Ski: The wide Völkl Nunataq, built from the same chassis as the popular Gotama (see page 68), boasts an extended low rocker profile that planes effortlessly on soft snow. Völkl's Tough Box Construction—a multi-wood core encapsulated by a composite/fiberglass sheath—gives the Nunataq responsiveness without becoming too snappy and skittish. Skin attachments and straight tails are a nod to efficiency and ski mountaineering (it's easier to anchor a flat tailed ski). Swami gripe: The long profile tip gets slightly chattery on really hard snow. Swami like: Lighter than normal Völkls, but the Nunataqs still possess that smooth dampness at speed when you're railing turns.
$825; 139/107/123; volkl.com
Boot: At less than seven pounds, the Scarpa Maestrale is lighter than any four-buckle alpine touring boot on the market. What Scarpa cut in weight, the company also cut in price. But there's no drop-off in features: The Maestrale boasts heat moldable Intuition liners, a rockered and lugged sole, tech fittings for Dynafit bindings, and decisive ski/walk modes. The flex isn't the stiffest on the market, but it's consistent and smooth with a huge sweet spot. What's the secret to the Maestrale's downhill chops? A retention buckle holds your ankles snugly in the heel pocket, providing lateral control no matter what the conditions. The 40 degree fore/aft walk range allows for easy bootpacking, long strides, and all-day comfort. Swami gripe: The asymmetrical tongue is a bit of a pain, but not a deal breaker. Swami like: Lateral stiffness is high so you can engage your edges immediately.
$599; 6 lb., 12 oz.; scarpa.com
Sock: The Smartwool PhD Ski Light was built with high activity in mind. Mesh zones vent heat while a four-point fit system adds support around the instep, arch, and heel. Extra wool in more high-impact areas reduces abrasion.
Binding: For pure backcountry applications (read: long tours) the new Dynafit Radical ST is a better, user-friendlier version of the much-loved Vertical ST binding. You click in easily thanks to a toe-piece side tower—a feature that increases power transfer and strengthens side impact resistance. Instead of rotating the heelpiece to engage the climbing aid, now simply flick your pole to work the new speed step system. The DIN is the same 4–10; larger or more aggressive skiers should consider the Radical FT binding (DIN 5–12).
$490; 2 lb., 5 oz.; dynafit.us
Pack: With a handsome clamshell design, the Pieps Myotis 30 is easy to negotiate. Divvy up your gear between a main compartment, avalanche tool pockets with designated sleeves for probe and shovel parts, and two additional waterproof pockets for maps and essentials. A zippered, fleece-lined top pocket makes it a cinch to swap goggles and sunglasses. It's loaded with features including a removable helmet stash, hydration sleeve, ice tool system, and utility waist belt with a gear loop and zippered pouch.
Beacon: Signal analysis and separation are the name of the beacon game these days. The simple, intuitive Ortovox 3+ features a single-button flagging feature for multiple burials. A smart antenna reads the buried beacon's orientation, choosing from the two perpendicular transmitting antennae for the best signal to reel in rescuers, thus eliminating a "worst position" scenario.
Jacket: The Havoc, by Outdoor Research is the perfect backcountry insurance policy. Gore-Tex WINDSTOPPER holds the wind at bay and PrimaLoft insulation keeps you warm. Together they make the Havoc an essential backcountry barrier, ideal for layering up at lunch breaks, on the summit, and when the mercury drops.
From the Winter 2012 issue