Review: Gear of the Century

Every so often, the stars align, fickle Fortuna deigns to smile upon us, and we somehow score the ski gear of our dreams. Praise the snow gods! After years of fumbling around on skinny sticks, ill-fitting boots, and secondhand skins, I managed to put together the ultimate backcountry tele setup. Fellow pinheads, prepare to drool.

G3 Saint Skis
I’ve always been a fan of wood-core skis, and the G3 Saint’s lightweight Paulownia core makes for both a heavenly skin up and an angelic ride down. Built on the proven Reverend footprint, this new mid-fat (126/93/114) ski floats on the fluff but is quick and edgy enough to handle firmer snow as well. While built for the backcountry, the Saint also radiates at the resort. But don’t take my word for it; Powder and Skiing magazines both gave this ski top honors. Available at Barrel, Northern Lights, Summit, and Timber Trails. $650;

Hammerhead Bindings
It’s not easy for a small, local company to hang with the big dogs, but Driggs, Idaho–based 22 Designs has done it. The Hammerhead is an innovative binding that’s rapidly gained the respect of tele rippers nationwide. Designed for hard-charging skiers who want more control over today’s bigger, heavier skis, the Hammerhead has an oversized toepiece for full contact with your boot’s duckbill and an adjustable underfoot cable routing that can be optimized for various skiing styles and snow conditions. The single-piece toeplate and 2,000-pound-test cable attachments mean this binding won’t break when you’re five miles from the trailhead. And a full two inches of spring travel make for smooth, effortless skinning. Top it off with an easy-to-use, spring-loaded climber and you’ve got one badass backcountry binding. Available at Summit, Northern Lights, and Gallatin Alpine Sports. $225;

Garmont Syner-G Boots
No one boot can do it all, but the Garmont Syner-G comes close. This classic all-purpose tele boot set the standard years ago, and is still holding its own both at the resort and in the backcountry. 2009/10 upgrades include a Flash thermoformable liner with T-bar plastic tongue reinforcement for better fit and greater control. Like all Garmont boots, the Syner-G shell is anatomic and precise, providing a better fit and thus quicker response time on the snow. This boot is lightweight (3.8 pounds), with a shorter height and progressive forward flex for touring comfort, yet has plenty of power to drive big skis. Available at Barrel, Northern Lights, Round House, Grizzly Outfitters, Gallatin Alpine Sports, and Timber Trails. $570;

Black Diamond Ascension Skins
Bad skins can ruin even the best day in the backcountry, so take no chances. After strapping on the Black Diamond Ascension Nylon STS skins to my skis and climbing 3,000 vertical feet, I can’t imagine using anything else. These super-sticky skins grab the snow like wolverine paws, shed water like otter fur, and fold up tight for packing. The attachment/detachment mechanism is quick and easy; I was able to rip off the skins and stash them in my coat without even removing my skis. I found both the tip and tail attachments adapted well to most other skis in my quiver. Black Diamond is definitely raising the bar on skins this year; the Ascension Nylon is just one of 11 new styles they’re bringing to the table. Available at Northern Lights, Barrel, Timber Trails, and Grizzly Outfitters. $135-$175, depending on size;