Winter Buyer's Guide

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Though smaller than an Etch A Sketch and weighing only two pounds, this highly portable, iPod-charging speaker system—with dual two-inch drivers, auxiliary input, and seven hours of playback per charge—sounds huge in the room or at the beach. alteclansing.com      …

K2's fattest women's AT ski has enough sidecut to arc GS turns on hardpack, enough flex to bounce through a foot of powder, and enough dampness to tame a crusty minefield. 120/88/108, 8 lbs; k2alpineterrain.com      …

THE CHANGELING Good for Groomed Runs Twist the Power Switch on the tail 90 degrees from “dynamic” to “power” mode and the Tigershark morphs from a damp, stable cruiser to an unrelenting high-energy carver. The switch engages two slender carbon-fiber rods inside the ski that load up…

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…

Good for BackcountryWe loved the subtle pinstripe herringbone pattern and the ceramic scuff guards on the ankles. And thanks to the waterproof/breathable eVent fabric, they didn’t get stuffy on an hourlong hike to Taos, New Mexico’s Kachina Peak. westcomb.com…

With welded seams and a water-resistant polyester shell, this insulated soft shell is ready for any winter-weather play. 1.6 lbs; patagonia.com…

CLIMBER’S FAVORITE The stripped-down Prolight 27 performs best when it’s going up. How do we know? After spending time in Colorado scaling multipitch climbs in Eldorado Canyon and summiting (and then skiing down) Longs Peak, our American Mountain Guides Association–certified tester didn’t want to give it back. “It was perfect,”…

Like Suunto’s Extreme Edition Silver ($329), this watch has an altimeter, barometer, compass, storm alarm, sunrise/sunset times, etc. It’s also engraved with the signature of Apa Sherpa, who this year made his record 20th summit of the big peak. (It’s an edition of 8,848—the mountain’s elevation in meters.) Plus…

Twofer The big selling point here is obvious: You get both a warm, burly ski shell plus a thick, synthetically insulated sweater that can be zipped in to boost the warmth. Both jackets are constructed with Columbia’s new Omni-Heat lining, a matrix of metallic dots that reflect heat back to…

SMART INSULATOR Like the Gravitor (left), the Prima Fusion is also an insulated hard shell—with a few key differences. First, it’s insulated only in strategic areas along the chest, back, shoulders, and tops of the arms. The uninsulated sides, helmet-compatible hood, elbows, and pit-zip-equipped underarms make it cooler but…

Zeal has carved out a niche for itself in the ultra-high end of the market, and the SPPX Eclipse fits right in. Not only did the lenses get the highest score for optical clarity; they’re also polarized and photochromic. It’s the latter feature that will really blow you away,…

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,…

Our skepticism of these radically designed bindings was quickly put to bed. “I couldn’t tell where the bindings stopped and the board began,” one tester said after trying out the pictured duo. “They felt like one unit.” The single strap held us in with more responsiveness than any others…

Reflective highlights on your shoes don’t keep you safe—defensive running and big stripes of the shiny stuff, like those on ASICS‘s REFLECTIVE VEST, do.

Trail Newton’s first trail shoe still uses the company’s trademark set of prominent, extra-springy lugs under the forefoot to encourage mid- and forefoot running, but it adds tight mesh to the upper to keep debris out and grippier rubber for traction. It’s good for working on form and running fast,…

The Imperial has plenty of trick features—like shell material that helps distribute the rider’s weight and rubber ice spikes on a Vibram outsole for better hiking traction. But testers most appreciated the simple lacing system, which allows you to quickly lock in the ankle and toe areas separately.

BEST FOR BACKCOUNTRY Unlike a lot of windproof soft shells, which rely on an embedded membrane, the Winter Guide’s gale-thwarting abilities come from a supertight weave, enabling it to breathe better than most. During a day of ski touring in Washington’s North Cascades that involved everything from cold descents to…

THE CLASSIC If Toyota made a jacket, it would be a lot like the Escape: solid performance, great value. Made of Gore-Tex Performance Shell (the new name for the classic two-layer waterproof-breathable fabric), the Escape shucked off the elements in the nastiest Northwest storms. It’s not as light as comparably…

HARD CHARGER Unless you huck off every cliff in sight, donning body armor is overkill. But a little back protection makes sense for anyone who ventures into exposed, big-mountain terrain. The multitasking, 1,450-cubic-inch Razor is built with a Shield Back System: foam-wrapped polyethylene pads that are part of the internal…

