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Great gear will only get you so far. Be kind to what you put in it. Here are some tips for taking care of your feet on the slopes.

One pair of thin-to-midweight ski-specific socks is all you need. We’re fans of Wigwam’s Xenon Pro.

Your skis might be flashier, but your boots are the more critical piece of gear. You could roll the dice and buy online, but we highly recommend getting them the old-fashioned way: in person. The more knowledgeable the shop is, the better.

Skis may be sexier, but boots are more important

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the Tecnica Cochise Ski Boot

How and where we tested the skis to determine our favorites.

Good for Resort A slightly detuned version of Nordica’s famed Speedmachine boot, the all-mountain Hot Rod skis incredibly well right out of the box. And because its boot board is rubberized polypropylene (instead of polyurethane), it dishes up the smoothest ride here. nordica.com…

The Quest likes to ski the resort, boot-pack, and occasionally go on tours. Sound familiar? While it weighs about 30 percent less than your average alpine boot and has a walk mode, it’s no softie on the way down. “This is truly a go-anywhere boot for better skiers,” said…

Thanks to its forgiving flex and an upright stance that makes for comfortable cruising all over the hill, the Dragon was our first choice for all-day skiing. “Advanced to expert skiers will love this boot,” said one tester. “It’s very smooth.” tecnicausa.com…

Good for Resort Like the 1980s three-piece Raichle classic but with much-improved performance thanks to a stiffer, reinforced tongue. Big-mountain skiers will especially like the way its predictable flex soaks up chatter at high speeds. Tip: Have the liner heated professionally. fulltiltboots.com…

Are you an intermediate skier looking for a do-it-all boot? The easy-on/easy-off—and surprisingly responsive—Impact 10 is your answer. salomonsports.com…

Good for Resort The first alpine boot made from sustainable (and recyclable) materials, the Renu has a shell made with a castor-oil-based plastic, a cork insole, and a bamboo-fiber liner. Experts will want something stiffer, but it’s plenty firm enough for intermediate to advanced skiers.

This intermediate-level boot’s duck-footed stance allows your feet to angle out slightly, which leaves you standing in a more natural position and makes for quicker energy transfers. It takes some getting used to, but the position does make it easier to get your skis on edge.

Good for Resort Ski patrollers, lifties, and anyone who likes to hike will love the new all-mountain Blaster. It skis as well as boots priced hundreds of dollars more and, thanks to a grippy outsole and a sturdy (and inconspicuous) walk mode, is way more comfy when…

The Zenith’s redesigned liner feels more secure. And thanks to a tweak in the shell design and a polycarbonate insert under the ball of your foot, it provides excellent snow feel. A confidence-inspiring choice for intermediates. rossignol.com…

Good for Resort Testers were truly shocked: You’re not supposed to be able to get a boot this good at this price. The key feature is the special plastic underfoot: It’s formulated for optimum energy transmission, and they must have gotten the recipe right, because the Sensor…

One of the best all-mountain boots this year, the expert-level Blower “feels like an F1 car with monster-truck suspension,” said one tester. And while we don’t normally condone manfur, it’s what makes this twitchy, race-inspired boot so comfy. nordicausa.com…

Good for Resort Salomon adapted the technology usually reserved for custom-boot makers for the rest of us. With some heat and the help of a professional fitter, two sections of special plastic on this all-mountain boot mold to your foot for a precise fit.

You can’t see the changes. But by tweaking the shape of the lower shell (it’s more upright) and upper cuff (less forward lean), Lange has created the most responsive expert-level boot we’ve ever skied in. langeskiboots.com…

Designed by Nordica’s big-mountain and park athletes, the brand-new Ace of Spades has an upright stance designed to give you a solid, well-balanced platform for skiing switch and landing big airs. And should you land in the backseat, extra room around the big toe helps disperse some of the…

ALL MOUNTAIN Good for All Mountain Developing an easy-flexing ski that still offers hard-snow performance has long been the holy grail of ski design. With the World Cup–inspired D2 (or Doubledeck), essentially a ski on top of a ski connected by free-gliding joints, Atomic has all but broken the…

Expert skiers have long favored the precise fit and feel of Lange boots. The only problem was, if you didn’t have narrow feet, the fit could be painfully tight. Enter the brand-new RX 130, the first high-performance boot Lange’s made—it’s the stiffest boot here—specifically for folks with wider feet.

BIG MOUNTAIN Good for Big Mountain You'll feel like you're cheating on huge powder days. The only women-specific rockered (upturned tip and tail) ski on the market, the Voodoo Pro also has tapered tips and tails, so they don't get hung up on pillows of poof. But what sets…

The Sensor3 is easy to like. It has a slightly wider fit that almost every tester (except those with really narrow feet) raved about. But it’s no slouchy cruiser; despite its comfy fit, it’s one of the stiffest boots in Rossi’s line. TAGS: easygoing, big mountain…

Good for All Mountain A first of its kind for expert women, the incredibly precise and powerful Competite is not your average girlie boot. The women-specific cuff is snug in all the right places, while the race-inspired liner provides a remarkably close fit—letting you feel every bump on the…

Based on the classic Raichle design from the eighties—with some cool updates—the First Chair has impressive quickness edge to edge and, of course, the trademark progressive flex. But it’s also got new metal buckles (lighter, more durable) and an updated cable system that’s easier to adjust. TAGS:…

Good for All Mountain Our favorite all-mountain, intermediate to advanced-level boot this year. Based on the company's newest high-performance shell, the HR Pro has a lower cuff for women and a cozy, furry liner for added warmth. The 115 in the name refers to this boot's flex, which is…

Testers loved how this intermediate/advanced boot combined a great out-of-the-box fit with a smooth and predictable flex in all conditions. “Great feel without sacrificing ankle flex,” said one tester. Also available in a much stiffer 130 flex with a steel frame for more torsional rigidity. TAGS: intermediate,…