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This season's top picks in gear for the slopes

Ride Snowboard’s Hi-Phy Boa Coiler boot. Recon Instruments’ Micro Optics Display Live system, a “dashboard’’ for goggles. Ride Snowboard’s Hi-Phy Boa Coiler boot. Recon Instruments’ Micro Optics Display Live system, a “dashboard’’ for goggles.
By Kari Bodnarchuk
Globe Correspondent / November 6, 2011

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More skiers and riders than ever will tackle “sidecountry’’ terrain this year, that out-of-bounds territory that can be accessed from ski resorts. Some of the latest gear reflects this trend. Other gear is more suited to front-of-the-mountain groomers. Here are a few top picks:

!TEXTING AN SOS Maine-based DeLorme’s new inReach Satellite Communicator pairs with any Android smartphone or the manufacturer’s PN-60w handheld GPS device, and lets you send and receive text messages from anywhere in the world, even when you’re way beyond cellphone range. Not only can you let people know you’re OK (or not), you can rearrange plans, get feedback and information, and stay connected to home, for instance, thanks to this two-way communication feature. Delivery confirmation lets you know your message made it, and an interactive SOS feature transmits a mayday through an emergency response center should things go awry. $249.95, plus an annual subscription fee. 800-561-5105, www.delorme.com

POLES WITH PROTECTION K2’s LockJaw carbon fiber poles belong in the hands of any skier heading out of bounds, and with so many features, they’re like a backcountry multi-tool. One pole has a built-in inclinometer that lets you measure slope angle: Lay the pole on the ground with the carbide tip facing uphill and then read the degree measurement in the bubble level beside the handle. Flip the other pole upside down and use the snow-depth ruler to measure up to 50 centimeters (19.6 inches). Then, should you need it, unscrew the bottom half of both poles and thread them together so they form a backup probe. In standard setup, the ridiculously lightweight poles (just over a pound per pair) expand from 100 to 130 cm, or 115 to 145 cm, and quickly and easily lock into place with K2’s proprietary LockJaw clip. As a bonus, the lower section of one pole has a standard thread for attaching a camera, so you can use the pole as a monopod to capture your backcountry shots. $179.95. 800-985-2189, k2skis.com/poles

TOUCHY GLOVES Operate your smartphone or other touch devices easily and accurately with Seirus’s Wizard SoundTouch gloves. Each glove has a proprietary conductive fabric, which looks like a silver metallic-colored ridge, on the tip of its forefinger and thumb that lets you connect with your touch-screen devices without taking off your gloves and freezing your fingertips. Six styles range from a glove liner to a fully-insulated deep-freeze winter glove. The Xtreme All-Weather version serves as a great midlevel choice: The 100 percent windproof, waterproof softshell gloves breathe well during more aerobic activities, offer a snug fit with excellent flexibility, and keep your hands toasty when you’re working your touchscreen devices. $60. 800-447-3787, www.seirus.com

WATERPROOF WONDER JACKET Dry.Q is Mountain Hardwear’s answer to Gor-Tex. This completely waterproof yet breathable fabric excels at keeping you dry and properly ventilated beneath this “smart’’ high-tech layer, whether you’re sitting on a chairlift, scaling a ridge, or getting dumped on with rain or snow. A new product line uses Dry.Q technology, but the Snowtastic jacket caters to skiers and riders: It has a full-volume hood that fits over a helmet, seam-sealed and completely impenetrable zippers that keep your pockets’ contents dry, and a removable snow skirt for when you’re splashing waist-deep through powder or perhaps doing a defensive slide in the glades. The pit zips let you vent when you’re working hard or when the temps spike, and secondary fitted cuffs with thumb loops help keep snow off your wrists. $450, men’s and women’s. 877-927-5649, www.mountainhardwear.com

EXPANDABLE KIDS’ CLOTHES You could replace your children’s winter outerwear year after year, or invest in gear that can grow with your kids. Obermeyer’s well-constructed and thoughtfully designed I-Grow clothing line features sporty winter jackets, pants, and overall-style bibs that expand at the wrists and ankles. Snip the color-coded threads holding the expandable cuffs in place to lengthen the sleeves by 1 inch and the pant legs by an extra 2 inches. Top sellers, for good reason, include the toasty but breathable Kismet jacket and Love Fleece bib for girls, and the Super G jacket and Chill Factor bib for boys. All offer superb waterproof protection. The jackets have super-soft fleece on the chin and neck areas to help prevent chafing, removable hoods with built-in ear warmers, and lots of pockets for warming little mitts or storing treats. Another top feature: a working compass for budding adventurers. $119.50-$139.50 (jackets), $99.50 (bibs). 800-525-4203, www.obermeyer.com

MINIMALIST HIGH-PERFORMANCE BOOT Ride Snowboard’s new Hi-Phy Boa Coiler boot uses a clever lacing system that lets you dial in the perfect fit, stash excess lace, and firmly tighten your boots - snow day after snow day - without tearing up your fingers. The Boa system has a relatively unobtrusive knob that you twist to tighten the thin, steel-cable laces. Pull the dial out to instantly loosen the boot and step out. These all-mountain freestyle boots offer a stiffer ride, meaning you get better control and rebound action whether you’re carving, landing jumps, or tackling the terrain park. The injection-molded Phy-Top material, which extends from the sole up through the heel and calf area, strips weight without sacrificing stiffness or durability (each boot weighs just 2 pounds). The boots come in black and a wild lime color (this year’s new black?). $260. 800-985-3398, www.ridesnowboards.com

GOGGLES GO FUTURISTIC Recon Instruments has taken high-tech ski gadgetry to a new level by creating a GPS-enabled, high-tech “dashboard’’ for goggles that have more features and instrumentation than most cars. With its Micro Optics Display (MOD) Live system, you can track your real-time speed and vertical coverage, keep tabs on your jump stats (air time, height gained, vertical drop, and distance), and determine your exact location. All of this information shows up on a mini widescreen LCD that is tucked into a corner of your goggles, in an unobtrusive yet visible spot. More amazing, you can read instant messages or answer calls without pulling your cellphone out of your pocket, and view maps of ski resorts worldwide so you can easily navigate the trails (or locate a mountain’s best après-ski watering hole). If your friends have Recon-fitted goggles, you can locate them on the mountain, too. You operate the device using a glove-friendly remote control. The MOD Live system is compatible with goggles made by Uvex, Alpina, and Briko, so you have no shortage of choices, and you can easily transfer the Recon technology from one pair of goggles to the next. $399. 877-642-2486, www.reconinstruments.com

Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.