Stiff plastic and a double-injected cuff afford alpine-boot-like downhill performance, but thanks to a walk mode it feels like an alpine-touring boot on the way up. 8.3 lbs; garmontusa.com   Bonus: Further evidence of its split personality: It comes with two interchangeable soles, one a grippier ski-mountaineering sole and one…

LIGHT AND FAST These winterized trail runners are perfect for cruising fast through sloppy conditions, thanks to waterproof-breathable XCR liners and clip-on ankle gaiters (included). lasportiva.com…

With five adjustable underfoot cable settings, this binding, which was built to accommodate smaller boot sizes, suits all levels. 3 lbs; twentytwodesigns.com      …

The Tartan’s ergonomic grips are the most comfortable of any here, and the aircraft-grade aluminum should stand up to years of abuse. scottusa.com…

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…

TOWN AND COUNTRY Good for Backcountry Don’t worry, it’s also available in black and UPS brown. We were surprised that what looks like a soft-shell sweatshirt on acid could perform so well in nasty conditions. But this hoodie felt as at home riding the lifts on…

BEST OVERALL This jacket is all about skier-friendly features. Our favorites: an easily removable hood, a powder skirt, zipper tabs big enough for mittened hands, and fleecy cuffs that keep drafts out. The insulated Sofia is warm without looking bulky, but on the coldest days you’ll have to layer up…

A SOFTY WITH GUTS This true twin spins like a top with incredible control, but thanks to its predictable flex and soft feel, it’s an extremely forgiving board—and a great choice for intermediates looking to take it to the next level. It won’t let you down: Testers were surprised by…

Light as a feather and stuffed with 700-fill down, these moonboot-like waterproof-breathable pillows-for-your-feet have just enough guts for a run to the beer store, while cordlocks cinch tight to keep out snow. Though designed with winter camping and hut trips in mind, it’s really the perfect après footwear anywhere.

All Mountain Aptly named for the exposed adjustable pivot beneath the toe, the Axl is a free-pivot touring binding like its forebear, the legendary Hammerhead. Testers found that the underfoot pistons, sleek cable routing, and heel throw provided more downhill chops than any similar binding on the hill. And unlike…

VAUDE‘s ROCK 45+10 PACK. Its front crampon pocket keeps sharp points away from your jacket and rope, and its single-clip holsters fit everything from mountaineering tools to leashless axes with and without grips.

JUST RELAX Every ski in K2’s line features rocker this season. In addition to floating a ski, rocker can be designed to help initiate a turn. Such is the case with the easy-skiing Aftershock. And where skis like the Nordica Enforcer and Völkl Kendo require near-constant attention, it’s possible to…

When paired with high-quality base layers, CRAFT‘s full-zip ACTIVE CROSS COUNTRY TOURING PANTS are all you need 90 percent of the time.

Alpine Touring With its alpine buckle configuration and beefy power strap, the respectably light Shaka is one of the burliest women-specific boots on the market, capable of driving the biggest, fattest skis. Even better, it’s also Dynafit-compatible and, thanks to rockered soles, sure-footed in the backcountry. 7.2 lbs. TAGS:…

Up top, the goal is moderate warmth in a tight-fitting piece that won’t snag, something like GORE BIKE WEAR‘s XENON THERMO JERSEY.

  The instrument of choice for the Austrian national ski team, this basic carbon-fiber pole has a Velcro strap for easy adjustment. Light, simple, and inspiring. Just knowing that the world’s best ski team uses them makes you feel fast. komperdell.com          …

BEAL‘s 8.1mm, 60-meter ICE LINE makes life a lot easier.

NO SNOW TOO DEEP, NO ICE TOO HARD You’ll see old Gotamas, one of our favorite big-mountain skis of all time, with hundreds of days of abuse, still in liftlines everywhere from Taos to Fernie, but the current Gotama (new last year) is a worthy upgrade. Rocker (tip and tail)…

REBEL DESIGN Lib Tech has abandoned traditional geometry and camber design to create a new rocker shape. The result? The Skate Banana has tremendous edge hold and is controlled directly under your balance point, making turns effortless on hardpack. And thanks to its detune-friendly Magne-Traction sidecut, it yielded catch-free balance…

The next best thing to wearing a hat hand-knit by a loved one? One designed by Swedish freeskiers Kaj Zackrisson and Sverre Liliequist, who founded Kask in 2004. kaskofsweden.com…

At 13 ounces, the featherweight of the bunch is for freeskiers who don’t want to feel like they’re wearing a helmet at all. Trim padding makes this a good-looking helmet for narrow faces. markerusa.com…

Heading out the gate? This low-profile and lightweight (three-pound) pack comfortably carries skis, avy gear, and a helmet. There’s also extra back protection and an insulated hydration-tube sleeve. mammutusa.com…

