Twice each year we ask our stable of core contributors to nominate the gear that they actually go out and use most. We ask them: What was the best gear you used over the past year? What gear can’t you live without? What gear changed your life? Meet the gear we loved, beat up and relied on out in the wild. These are the winners of Elevation Outdoors’ Winter 2017-2018 Peak Gear Awards.
1. DPS Wailer 106 Tour1
Why It Won: We brought this ski on a BC hut trip because we wanted a little more float in deep snow than you get from the usual touring ski. From the first few turns during a warmup day at Red Mountain, we loved it. It’s stable on edge yet ready to dump speed and smear. And the light construction never seemed to limit it on descents.
Where We Took It: The lifts at Red Mountain, British Columbia, and seven days of touring at the Hilda Hut. $1,099 l dpsskis.com
2. Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130
Why It Won: This is a true quiver-of-one boot. At 26.5 ounces per boot, it’s light enough for comfortable touring. But with four buckles and a 130 flex rating, it also has the guts to drive big skis at the resort. We know you hear that about a lot of boots, but we suggest you try this one; it will replace three other boots you save for different situations. Tech fittings seal the deal.
Where We Took It: Breckenridge resort and the Summit County backcountry $799; atomic.com
3. Scarpa Maestrale RS
Why It Won: It’s a touring boot that inspires confidence. Not only is it one of the most comfortable boots we have skinned and boot packed in, it’s also easy to adjust and flip between ski and tour modes. That’s a godsend when you’re running laps in the backcountry. And on the down? The 130 flex proves its worth in tight, steep spots and when you open it up in a powder-filled bowl.
Where We Took It: Rocky Mountain National Park backcountry, Indian Peaks backcountry, Eldora, Loveland resort and Loveland Pass backcountry. $795; scarpa.com
4. Burton Step On System
Why It Won: Landscape-altering innovation in snowboard boots and bindings is rare. With the Step-On system, Burton appears to have solved the problems that sunk the much maligned step-in bindings of snowboarding’s past. This system is intuitive and effective. It won’t be for everyone, especially riders who crank down on their straps before dropping into a line. But it has the potential to convert a bunch of folks while also making it easier for newbies to get in and out of their gear.
Where We Took It: Vail. $549-$649; burton.com
5. Flylow Foxy Bib
Why It Won: Super-durable and flattering, this women’s specific bib looks cute while remaining functional. The back flap makes for easy bathroom breaks (usually an unaddressed issue in ladies’ bibs). We appreciated the kangaroo pouch for storing snacks or a phone, and the vents are quick and easy to open on the skin track.
Where We Took It: Backcountry in the Rockies, resort storm skiing in the Pacific Northwest. $390; flylowgear.com
6. Flow Rush
Why It Won: Quite simply this is the perfect all-around board for Colorado. It performs on groomers, ice and hardpack. The rockered board excels in burly resort terrain, but it’s also fun in backcountry powder, and predictably responsive in any setting. It even held its own in the park.
Where We Took It: A full season of riding, from resorts (Snowmass, Loveland, Keystone, Breck, Durango) to the backcountry (fourteeners, Berthoud Pass, hut trips). $520; flow.com
7. Sierra Designs Nitro
Why It Won: A strong environmental consciousness scored big points for us here. Sierra Designs is among the first in the outdoor industry to produce PFC-free sleeping bags. This green bag performs just as well, but without the harmful toxins coating the usual bag with PFCs. Plus, with temperature ratings including 35, 20 and 0 degrees, the line of Nitro PFC-free bags can match up to camping in any season.
Where We Took It: The wilds of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest; winter camping on Kenosha Pass and in the Lost Creek Wilderness, Colorado. $300-$330; sierradesigns.com
8. Patagonia Micro Puff Hoodie
Why It Won: This ultralight, multi-functional layer imparts an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio, making it our favorite puffy to toss in the pack no matter the adventure. The synthetic insulation has all the warmth of down and packs down small, but it can withstand the wet of winter better. We also appreciate that Patagonia is a B Corp, mandated to put environmental and social good above pure profit—and it fights for public lands like Bears Ears National Monument.
Where We Took It: Backpacking trips throughout Colorado, climbing forays in Utah, snowshoeing up Colorado fourteeners, resort skiing at Monarch Mountain, ice climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park $299; patagonia.com
9. Edelrid Rap Line II
Why It Won: Skimo rappelling, ski touring on a glacier, or as a tag line on rock—this is one versatile rope. Rappelling, it stretches less than a dynamic cord, making it easier to handle and pull. On a glacier, it hauls like a champ. If your dynamic cord sticks on a rock, you can double the Rap Line II and it acts as a twin rope, so you can lead back up to retrieve your climbing rope. We trust it.
Where We Took It: Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldorado Canyon and Boulder Canyon, Colorado; Red Rocks, Nevada; the Canadian Rockies $170-$600 (varies by diameter and length); edelrid.com
10. Black Diamond ATC Pilot
Why It Won: In a word, safety: It provides a quick, brake-assisted catch and it’s smoother to lower with than similar devices. Because it provides a break assist, you can lose control of the rope while lowering someone and not drop them— a huge safety feature.
Where We Took It: Dry tooling in Vail, scary trad climbing in Eldorado Canyon, sport climbing in Big Thompson Canyon $45; blackdiamondequipment.com
11. Trek Farley 5
Why It Won: The well-sorted geometry on this fat bike provides a balanced ride and proper fit, plus it comes with an impressive componentry package for the price. Trek also put enough forethought in the frame to allow for upgrades like a stealth-style dropper post or five-inch tires. It opens up a new world of winter fun on the trail.
Where We Took It: Fat-bike trails in Crested Butte and Leadville
12. Sweet Protection Trooper
Why It Won: This helmet is as good on the way up as it is on the way down. Unique thermoplastic-laminated carbon fiber construction (they call it TLC) makes this one of the lightest, yet safest, freeride lids on the market. The venting air channels are easy to open and close and it locks into place securely on your noggin.
Where We Took It: Eldora, Indian Peaks backcountry and Rocky Mountain National Park backcountry; Verbier, Switzerland $280; sweetprotection.com
13. Black Crows Atris Birdie
Why It Won: This seriously fun all-mountain resort ski handles well in pretty much any conditions. We skied it through cold smoke in the Rockies, chundery crud in the Northwest, bulletproof hardpack and crust, and felt confident and stable in it all. Note: The Atris Birdie is the women’s version (which we tested); men’s is just called the Atris.
Where We Took It: In-bounds all over Colorado: A Basin, Vail, Aspen, Eldora, Silverton, Breck, Copper, Loveland Pass. Plus, Crystal Mountain, Washington, and Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia. $770; black-crows.com