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by DOUG NADVORNICK & r & & r & REM Lightning Ascent Snowshoes & r & Snowshoes have come a long way from the old wooden frames with canvas or rawhide skins. Many of the shoes now on the market have aluminum frames and nylon or vinyl skins. But MSR -- for Mountain Safety Research -- now offers what Lon McRae at Mountain Goat Outfitters calls a "revolutionary" shoe: its frame is steel, with teeth that grip the snow. "They help snowshoers to get more traction," especially when climbing hills, says McRae. They're also about 15 percent lighter than the average shoe, he says. "These are ideal for anyone, from the most experienced mountaineers to elderly people who worry about falls." REM's Lightning Ascent Snowshoes come in 22-inch, 25-inch and 30-inch lengths for men, 22-inch and 25-inch for women. ($230-$260 at Mountain Goat; also available at REI)





Fritschi Freeride and Naxo Alpine Touring Bindings


Skiers with adventurous streaks sometimes face equipment dilemmas: The gear that allows them to zoom down a groomed ski run usually doesn't work well for a trek through the backcountry. That's why some skiers carry two sets of skis and bindings. But Lon McRae at Mountain Goat says more gear is now made for multiple uses. "There are bindings that allow a skier heel movement for touring in the backcountry and then snap down when they need to go downhill," he says. "We're selling more and more of these to people who want to go out of bounds." He says the new bindings -- and skis of varying lengths and widths -- allow skiers maximum flexibility, increasing their options for fun without forcing them to go and buy more equipment. (at Mountain Goat)





Gore-Tex Pro Shells


For years Gore-Tex has been the leader in producing lightweight outdoor clothing that keeps you dry, both stopping moisture from getting in and allowing perspiration to evaporate. Ryan Griffith at Mountain Gear says Gore-Tex's new Pro Shell line has different garments for different activities. "Say you're going backpacking, you might pick one particular coat," says Griffith. "If you were going snowshoeing, you'd choose another one." A Gore-Tex jacket will run $300-$650, pants about $300-$400, and bib overalls $300-$500. That's pretty spendy, but according to Griffith, "they're worth the investment." (Gore-Tex products are available at many outdoor clothing stores.)





Ski Helmets


Helmets are now a given for many skiers -- both children and adults -- as they are for most bicyclists. Ski and bicycle helmets are not interchangeable. Ski helmets are made to come down lower on your forehead so that they meet the top of your goggles. Ski helmets also feature earpads to keep your lobes from freezing out in the elements. And now, more models feature little speakers into which you can plug your iPod and listen to something inspirational while you boogie down the slopes. And if you want to make a fashion statement, you can find helmets in many colors and styles. ($35-$150, available at most outdoor stores.)
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