This versatile shoe goes from road to trail—and October to April—with ease. Midsole cushion is pillow-like on rocky trails and flexy enough for roads, and the upper breathes well and resists minor weather (but isn’t waterproof). It’s best for narrow-footed mild pronators. 10 oz; brooksrunning.com…

CRUD DESTROYER Good for Powder The three-year-old Pontoon remains the best crud-buster of the lot, which is key. While all reverse-camber skis are fun in powder, once you hit manky snow (like the kind that wants to tear the ligaments off your knee), you’ll appreciate the…

The upper vents are lined with mesh, while the two in front create good airflow—our goggles never fogged up. But our favorite thing about the Vigilante is the Boa fit system. Just spin a knob at the back of the helmet to dial in the perfect fit.

Backcountry skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, skate skiing. We did it all in this versatile soft-shell glove. seirus.com…

MINIMALIST PERFORMER Good for Backcountry Like the Marmot (near left), the waterproof-breathable Shuksan was a tester favorite among all-season jackets. True, this pared-down shell has no winter-specific features, but that doesn’t mean it can’t handle the cold. The well-designed hood can accommodate a helmet, and the…

TELEMARK Good for Telemark The Bombshell wins again. She's, well, bomber, with five settings that allow for a handful of telemark styles; a solid, stainless-steel toepiece; and a six-inch, front-mounted compression spring that's 20 percent softer than the men's counterpart. 3.1 lbs; twentytwodesigns.com      …

By using different materials in different parts of the binding, EVA padding in the baseplate and gel-infused ankle straps, the United pulls off a nifty trick: It’s soft enough to take the sting out of flat landings but stiff enough to feel solid on firm snow at high speeds.

Fits Any Foot With most snowshoes, it’s just strap ’em on and go. That’s fine, unless you’re a bit duckfooted or pigeon-toed, in which case you’ll likely step on your tails, trip on your tips, and generally stumble around in misery. There’s another way: With the pull of a pin,…

Alpine Touring Built with a new steel-rod touring mechanism, the Mobe skis like a (softer) alpine boot with a walk mode and lug soles. Only it’s just eight pounds per pair—about 30 percent lighter than your average alpine boot. Add a booster strap, a rockered mountaineering sole, and tech fittings…

Depress a button and the Griz’s handle folds open. Push another and the handle lengthens to twice the length. Now you’re digging. We like how quick and easy it is. And the solid D-shaped handle. And how the big, gently serrated blade bites into rock-hard snow. 28 oz;…

FAT AND FURIOUS The Atlas was designed for guys who charge down 50-degree faces at downhill racing speeds. And what does that mean to you? Only this: The Atlas is fat enough for the deepest snow, but it handles like a traditional ski. So you can load it up and…

The wrong knee-length parka can make you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Not the Aria. Its 650-fill down is toasty on blustery winter days, but the close-fitting silhouette doesn’t add bulk. Plus one of the hand pockets doubles as a stuffsack. TAGS: knee-length, media pocket, packable…

Hybrid Hauler The Adrenaline ASR 7 is a classic stability road shoe with a perk: four-wheel drive. Its outsole has teeth for grip on snowy roads and moderately technical trails, but the rest of the shoe is made for high-mileage pounding on pavement. The tread didn’t wow us on rocky…

Illuminate your tent or igloo with PRIMUS‘s SOLAR CAMPING LANTERN for a homey touch.

POWDER KING A 102-millimeter waist allows the Coomba to float easily in powder. But unlike some big-mountain skis, it’s also torsionally stiff enough to dice high-speed, large-radius turns with ease. Credit K2’s proprietary construction—namely, a shock-absorbing wood core with interlocking strands of fiberglass in the topsheet. 135/102/121; k2skis.com   Bonus:…

1. This is simply the most adapt-able winter-specific storm shell we tested. The key is Schoeller’s new waterproof-breathable fabric with c_change technology, a membrane with a polymer structure that opens up when you get hot and contracts when you cool down. Translation: Testers didn’t overheat when their buddies did…

We think it’s called the Flow Pant because it transitions easily from the mountain to the bar. Or maybe it’s because it hangs off your body with a loose fit and baggy cargo pockets. Either way, the hard-shell pants are a great choice. thenorthface.com…

In a word, refreshing. Not only does this polyester base layer have an antimicrobial treatment, mesh underarm venting, and a low-key graphic; it’s also slim-fitting and a bargain. dakine.com…

