New Gear: AT Tools

New AT tools blend alpine power with touring mobility.
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New AT tools blend alpine power with touring mobility.
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Ready for a new challenge? Or just looking for a workout that doesn’t involve a gym? Slap on climbing skins, and your skiing landscape instantly expands. As you venture off trail, you won’t be alone.

“Crossover” is quite the trend these days, with new equipment breaking down the once-inviolable barrier between the lift-served and human-powered tribes. Backcountry brands like Scarpa, Black Diamond and Garmont are making alpine-touring (AT) boots with alpine oomph. Meanwhile, alpine brands (even ones as traditional as Marker) have ventured into the “sidecountry” market.

The result: freedom of upward and outward mobility, along with the kind of downhill performance you’re used to in alpine gear. Here’s all you need to get started—whether it’s for hikes up the hillside near home or quick trips out the ridgeline from the top of the lift. From there, the possibilities—like summit views—seem endless.

Pictured above, from left to right:

>>The line between stiff, heavy alpine boots—built for power, speed and edge-hold—and lightweight AT boots—built for comfort, mobility and mountaineering versatility—continues to blur. Example, the Black Diamond Factor ($730), from one of the world’s foremost mountaineering companies. A stiff overlap shell gives it power; a walk mode and optional rockered sole make it a reasonably agile hiker/skinner. blackdiamondequipment.com

>>Going up? You’ll need skins to get a grip. Web purveyors like climbingskinsdirect.com make it quick and inexpensive, with plenty of guidance on selection, trimming and setup. (Prices vary by size and type.)

>>The Marker Duke ($495) is a heavyweight AT binding. Free your heel for the ascent, then lock it down for the descent. The Duke, with its extra wide ski interface, is so sturdy you can use it for everyday ripping on your favorite all-mountain ski with no loss of power.

- SKI MAGAZINE, MARCH/APRIL 2009