The best skis, boots and bindings in the world, as selected by 15 real skiers
Let's just say that when it comes to skiing, Benny Wilson and Howie "Hollywood" Henderson do not mess around. Wilson grew up at the base of the Jackson Hole tram, and Henderson moved to the valley 30 years ago, after college. Together they founded the Jackson
Hole Air Force, a tribe of scofflaws whose stealthy missions out of bounds led to a new boundary policy, which in turn influenced a whole new category of the sport now called "sidecountry." To them it was just skiing-really good skiing-and they weren't going
to let anything, or anyone, stand in their way.
Which is why we figured they'd be useful at POWDER Week, our annual ski session in Jackson Hole. With them on our Fantasy Draft-a group of 15 skiers from all backgrounds and ages-the 30-plus brands in attendance were given two promises: that more than 200 skis would get a fair shake on the biggest, baddest mountain in the country; and by the end of the week, everyone's legs would be begging for mercy.
Their picks, and everyone else's from the Fantasy Draft, appear in the following pages. Each of the 15 skiers was asked to choose their favorite ski from four categories, two boots, and a binding. Following a draft format, if a product had already been selected, it was off the board and the skier had to pick something else. This year, however, we allowed them to highlight their top ski choice, regardless of its selection order, so that you-the reader-could identify any standouts. We think you'll be surprised how infrequently our team had to compromise.
The reason we asked for two boots-one for their everyday resort choice, and a second as a touring or sidecountry choice-was to address the growing category of boots that further blur the lines between backcountry and inbounds use.
The next time you're in Jackson, give Benny and Howie a high five, but don't even think about trying to keep up. - Matt Hansen
The best of the rest
The hardest part about finding new ski gear in 2012 isn't avoiding the products that suck-because there aren't many of those-but in narrowing it down from such a diverse field to the product that's going to work best for you. There are so many good choices that an extra round is needed in our Fantasy Draft to highlight products that may have been overlooked.
Five shop employees select their favorite gear for 2012
It's pretty much a guarantee that ski shop employees know gear better than you. For one thing, product manufacturers host demos at regional sites, allowing the rats to shred hard on a bunch of different product. In turn, they command a knowledge not privy to most. After selling product and turning screws all winter, the guys and gals on the shop floors know what does and does not work. They also know what works best for their particular region. Check out what five shop rats have to say about their favorite skis, boots and bindings for 2012 dominance.