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Backcountry Ski Gear

Gear of the Year 2018: Backcountry

Whether you're new to backcountry skiing or a seasoned veteran who hasn't used a chairlift in years, these are the best tools to get you out there.

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Bizzard Zero G 95
Forget floppy carbon tips and soft ski chatter, the Blizzard ZeroG 95 is a damp race ski on a backcountry diet. This ski gets its chops from a super lightweight paulownia wood core with Carbon Drive technology, a uni-directional carbon frame that provides incredibly stiff torsional rigidity considering the ski’s flyweight boxing classification. The Zero G 95 is a great one-ski-wonder for any type of snow, but it truly stands out in steep, spring-corn conditions. [$700, blizzard-ski.com]

Dimensions: 126-95-110; Lengths: 164, 171, 178, 185; Radius: 21m (178).

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Dynafit Beast Carbon Boot
One of the stiffest backcountry-specific shells on the market, the Beast Carbon can drive any ski with ease, including the stiffest, fattest boards in your quiver. It’s hard to believe Dynafit doesn’t make alpine race boots from the same materials. The revised Precision Lock System attaches the cuff with the lower boot in ski mode, providing rock-solid power transmission. Pop into walk mode and The Beast Carbon can cruise uphill with ease, thanks to lightweight carbon integrated throughout the Pebax shell. [$900, dynafit.com]

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Dynafit TLT Speedfit 12 Binding
One issue with tech-binding heel pieces is their innate ability to wear down and stress-fracture over time. Dynafi t’s latest heel piece solves the problem with the bayonet lock, which removes the rotating spring-tower system found in previous models and replaces it with a solid, wholly rotating heel module. Combined with 5-10 release value settings, the TLT Speedfit 12 is a lightweight binding that can handle anything in- and out-of-bounds with ease. [$449, dynafit.com]

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OROTOVOX S1+ Avalanche Transceiver

There are so many smart beacons on the market, it’s hard to pinpoint which one is the best. The S1+ rises to the top for the many easy-to-use features that first-time users and avalanche professionals can both appreciate. The simple display shows the relative position of a buried person, and provides clear instructions on how to find them quickly. Simple flagging capabilities and intuitive search acoustics provide next-level micro-search functionality, and two batteries are all you need for 250 hours in transmission mode. [$500, orotovox.com]

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ORTOVOX Carbon 280+ PFA Probe and Kodiak Shovel
Having a no-nonsense, easy-to-assemble probe and ergonomic, smartly designed shovel is critical in the backcountry for more than just avalanche rescue. (Ever tried digging a snowpit with a shitty shovel or unmarked probe? It sucks.) Ortovox hits the mark for both of these items with the Carbon 280+ Probe and Kodiak Shovel. The PFA quick-assembly system and rubberized grip makes the Carbon 280+ probe super easy to assemble in a few seconds, and the large blade with high sidewalls on the shovel moves more snow faster than other models tested. The built-in hoe assembly in the shovel blade makes it especially easy to sculpt your snowstudy pits into works of art. [Probe: $100; Shovel: $90. orotvox.com]

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Black Diamond Carbon Whippet
There are more stories every year with backcountry skiers preventing potential tragedies because of their ability to self-arrest with a Black Diamond Whippet (including this author in 2014). They are a critical piece of equipment during any steep mission that might involve descending hard snow, or worse yet, unexpected steep ice. The Carbon Whippet is lightweight and packs down well, so there’s no longer an excuse not to bring one on every steep objective this season. [$140, blackdiamondequipment.com]

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Suunto Spartan Sport HR Baro

With a built-in heart rate monitor, GPS system, and barometer, the Spartan allows you to monitor weather, fatigue, and navigation directly from your wrist. Add in revised alpine and backcountry ski-specific GPS functions, and this watch becomes an essential tool for training, storm alerts, and ski navigation. It also hooks up to Strava easily so you can prove your epic day’s stats when you get back to the bar. [$550, suunto.com]

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