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.

DPS took its deeply rockered Lotus 120—which sports a long pintail, tapered tip, and just a smidge of sidecut underfoot—and added a convex base to the shovel of the ski. That’s right, the base is actually spoon shaped in the front third.

Rossignol’s honeycombed tip and tail shed mass where it’s vital—away from your body. As a result, it’s effortless to throw the Soul 7 sideways in the trees or whenever you need to scrub speed.

Whether you’re at the resort or deep in the backcountry, if your boots don’t fit properly you’re miserable. Not sure about size or which brand fit you best? Consult a fitter. To narrow your choices, match the boot to the binding you’re pairing it with.

You now have two choices when it comes to telemark bindings: 75mm (traditional duckbill) and the newer NTN. The former is favored for its simplicity, lower cost, and greater variety of boot choices, but NTN is vastly more powerful and releasable, and it’s better-suited to driving today’s fattest skis.

We tested out the best backcountry and alpine boots to help you find the best fit for your ski experience.

Dynafit-style tech bindings, like the Radical and the La Sportiva RT, are the only ones that offer a true free pivot, meaning there’s no hardware attached to your boot heel or sole. They have fewer moving parts, ice up less, and require 15 percent less energy from you than other bindings.

Go deeper with our favorite telemark and alpine touring bindings of the year.

If it’s been a while since you bought telemark or alpine touring gear, you’ll notice that the game has changed quite a bit. Skis that used to be fat are now narrow, almost every new model has some degree of rocker, and Dynafit and Dynafit-style bindings are becoming increasing common at the resort.

When the results were tallied after our on-mountain evaluations, these were our female testers’ favorite planks.

It makes no difference to Mother Nature whether you’re a few hundred feet outside the resort boundary or deep in the backcountry. At a minimum, if you plan to ski any uncontrolled slope, you need four things: a buddy, a beacon (worn over your midlayer, not stuffed in your pack), a shovel, and a probe.

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

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2012 Winter Buyer's Guide, including the BCA Arsenal A-1 shovel with 35-centimeter saw.

Good for Alpine Touring All-around mid-fat dimensions make the Shazam our favorite go-to gun for resort-based adventures—it's just plump enough to keep afloat in a foot of powder. On firmer snow, testers found that the wood core provided dampness and torsional rigidity for quick, edge-to-edge responsiveness. 120/90/113, 6.8 lbs;…

ALPINE TOURING Good for Touring If you want only one ski for the backcountry, the S3 is your ride. An early-rise tip creates lift to plane above mank, crud, and pow like a much wider ski, while the traditional camber underfoot holds an edge on hardpack. The pin-shaped, twin-tip…

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…

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 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…

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