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2021 Gear of the Year

The best new gear of the year.


It’s no secret that this ski season will be unlike any other. Given all of the new products arriving at your local ski shop, there has never been a better time to upgrade your kit and go skiing. And to help smooth out the purchasing process, this is the new-for-2021 gear that impressed our testers and editors the most.

Men’s Skis: Nordica Enforcer 100

2021 Nordica Enforcer 100 Men's All-Mountain Ski
The 2021 SKI Magazine Gear of the Year Nordica Enforcer 100 Men’s All-Mountain Ski.Photo courtesy of Nordica

Nordica’s iconic Enforcer 100 is all-new for 2021, and, according to our testers, it’s somehow better than ever before. The ski’s revamped construction, which features a new carbon chassis laminate and what the brand calls TrueTip technology, reduces weight and makes the ski smoother on edge, no matter the snow condition or speed. These new construction elements also add just a touch more forgiveness and a supple feel compared to previous versions, and are sure to make strong skiers smile. The testers at Taos showered the new Enforcer 100 with praise, noting that it rewards proper skiing technique with near-flawless performance. It earned the highest scores in the men’s All-Mountain category for Stability at Speed, Crud Performance, Hard-Snow Integrity, Versatility, and Overall Impression. All of these factors added up to winning Best in Test for men’s All-Mountain skis and the coveted Gear of the Year award for 2021.

WATCH: SKI Review – Nordica Enforcer 100 and Enforcer 94

Video not displaying correctly? Watch it here.

2021 Nordica Enforcer 100 Factsheet

  • Overall Rating: 4.14/5
  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 165, 172, 179, 186, 191
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 133-100-121
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 18.4 (186 cm length)
  • MSRP: $850

Women’s Skis: Stöckli Nela 80

The 2021 Gear of the Year and Best in Test Stöckli Nela 80 Women's Frontside Ski
The 2021 Gear of the Year and Best in Test Stöckli Nela 80 Women’s Frontside Ski.Photo courtesy of Stöckli

Hallelujah, a women’s-specific Stöckli charger! For years this Swiss brand has produced some of the most exquisitely crafted unisex skis on the market, but they were better suited to skiers with racing backgrounds than recreationalists, never mind the majority of the female population. Enter the new Nela line, featuring a lighter weight and a women’s-specific flex that makes the skis easier to engage, more forgiving, and more accessible to intermediates than Stöckli’s unisex models. The new Nela 80 is the most piste-oriented of the line and our testers loved it for its thrilling carving performance and ability to bust through crud despite its smaller waist width, calling it “the luxury SUV” of the Frontside category. Testers’ one gripe: the longest length available is 165cm, which will surely disappoint some of the hard-charging chicks chomping at the bit to get on a more playful Stöckli ski. 

2021 Stöckli Nela 80 Factsheet

  • Overall Rating: 4.44/5
  • Available Lengths (In Centimeters): 149, 157, 165
  • Tip-Waist-Tail Dimensions (In Millimeters): 121-80-106
  • Turn Radius (In Meters): 14 (157 cm length)
  • MSRP: $949

Backcountry Ski: Scott SuperGuide Freetour

2021 Scott SuperGuide Freetour backcountry ski
Scott’s new SuperGuide Freetour backcountry ski.Photo courtesy of Scott

Scott releases an entirely new line of SuperGuide backcountry skis this season, and they are all a massive step forward for the brand. With an uphill-friendly weight and perhaps the best downhill performance of any Scott ski in recent memory, the line’s flagship SuperGuide Freetour is particularly impressive. The key is in the ski’s construction: The wood core comprises a blend of lightweight paulownia and sturdy beech, plus blended carbon and aramid laminates keep the ski lively and energetic without the jitters that some backcountry skis with carbon are known for. The Freetour’s well-behaved materials are perfectly suited to its progressive three-radii sidecut, which allows the ski to perform dynamic turn shapes that can quickly and comfortably adapt to different terrain, snow conditions, and speeds. Given the freeride-specific design of the ski, however, the SuperGuide Freetour begs to be taken off-leash so it can run fast down steep, open terrain. Best of all, the construction and shape add up to perform harmoniously on-piste as well as in the backcountry, giving the Freetour a solid claim on the podium for backcountry-loving skiers looking for an everyday ski that can handle occasional chairlift rides, too.

