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Gear Awards: Best of the Backcountry

We are still in the midst of one of the best snow seasons in recent memory in the West. We have already been out enjoying fresh turns in the wild and huffing up the skin tracks at the resorts—and the backcountry is shaping up to be good to ski into early summer as melt-freeze cycles create corn snow. To celebrate, we are handing out Best of the Backcountry awards to the gear that served us best over this magical winter. Gear that can both up your game and help keep you safe when you are out there.

Dynafit Free 107 Ski

Dynafit has built its reputation with skis that excel when it comes to touring, but the Free 107 breaks new ground. Measuring in at 135/107/125 mm in a 185 cm ski, it’s a big powerful board that boogies up the skin track and provides plenty of confidence in deep snow. A poplar wood core beefed up with carbon stringers makes it snappy and reliable no matter the terrain, and tip and tail rocker give it outstanding float—as well as the ability to snap off quick turns. $750,  

Dynafit Radical Pro Boot

The best boot we have put to the test over days of touring and resort laps, the Radical Pro works with pin, frame, and hybrid bindings. Utilizing the brand’s Hoji Lock System, which engages with one easy flip that battens the boot down from comfy touring mode to dialed-in ski mode, the boot handles both going up and bombing down with precision while tipping the scales at just over 3 pounds in a size 26.5. Best of all, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. $800, 

Jones Ultra Stratos Split

Jeremy Jones is the evangelist of “shralpinism” and this light all-terrain splitboard is the perfect tool for heading deep into the wild—or running hiking laps at your local hill. With narrow sidecut and directional rocker, it can edge but also elevates in deep snow. Weighing just under 6 pounds in a 159 cm length, it’s as smooth as skis on the skin track. Best of all, the Karakoram Tip Lock Tip Clips and Karakoram 3C Clips system makes it easy to tour and simple to join it back together for stable performance on big lines. $1,700, 

Flylow Baker Perm Bib

Lightweight, breathable, able to shuck off bad weather, and built with sustainable materials, this trusty bib is going to be your new day-to-day best friend. Plus, it never rides down your waist when you are skinning up the hill. $520, 

Backcountry Access Float E2-35 Avalanche Airbag and T3 Avalanche Rescue Package

We can’t preach enough when it comes to safety in the backcountry. Gear is useless without knowledge, experience, and sound judgment, but it’s also essential to have equipment that could save your life if something goes wrong. With an improved compression system and the ability to carry it along for air travel, the latest version of the Float can bring you to the surface if you do set off a slide. Beyond that, it’s a roomy pack that can haul all the essentials for big backcountry objectives. But you need more. The all-in-one T3 package includes BCA’s Tracker3 avalanche transceiver, B-1 EXT avalanche shovel, and Stealth 270 avalanche probe—mandatory gear at a price lower than buying it all separately. It’s ideal for those just venturing into backcountry exploration as well as anyone looking to upgrade their kit. With the airbag—and training—it will improve your odds should you ever run into trouble. $1,300 airbag, $435 rescue package, 

Black Diamond Recon LT Stretch Shell

Giving you plenty of three-layer waterproofing to keep out the elements but still breathable, light (17 ounces), and offering up the stretch you want when you are schussing uphill, this durable jacket is our choice for any day in the backcountry. $400; 

Sweet Protection Ascender MIPS

You wear a helmet all the time at the resort and you should in the backcountry as well. The problem, of course, comes down to bulk and weight. You can’t use those excuses here. This protective lid (the MIPS technology will mitigate concussions) weighs just over 15 ounces, doesn’t get in the way when you attach it to your pack for the skin up, and provides plenty of ventilation. It’s ideal (and certified) for everything from resort laps to ski mountaineering. $220, 

Leki Guide Light 2

Adjustable between 110–145 cm, this high-strength aluminum backcountry ski pole can handle all the rigors of touring and wild terrain. Plus, it’s comfortable in your hand thanks to the Aergon Air grip system that feels comfy in your hand. Bonus points: The powder basket is also designed to clean snow buildup off your skins. . $130, 

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