Warm, yet wild. Touches of corduroy give these waterproof, PrimaLoft-insulated pants a dash of outlaw flash. But what feels downright illegal is when you shed your base-layer bottoms, go commando, and still feel warm and fuzzy inside. powderhorn-world.com…

Thanks to a smart combination of wool and synthetic insulation, the leather-palmed and waterproof Vector kept our fingers toasty in single-digit temps. gordini.com…

The low-key style, almost hidden pockets, and minimal amount of PrimaLoft One synthetic insulation make it perfect for mild days. 1.2 lbs; merrell.com…

Walk the walk: Thanks to a bamboo lining, organic cotton, and natural rubber, this jute-laced felt boot is eco-approved. Plus tiny bumps on the insole deliver a well-deserved foot massage. simpleshoes.com…

TAKE IT EVERYWHERE Good for Groomed Runs The most versatile frontside ski we tested, the brand-new 777 is less of a pure carver than the other skis on this page, making it an ideal choice for advanced skiers looking to step it up. Built to similar specs…

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…

Thanks to its flat seams, jersey knit, and a touch of stretchy synthetic material, this was our favorite lightweight merino-wool top. io-bio.com…

GATE HOPPER The 1,098-cubic-inch Silo 18 is an ideal choice when you’re jumping between the lifts and the sidecountry. Three stash pockets (one internal, two external) help you keep track of quick-grab items. The polyethylene back panel is just tough and stiff enough to make a solid base for ski…

EFFICIENT MOUNTAINEER Our most organized testers especially liked this tough, sensible 1,850-cubic-inch pack. Internal pockets hold snow-safety gear, valuables, and a hydration bladder. Outside, five more: two on the side, one in the lid, one on the hip belt, and one shove-it pocket on the back panel. The ski and…

There’s something reassuringly Terminator in this model’s military khaki “Unobtainium” rubber strap. With Swiss-made computer numeric control, an “impact-forged” steel case, and 100-meter water resistance, it’s the watch we grab when we don’t know what to expect. Thus its name, in honor of the hardcore World War II battalion.

Soft Touch “It just feels right,” said one tester. That pretty much sums up the Welder, and after we added up all the comments, it was clear that it was the most breathable, stretchy, supple, and comfortable insulated soft shell we saw this year. The Welder delivers enough water and…

PUFF LIGHT Of all the jackets we tested, none saw as much field time as the Xenon. The slightly puffy top is stuffed with enough PrimaLoft insulation to be worn alone down to about 30 degrees. And while its face fabric appears thin and fragile, it’s anything but. One tester…

Testers were impressed with the Prophecy’s secure fit and crisp lenses, but the coolest feature is its Porex Filter. This tiny little portal lets air but not water pass through, which prevents moisture buildup between the lenses and also regulates the air pressure, thus decreasing the chances that the…

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…

Testers dug the Geos for their roomy toe box, flexible and responsive upper, and easy-to-lace liner. Grippy fabric—it feels like a cat’s tongue—in the heel helps keep your foot in place. Be forewarned: These run about a size too big. TAGS: stylish, runs big…

Few running caps can come close to the quality of PATAGONIA‘s slim, stretchy CAPILENE 4 EXPEDITION WEIGHT BEANIE, which is made with the same microfleece-lined stuff as your favorite soft shell.

A running shoe that weighs less than eight ounces is usually a flimsy racing flat. So imagine our shock during the first test runs in the Kinvara: It’s a legit training shoe but with 30 percent less weight than most other high-mileage trainers. There’s radically less rubber on the outsole—only…

Testers reached for the burly Vector when they knew they’d be in changing conditions—like atop Mount Elbert, a Colorado fourteener. Spiked rails and a bear claw of points underfoot bit into hard-packed snow and ice. “I never had to take my gloves off when adjusting my shoes,” one tester…

BARGAIN PUFFY Good luck finding an equally tricked-out, ski-specific soft shell at this price. In addition to a removable powder skirt and helmet-compatible hood, the Wildcard has everything you need—hidden pass clip, dedicated goggle pocket, and audio-player compartment with earbud port—for an organized day sans backpack. Its low-profile layer of…

MOST VERSATILE New Gore-Tex Pro Shell fabric, which is lighter, more comfortable, and more durable than the company’s former top-of-the-line stuff (XCR), is one of the season’s standout innovations. The key is a softer inner fabric that works great when worn over a base layer. In the La Grave, Marmot…

Basically a stripped-down and lighter version of Rossi’s Bandit B94 alpine ski, the Respect was the perfect ski for a day at Silverton that involved hiking, skinning, and skiing everything from untouched powder to windblown mank. It also impressed testers with its grip on firm snow. 122/94/112, 8.4 lbs;…

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