Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The Spectre is billed as the “lightest four-buckle alpine touring boot on the market.” Its tricky buckle system allows for micro-fit adjustments without undoing the buckle. Forward lean is adjustable, and when flipped into tour mode, the Spectre offers an expansive 60 degrees of cuff rotation, much of which can be achieved without unbuckling the boot. The entire boot is elegantly designed, from liner to shell, and it’s certainly a contender in the realm of beefier backcountry boots. What’s more, at an average retail price of $600, it’s best-in-class price too.
Part of Tyrolia’s freeride-binding series, the AAAmbition is a weight-conscious frame-style touring binding. It interfaces with both alpine- and touring-norm boot soles with a simple adjustment, easily transitions between walk and ski mode with a flick of a ski pole, offers three riser positions, and still clocks an secure 12 DIN. It’s a great binding for folks looking to save weight with their touring setup while staying in a more familiar frame-style offering.
Scarpa did its homework, and in the ever-growing world of alpine-AT crossover boots, the Freedom is a serious contender. With best-in-class tourability and respectable downhill chops thanks to a carbon-reinforced frame and progressive flex, the Freedom is ready for all situations be they in the resort or in the backcountry. The interchangeable sole blocks allow this boot to interface with both traditional alpine and tech bindings. There is also a men’s version and two price-point-oriented polyurethane models, all are incredibly capable.
Slated to hit the North American market in January, the Vipec stands to be a serious contender in the touring binding market. It’s comparable on all the important fronts—weight, release values, crampon compatibility, and heel elevators—to current tech bindings on the market. However, its toe release, return-to-center elasticity, and fluid-track flex in the heel, should all be considered innovations in the tech world. We haven’t skied it yet, but this binding looks very promising.
New for 2014, the Rock’Air combines a light paulownia wood core with carbon stringers for a blend of weight savings, strength, and energy. It’s Scott’s fattest and most aggressively rockered touring ski making it great for human-powered deep days. It’s incredibly maneuverable thanks to a relatively tight turn radius and smeary demeanor. And because of its traditional sidewall-sandwich construction, it will hold a respectable edge for a backcountry ski, perfect for slashy corn-snow descents.
Lengths: 175, 183
Yes, the Beast is as fearsome as it sounds. With release values up to 16 and return-to-center elasticity in the heel and toe that more closely mirrors traditional alpine bindings, the Beast is an honest-to-goodness needle mover in tech-binding technology. It’s burly, yet still very tourable. If you use human power to do your cliff hucking, couloir shralping, or big line bagging, you should take a close look at this binding. It should be noted that the Beast requires some modification to your boot.
The Smart Antenna Technology in the Ortovox 3+ matches your beacon signal to your burial orientation to maximize the range of the signal. In short, your buddies should find you faster with this technology. With all the high-level search functions like multiple-burial marking function, and an automatic switch to send mode after motionless seconds, the 3+ is a perfect option for seasoned backcountry skiers.
It’s the binding that started it all, in America anyway. When the Duke hit the market back in 2007, interest in backcountry skiing exploded. Reinvented last year with a wider mounting pattern to accommodate even wider skis, the Duke is still one of the benchmarks for downhill performance in a touring package. With a DIN of 16 and an adjustable anti-friction device that accommodates both alpine- and mountaineering-soled boots, it offers an incredibly powerful platform for exploring the mountain.
The TalkBack is a great all-around backcountry ski. In fact, it’s so solid on edge and versatile, we don’t think it’s a bad choice for a resort ski either. At 88 millimeters underfoot, it’s got enough width to float through everything but the deepest snow, and it’s a great size for spring corn and creamy windbuff. Cap construction keeps it light, but its wood core and carbon laminates provide plenty of energy. With optional pre-cut skins, the TalkBack’s are ready to rip, frontside or back.
