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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 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  …

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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.

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 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      …

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…

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 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…

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…

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 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…

Good for All Mountain Don't let the new costume fool you. El Hombre's guts are unchanged, and he still controls all corners of the ring–er, mountain. “It has good western all-mountain dimensions,” said one tester, “and enough shape and torsional stiffness to rail on variable snow.” It can be…

TELEMARK Good for Touring The overhauled Switchback won many converts with its new bomber 410 heat-treated stainless-steel toe bar. “A perfect match with lighter two- or three-buckle boots for touring,” said one Wasatch-based tester. It is the lightest telemark-touring binding on the market, but hard-and-heavy chargers preferred the beefier,…

Good for Big Mountain If we had a Gear of the Year award for boots, the Factor would win it. Constructed with an alpine-like overlap-shell design and progressive forward flex, the Factor was easily this year's most comfortable and best-performing downhill boot. Testers especially liked the liner's Boa closure…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain The ZenOxide owes its lightness to a Paulownia-poplar core and its edge-to-edge quickness and control to its round flex pattern. Capped construction at the tip and tail make for high-torsional rigidity at speed, while the laminate build underfoot maintains the ski's solid and…

Good for Touring Though recently bought by K2, 32-year-old Karhu has so far stayed true to its roots, continuing to make some of the best touring skis on the market. Testers found the Storm predictable, versatile, and, of course, an absolute blast in soft snow. “Edgy and stable at…

Built for the NTN (New Telemark Norm) binding system, the three-buckle, one-piece, overlap-shell Prophet is softer and smoother than the first-gen NTN offerings, which were all about big power and big skis. “This is the only NTN boot to truly match the feel of a normal tele binding and boot,”…

Good for All Mountain Testers praised the Push for its terrain-soaking dampness and remarkable out-of-the-box fit. Credit the snowboard-boot-like Boa liner (a nexus of metal wires you ratchet down tightly). “The best off-the-shelf fit and feel of any boot liner out there,” one tester noted. It's a bit softer…

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