Touring in the backcountry is different from ripping turns off a chairlift. For starters, you have to think about the way up: Your gear has to be tough enough to keep you in control on the descent without weighing you down on the ascent. These four skis and two ski boots represent the best of everything we tested this season.
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The Best Skis of 2021
Best All-Around: Völkl Rise Beyond 98
In the eyes of our testers, this ski could do no wrong: “I felt like any objective I wanted to tackle was going to be possible,” one says. “It’s light and agile, which added pep to my step on the way up and confidence to my turns on the way down.” Buy the Völkl Rise Beyond 98 Now / Read the Full Review
Lightest: Dynafit Blacklight 88
If making miles and obsessively tracking your vert is how you prefer to spend your touring days, the Blacklight is for you. Dynafit’s expertise in making ultralight, skimo racing models is on full display with this featherweight ski that you can, well, actually ski. Buy the Dynafit Blacklight 88 Now / Read the Full Review
Best Powder Ski: G3 SLAYr 114
For those epic, text-your-friends-immediately-after powder days, we appreciated having the SLAYr underfoot. At 143 millimeters wide at the front and 114 at the waist, this ski is made for the deep stuff but never seemed sloppy when we initiated turns thanks to the carbon-fiber that surrounds the SLAYr’s balsa core. Buy the G3 SLAYr 114 Now / Read the Full Review
Best for Ski Mountaineering: Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95
Light, nimble, and stable: Those are the attributes you want in a ski while you’re staring down the What Big Eyes You Have Couloir in Colorado’s Gore Range, and they were exactly what the Helio Carbon delivered on one tester’s early spring descent. Buy the Black Diamond Helio Carbon 95 Now / Read the Full Review
The Best Backcountry Ski Boots of 2021
Lightest Ski Boot: SCARPA F1 LT
This boot laughs in the face of compromise. The F1 LT is light enough for high-mileage tours yet stable enough to rip turns on the descent, which made it the perfect boot for a 12-mile, 4,000-foot-vert day to ski a line on the north face of Colorado’s 13,294-foot James Peak. Buy the SCARPA F1 LT Now / Read the Full Review
Best Fit for Women: Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 115W
Getting into ski touring can be intimidating. Luckily for our backcountry novice, the Hawx Prime XTD helped shepherd her into the skin track with minimal fuss. This year, designers expanded the boot’s volume to accommodate more skiers’ feet, and this version has a liner designed specifically for women. Buy the Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 115W Now / Read the Full Review
Heading into the backcountry for the first time? Make sure you’re prepared with the right gear (a beacon, shovel, and probe are all must-haves) and the proper training. Already equipped? Upgrade with our picks for the best new snow safety gear of the season.