Gearbox: An Editors’ Choice steep-skiing setup

Creating the ideal steep-skiing setup isn’t an easy feat. The gear, after all, must offer specialized and polarized traits to handle the ascent and descent with equal aplomb. Skis and boots shouldn’t fold under duress, instead holding up to variable and often firm conditions. Conversely, stable and confidence-inspiring gear must be light enough for big days and long pushes.

Thankfully, the strong-yet-light category is receiving more attention than ever. In fact, at last March’s Gear Test Week at Powder Mountain, Utah, we tested 35 boots with two buckles or fewer, and more than half the skis tested measured narrower than 105 mm underfoot, most of them equipped with strength-enhancing and gram-shaving carbon. Even our most freeride-focused testers learned to appreciate how trimmed-down tech bindings, perfect buckle placement or the right amount of rocker make it possible to do more with less.

Of all the weight-conscious gear tested at Powder Mountain, this ski, boot and binding combination stood out for its deft balance of grams and stability, making it a choice setup for climbing quickly and descending confidently. —The Editors

Voilé UltraVector – $695
The UltraVector is a complete redesign of Voilé’s popular Vector, which won our Editors’ Choice Award back in 2012. The new Ultra pairs Voilé’s signature carbon-fiber-reinforced aspen core with moderate tip and tail rocker and a wide shovel and tail, all to balance weight, float and maneuverability. One Tahoe-based tester called it “a light and nimble tool that is very predictable, fun and versatile on many snow types and turn shapes.” 121/88/107, 5.2 lbs. (161), voile.com

Dynafit TLT7 Expedition Men’s – $750
The second-year TLT7 hails from a strong bloodline of touring-focused TLT boots, which have long offered an immense walk-mode range (60 degrees, in this case) and a sturdy, carbon-reinforced Grilamid cuff and shell. Unlike previous low-volume TLT models, this boot sports a broad 102 mm last, plus several nuanced features to improve efficiency, including the snubbed-nosed toe (that moves the pivot point to a more natural location) and a single-buckle closure system that tethers the top buckle and walk mode to engage or disengage both with one motion. 4.9 lbs., dynafit.com

 

Salomon MTN – $625
Salomon entered the AT-binding fray last year, introducing their MTN binding in Europe but waiting to dial in the brakes before bringing it stateside. Now, this race-styled binding brings skimo sleekness to the mass market in the U.S., with an all-aluminum toepiece and a pared-down heel with interchangeable springs tuned to different skier weights and abilities for “adjustable” release values. The brakeless MTN is also available in the U.S. (and weighs 7 oz. less per pair than this option), and the Atomic Backland is the same exact binding but with different branding. 1.7 lbs., salomon.com

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