WATCH: SKI Review – Scott SuperGuide Freetour Backcountry Ski

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Ski Boots: Lange XT3

2021 Lange XT3 130 Ski Boot
The Lange XT3 130.Photo courtesy of Lange
2021 Lange XT3 110 W women's all-mountain adventure ski boot
The Lange XT3 110 W.Photo courtesy of Lange
  • FLEXES (Men): 140, 130 (pictured), 120, 100
  • FLEXES (Women): 110 (picture), 90, 80
  • LAST: 97mm (LV), 100mm (MV)
  • VOLUME: Low (LV), Medium (MV)
  • MSRP: $900 (XT3 130), $800 (XT3 110 W)

The XT3 is the first boot that comes incredibly close to delivering true alpine performance while in ski mode but remains comfortable and easy to hike with while in walk mode. Built with an innovative metal-on-metal V-lock that effectively eliminates any play in downhill mode, as well as Lange’s Dual-Core Light shell construction that provides a near-perfect feel, the XT3 is virtually flawless when descending on hard and soft snow alike. The brand is so confident in the design and downhill capabilities, it also offers a no-nonsense, low-volume Pro model of the boot with a rigid 140 flex rating. All of the models within the XT3 family feature a 53-degree range of motion in walk mode, removableGripWalk soles, and tech inserts, meaning the XT3 is no slouch when it comes to backcountry tours or just general comfort when walking from your car to the lift. Speaking of comfort, the heat-customizable liners provide a supple feel right out of the box (or right out of the oven during the fitting process) and include different density foams to maximize performance on the uphill and—most importantly—the down. Add in a slew of options when it comes to flex and volume choices, and this boot is likely to be your one-and-only go-to boot for laps off the lift, backcountry tours, and everything in between.

Men’s Outerwear: Outdoor Research Carbide Jacket and Bib

Outdoor Research Carbide Men's Ski Jacket
Made with Pertex Shield, the men’s Outdoor Research Carbide Jacket is pliable and easy to move in. Photo courtesy of Outdoor Research
OR 2020 Carbide Bib
The Arcade bling in the Carbide bib comes in the form of quick-release stretch suspenders.Courtesy of Outdoor Research

Three cheers for cool collaborations. Outdoor Research teamed up with Calif.–based Arcade Belts to add a little flair to its new shell kit for this season. The Carbide Jacket and Bib is OR’s top of the line set-up designed for active days in-bounds as well as backcountry touring. Made with Pertex Shield, the Carbide is pliable and easy to move in, with features including powder skirt, pit and thigh venting, and clip-in avy beacon pocket. The Arcade bling in the bib comes in the form of quick-release stretch suspenders that also offer a welcome pop of color.

  • Outdoor Research Carbide Jacket MSRP: $299
  • Outdoor Research Carbide Bib MSRP: $299

Women’s Outerwear: Picture Organic Aeron Jacket & Bib

Women's Picture Organic Aero Ski Jacket
The Aeron Jacket and Bib is a three-layer shell kit made from sugarcane waste repurposed into a bio-based fabric, then coated with a PFC-free waterproof treatment.Photo courtesy of Picture Organic
Women's Picture Organic Aero Bib Ski Pant
The Aeron Bib is Lycra-sided with easily adjustable straps.Photo courtesy of Picture Organic

It’s about time Picture put some money and tech behind a women’s shell, and the Aeron—the French brand’s first shell for the fairer sex—is a great effort. Staying true to their eco mission, this is a three-layer shell kit made from sugarcane waste repurposed into a bio-based fabric, then coated with a PFC-free waterproof treatment. The jacket boasts underarm vents, comfortable wrist gaiters, and easy-access pass pocket, while the bib is Lycra-sided with easily adjustable straps that help make for a flattering fit.

Midlayers: Scott Superlight PL and Patagonia Nano Puff

Scott Superlight Jacket

Scott Superlight Midlayer Jacket 2021
Great warmth-to-weight ratio in a sleek, modern layer.Photo courtesy of Scott

With a solid tech story and modern styling, Scott’s Superlight Jacket is an impressive addition to the brand’s outerwear portfolio. Lightweight warmth and packability are the key concepts here, and Scott employs PrimaLoft Gold insulation with Cross Core technology—which uses NASA-engineered Aerogel to get as much warmth to weight as possible—to check those boxes. What’s more, the jacket is made from 25-percent recycled materials. [$220, scott-sports.com]

Patagonia Nano Puff

2021 Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Reliable insulating layer now with an even better eco story.Photo courtesy of Patagonia

The Nano Puff is no stranger to these pages. For the last decade, Patagonia has been improving upon its workhorse insulator—increasing its recycled content, reducing its material waste, now slashing its carbon emissions by transitioning to PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco with P.U.R.E. (Produced Using Reduced Emissions). By inventing a new way to manufacture synthetic insulation, PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. eliminates the use of thermal ovens, thus reducing carbon emissions by 48 percent. The Nano Puff’s features, warmth-to-weight ratio, and even price all remain the same, but now you can feel—and look—good wearing it. [$199, patagonia.com]

More Great Gear for 2021

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