Lengths: 153, 160, 167
Designed on the same platform as Blizzard’s immensely popular Cochise, the Scout offers a 108-millimeter waist, tip and tail rocker, and a metal-free construction. The fattest ski in Blizzard’s Free Mountain Lite series, the Scout is intended for advanced and expert skiers that want a wide, but weight-conscious ride for exploring terrain both in and out of bounds. It’s certainly no featherweight, but the Scout is fearless on the descent, and it’s a tad more forgiving than the Cochise. It’s a great deep-snow, and downhill-oriented adventure ski.
Lengths: 170, 177,185, 193
Looking to toe into backcountry skiing while not giving up an ounce of boot performance? Check out the Scott Delirium. It’s not light and doesn’t have a super huge range of motion, but it’s a true 130-flex charger with a walk mode and interchangeable soles for alpine or tech bindings. It’s been a popular boot for the past few seasons amongst our boot testers, especially the performance-purists that demand power and aggression from their boots. It’s not built for the long tour. Its DNA is programed to charge.
At 105 millimeters underfoot, the Convert is right in the sweet spot—in our opinion—for a backcountry powder ski, especially with its modern, surfy shape. Rocker in the tip and tail creates a smeary, playful ride, while camber underfoot provides bite when conditions get firmer. And because it comes out of BD’s Freetour line, it’s designed both uphill efficiency and downhill performance in mind.
Lengths: 164, 180, 188
The ZenOxide gets an impressive upgrade this year with a carbon construction that shaves 600 grams off the weight of a pair. It still has the powder-ready 105-millimeter waist, an early-rise tip, and underfoot camber for grip in firmer snow. It’s a long turner that needs a little horsepower to fully excel, however the reduced weight makes it more approachable.
Lengths: 167, 171, 178, 186, 191
The ST is a trustworthy touring binding, especially for folks that spend significantly more time at a trailhead than a resort. It sports a release value of 10 (similar but not equal to a DIN of 10), an incredibly efficient stride while touring, and easily operable heel risers. Once it’s locked into ski mode, it delivers plenty of downhill performance for everyone but backcountry gnarbangers and wannabes of their ilk.
BCA’s high-capacity airbag pack, the Float 32 fits everything you need for a full day in the Backcountry: lunch, extra layers, water, first-aid kit, and more. It’s also got a solid ski-pack feature set: helmet carry, ice ax straps, diagonal ski carry, a separate pocket for avy gear, and hydration compatibility. It uses a compressed air cylinder—refillable at numerous locations worldwide—to inflate the airbag when triggered.
In the Mercury, Dynafit has built a boot that excels nearly equally on the skin track and on the descent. Though the removable tongue and Ultra Lock walk mechanism are a little unwieldy to the uninitiated, they make touring an absolute breeze, while the stiff polyurethane construction allows you to giv’er once you lock down your heel. A rockered sole really helps with boot packing and rock scrambling too.
You never realize how important a good backcountry pole is until you break one. The Touristick qualifies. Built from a weight-saving carbon, the Touristick Vario CC has several cool features: an extended grip, a pivoting powder basket for maximum purchase on firm sidehills, and a secure locking mechanism.
The Quadrant is a touring boot first, but it incorporates plenty of freeride features to offer maximum downhill performance: four-buckle design, reinforced boot chassis, and Boa closure system on the liner. A weight-conscious Pebax shell, rockered sole, and 40-degrees of cuff rotation, ensure that it’s efficient on the skin track.
The Tracker 3 implements the same technologies as the Tracker 2—three-antenna search, a lightning-fast processer for accurate searching, and a multiple-burial function—in a more compact package. As with all of BCA’s beacons, we love the utilitarian interface and ease of use.
A respected Italian rando-race and ski mountaineering brand, Ski Trab is distributed in the United States by SCARPA. The company’s heritage in ultralight allows them to implement some cool technologies into more decent-oriented skis like the 99-millimeter Volare. An Aramid honeycomb core keeps the Volare under 3.5 pounds per ski yet still imparts incredible energy, rebound, and stability. It’s got serious nuts, especially considering it’s weight class.
Lengths: 164, 171, 178, 185