Tour de Force
For someone used to traditional alpine gear, the problem with alpine-touring (AT) bindings and boots was always that they felt flimsy. Now Marker’s Duke, a sturdy, tour-capable binding, is winning converts to AT. And boot brands that previously specialized in upright, lightweight touring boots are offering beefed-up versions that, while tour-capable (if a little heavy), give the alpine skier (like the guy with the Duke binding) the support he’s used to. Examples: Garmont’s Endorphin and Scarpa’s Hurricane (above, $699).
Fit For a King
It’s one of skiing’s basic problems: You need a stiff boot to steer a ski, but unless you have the time and money to visit a good bootfitter, stiff boots aren’t comfortable. Enter Salomon with its Custom Shell technology, available in the Falcon CS ($925). In about 15 minutes, the shop where you buy it can mold it to your foot. Just heat it up, step in and buckle up. Finally, a great-skiing boot that fits like a glove.
Making a women’s ski used to be easy: Soften it up and move the mounting point forward. Then K2 and Dynastar began designing skis exclusively for women. Now, almost every brand has invested in new molds (at about $100,000 each). For a brand like Atomic, whose domestic market is notoriously conservative, a ski like the Cloud Nine (above, $799) represents a major commitment. And a real success story: Our female testers loved it.
No one laughs at Shane McConkey’s wacky idea anymore. McConkey has long understood that in the 3D medium of powder, camber is useless. In fact, what’s needed is the opposite of camber. His Volant Spatula was the first ski with reverse camber, or “rocker.” Volant folded, but McConkey convinced K2 to build the Pontoon. Now others have jumped into the rocker game. Example: Salomon’s Czar (above, $925).
Even Marker has to be stunned by the success of its Duke and Jester bindings. Not only are they the first bindings with mounting footprints wide enough to leverage today’s fatter skis; the Duke also has touring capability. Free your heel, slap on skins, and head for the backcountry. No wonder all the cool guys had to have it. Now Marker makes a lighter, less-expensive version, the Baron (above, $435), and versions of the sturdy Duke/Jester heel are showing up as system bindings on Völkls, K2s and Blizzards. Why? Because they look cool and ski great.