In randonnée racing, you spend as much or more time skiing uphill as you do downhill, so you want a setup that won't feel like a sea anchor on the way up. Sure, you could drop thousands for the kind of super-light carbon setup that top racers use. But unless you're racing the World Cup or have a Tesla and several dozen carbon-fiber bikes in your garage, you'll probably be happy with a light-and-fast setup that won't totally break the bank. Enter the Sideral boot and Syborg ski. These are what Kevin and I used as Team Skiing Magazine in the Audi Power of 4 Race in Aspen.
The boot has an insane range of motion (68 degrees, according to the manufacturer), and if I hadn't looked down at my feet every so often while skinning and hiking I might have forgotten I was wearing ski boots at all. While I found the liners a bit narrow in the forefoot, I swapped in my own Intuition liners and was quite comfortable all day. Engaging ski mode for the descent is a cinch: simply buckle the unique top "QuickBuckle" (a unique combination of powerstrap and buckle) and the boot's upper cuff locks solidly to its lower shell. I found these to have adequate stiffness for descents, perfect for recreational racing and fast touring when I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of descending power for ascending ease. If you're interested in a slightly stiffer version with same fit and walk-ski functionality, check out La Sportiva's Spitfire.
Unlike the Sideral boot, which is currently available to consumers, the Syborg ski won't hit shop walls until fall of 2014. This thing was a joy to skin with, and while I don't have the specs at hand, it probably weighed about the same as the milled metal Plum tech binding that was mounted on it. As with the boot, it's capable of providing a controlled descent for the engaged, heads-up skier who knows he or she is using an ascent-optimized ski. The models we used were 160 centimeters long, with dimensions of 97/65/77, and a radius of 24 meters. On firm snow, I could carve them easily provided I didn't tip them over too far—the 65 millmeter underfoot width led to boot-out at higher edge angles. For the everyday resort-based fitness skier, this Syborg is money. There's a matching Syborg boot, which was not available to us at the time of the race, but it's lighter than the Sideral and designed to pair with the ski.
[Sideral boot, $699; Syborg ski, $699; sportiva.com]