The Best Backcountry Skis and Boots of 2021

The backcountry never looked better. Get out and enjoy it with these smart picks.

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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.

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.

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