It’s always a novel experience approaching a new chairlift each season.
Clicking into our skis isn’t the same as when we’re somewhere familiar. The people in the maze are different, the runs above are different, the snow itself can feel different. The reward, however, comes in the promise of adventure, no matter how big or small, punctuated by the chill of winter as the wind stings our cheeks.
We acquire gear so that we can maximize the winter experience, to chase our own version of glory down the snowy hills, whether it’s in the sublime powder fields after a recent storm, or the flawless corduroy groomers of a rolling knoll, or the technical chutes that leave our stomach in our throats.
With so many manufacturers making quality winter gear, it’s impossible to say that one piece of equipment is supremely better than all others, but some do rise to the surface for a reason.
One is versatility: the ability to adapt to the myriad conditions of a demanding mountain environment. It can be a jacket, a ski, a pair of goggles—but it’s the overall fit and function of those things that get us amped about skiing. And the color. Let’s not forget about color. Skiers and snowboarders are vain. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.
Winter is dynamic, creating an atmosphere that is constantly in flux. It brings a certain set of demands on clothing and gear that aren’t realized by other sports. It’s a big part of why we embrace it. There’s real risk and a sense of accomplishment when we exceed our known abilities.
Below are 21 skiing and snowboarding options that excel in the spirit of winter. We chose what we think are some of the year’s top picks in all the major categories: skis and snowboards, boots and bindings, poles, socks, pants, base layers, insulation layers, jackets, gloves, glasses, goggles, helmets, packs and sundries.
And while there is no such thing as the perfect ski, the perfect boot or the perfect jacket, these come damn close.
Want to dig a little deeper? Check out some of our recent coverage below:
• Top 10 Powder Skis 2014
• Top 10 All-Mountain Skis 2014
• Top 10 Resort Skis 2014
• Top 10 Base Layers
• Top 10 Insulated Jackets
• Top 10 Ski Goggles
• Top 10 Ski Jackets
• 5 Warm Winter Gloves
• 11 Make-or-Break Backcountry Accessories