

The tour mode still lacks the flexibility of traditional bindings, but the wide range of variously stiff, color-coded cables makes the NTN a good choice for skiers of all abilities. “This binding truly brings telemark skiing to a new level,” said one neophyte. 5.4 lbs; rottefella.com  …

TELEMARK Good for Touring Garmont's new three-buckle Voodoo pairs a high, alpine-inspired cuff with asymmetrical bellows for un-tele-like smoothness. Testers backed up Garmont's claims that the new toe-box design creates better snow feel and also loved the lively new thermomoldable liners. “Ski it right out of the box,” said…

Good for All Mountain With a max DIN of 12 and full alpine- and AT-boot compatibility, the Freeride Plus remains the go-to binding for aggressive alpine skiers who spend equal time in and out of bounds. Downhill performance isn't quite as rock solid as the Baron, but the Freeride…

Built with a women-specific anatomical liner and last, the Shiva got highest honors in fit and flex, balancing comfortable uphill mechanics with downhill dependability. “Super flex, and stiff enough for downhill, yet the walk mode feels like you're in slippers,” declared one tester. Tech fittings mean it's compatible with lighter-weight…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain An update of the mainstay Fritschi Free-ride, the Eagle moves the pivot back an inch for a more natural skinning gait and broadens the mounting pattern for wider skis. “Kick turns are way easier than on Freerides,” said a tester. The DINs go…

All skis this plump are a blast in powder, but the Goliath won our Gear of the Year award for its performance on firmer snow. During test conditions that ranged from teeth-rattling hardpack to boot-deep powder to crusty leftovers, the Goliath simply outperformed every other ski in its class. The…

Good for Touring If you spend as much time going up as coming down, the new Dynafits are the way to go. They're unbelievably light but tougher than they look. “You really can charge on these,” maintained one tester. The Vertical FT12 is fundamentally the same as the previous…

Good for Telemark Now available in a size small, the NTN binding offers women accustomed to alpine-like control and power a no-sacrifices way to get into telemark skiing. Testers liked that they didn't have to bend over and mess with cables to get in and out. And everyone praised…

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain If you loved the snow feel and adjust-ability of TwentyTwo Designs' classic HammerHead, you'll go for the Axl, the same binding with a free-pivot tour mode. “Every bit as powerful and responsive as the HammerHead,” said one tester. And for the ups, another added,…

Good for Big Mountain This year's Ravyn received a facelift (new graphics) but otherwise returns unchanged. It remains relatively light for its footprint but still impressed testers with its damp feel and edge-to-edge prowess. “The harder the Ravyn is pushed, the easier it is to ski,” said one tester.

Good for Touring If you're not an overly aggressive skier, or if you rarely or never ski in-bounds, a three-buckle boot like the Syner-G offers the perfect blend of smooth power on the way down and comfort on the way up. While it's not quite powerful enough to drive…

Simple, easy to use, and time-tested, the durable Freeride remains as comfortable inbounds as it is on the Haute Route. Its 6–12 DIN accommodates a wide range of skiing styles and abilities, making this one of the most versatile AT bindings around.4.5 lbs; blackdiamondequipment.com      …

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain With unrivaled downhill performance, the DIN-16 Duke does anything a resort binding can—huck air, carve rails, hammer bump lines. Just don't think of it as an AT binding. It's an alpine binding with a walk mode. Yes, the Duke will tour when you…

Good for Big Mountain The Zealot is unchanged for this year; it's still big and brown. More important—thanks to its snappy wood core and strategically placed rubber woven into the tip, tail, underfoot, and along the edges—it's better at holding an edge on firm snow than almost any other…

Good for Touring You can find a lighter AT boot, but our testers felt the Radium had the best downhill performance-to-weight ratio. Credit the Radium's alpine heritage—an overlap shell—and the Pebax reinforcements in the thermomoldable liner, which add stiffness but almost no weight. Walk mode is a little clunky,…

Call it whatever you want—sidecountry, slackcountry, or frontcountry. But as the line between resort and backcountry continues to blur, the differences are obvious: Where we're skiing is changing, and so is the gear we're using. And just as our favorite alpine ski—the aptly named SideStash —is equally adept on both…

ALPINE TOURING Good for Touring The 2010 ST uses a chromoly-steel toepiece that improves strength while shaving nearly two ounces of weight. And the interface between pins and inserts is now more precise, which increases downhill control: “Surprisingly solid,” said one tester. We love the pivot-point efficiency, kick-turn ease,…

Good for All Mountain The Anti Piste has the exact same dimensions as K2's popular Coomba but with a bit of rocker in the tip. You can tell. Testers loved the way the subtle tweak to the shape allowed them to smear turns in a flash but noted…

Good for Big Mountain One boot for both AT and tele? Yup. Because the X Pro doesn't have a duckbill like traditional telemark boots, it's compatible with the new NTN binding. But thanks to its standard sole and Dynafit tech fittings, it also works with Dynafit AT bindings.

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain With the same footprint as Doug Coombs's original namesake ski, the new Coomback features a low-rise rockered tip for better flotation. “Nimble, agile, lightweight, and able to handle heavy pow with ease,” said one Alta-based tester. With tip and tail holes for K2's new…

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