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Skiing Magazine's 2008-09 Backcountry Gear Guide

Last March, our two dozen testers hammered laps on Crested Butte’s bony steeps for two days, filling out evaluation cards after each run. The results are listed here. “AT” means the gear was reviewed by alpine-touring skiers. “Tele” means tested by telemark skiers. Some skis were tested by both groups. Our goal: to help you find your perfect backcountry setup.

126)/136/115/133/(123) | $900 The new shape of powder skiing debuted in 2008–09: camber and sidecut underfoot; rocker and reverse sidecut tip and tail. The result: loose, slashy, floaty, get-after-it goodness—fresh as ever as the JJ heads into its fourth season. Testers still love it. Everyone loves it.  Lengths: 165, 175, 185 Turn Radius: 14 at 185ABOUT ARMADAHe weighed only about 140 pounds, but when seven-time ESPN Winter X Games gold medalist Tanner Hall stomped his landing on the burgeoning new-school scene, the ski world shook. The Montana-bred Hall, never comfortable with authority, promptly ditched Rossignol and banded with other luminary park skiers to form Armada in 2002. The concept was brilliant: Star athletes would run the show, pimp the brand, design the skis they wanted, and control the message. Sales immediately took off, and now Armada, the giant of indies, rivals some of the mainstream brands for U.S. market share.

The Best Indie Skis

Dozens of new ski companies have sprouted in the last decade. Are they making good skis? Last spring, we went to Aspen to find out. The answer is yes, and here are our favorites.