Published

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.

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.

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.

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 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 Black Diamond Custom boots

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 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…

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain With the same dimensions as Rossi's S7 Barras alpine ski, the Mancini has a traditional camber and shape but adds a mega-wide rockered tip for float and a narrower pintail for scrubbing turns. The result is a ski that's equally adept at abrupt direction…

Good for Touring Extremely light for its width, the wood-core Manaslu impressed testers most when the snow got funky. While the tip is slightly rockered, the back third of the ski has more sidecut, which allows for quick turns in steep and tight terrain. Note: The pre-cut inserts are…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain Though it remains unchanged from last season, the Skookum proved itself an overall champ for its balanced uphill ergonomics and downhill chops. The interchangeable tongues are no gimmick: The downhill tongue stiffens the boot by 20 percent. It's easy to see why one…

Good for All Mountain The only difference between Scarpa's widely popular (and alpine-inspired) Hurricane boot and the Typhoon? The Typhoon has a walk mode, which adds a bit of weight but, our testers agreed, makes it much more comfortable when you're skinning or hiking. And with its double-injected upper…

ALPINE TOURING Good for All Mountain Reengineered for 2010 with an early-rise, rockered tip that sucks up crud, the Overlord wowed testers with its take-no-prisoners, high-speed onslaught through choppy conditions. “The rocker, width, and length absorb every bump on the mountain,” reported one tester. Meanwhile, the squared-off pintail allows…

Good for Big Mountain With features like a free-pivot touring mechanism, a reliable safety release, brakes, and the closest thing to step-in convenience in the freeheel world, the NTN (New Telemark Norm) binding represents a significant departure from conventional tele bindings. While it can be overpowering when matched with…

TELEMARK Good for All Mountain The four-buckle Custom overpowered the toughest bindings and even some testers. Those who could handle it gave it props for cuff/bellows flex and stiffness. As with other boots in BD's Power Series, the Custom's liner has a Boa closure system that clamps down hard…

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…

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…

See the archive