Having trouble choosing ski and snowboard equipment that will totally wow the airdog or two-planker on your list? Leading-edge technology, glossy high fashion and simple practicality are the recurring themes of this year's offerings. We roamed the aisles of last month's National Ski & Snowboard Expo, examined the goods at Ski Chalet in Chantilly and perused the press releases from the Snowsports Industries America trade group to come up with our picks for the best slope-related gear. Prices are recommended retail, but you can often get items cheaper at local retailers or on the Web.
-- Carol Sottili
* Burton Audex Jacket Series (Down or Cargo style)
For the dedicated multitasker. No more fumbling with the buttons on your iPod and your cell phone; everything is controlled through a panel on the jacket sleeve. The control pad is also equipped with a caller ID screen. Gear is removable when the jacket needs cleaning. Warning: Doesn't work with iPod Shuffle, and cell phone must be Bluetooth-enabled. $500. 800-881-3138, www.burton.com.
* Giro Audio Series G10 Helmet
Start with a lightweight helmet equipped with an easy-to-control ventilation system, add ear pads with built-in speakers and a cord that links up with your music player and cell phone, and you're shredding, protecting, jamming and communicating. A control unit on the cord allows you to quickly adjust music volume when a call comes in. $150. If you own a Bluetooth-enabled phone, also look at Burton's Tantrum Audex helmet ($249). 800-456-2355, www.giro.com.
* Navman A300 Sport.Tool
Strap this gizmo, marketed as "the ultimate alpine electronic personal trainer," to your arm and it'll track how many feet you've skied and provide performance data based on speed, distance and altitude. It even measures the distance covered on the chairlift. $180. 866-962-8626, www.navmanusa.com.
* Arc'Teryx Sidewinder AR Jacket With RECCO
Yes, it's a top-quality waterproof, breathable jacket that uses proprietary fabric laminate to fuse the seams. But this must-have can also save the backcountry enthusiast's life. If you're buried in an avalanche, ski rescue teams pinpoint your location using RECCO technology. Basically, a high-frequency signal bounces off a reflector built into the jacket. $450. 866-458-BIRD, www.arcteryx.com. Also look at RECCO-equipped jackets and ski equipment from Atomic, Sessions and North Face (see www.recco.com for a complete list).
* Lange CRL 80W FR Boots for Women
Designed for women's slimmer and narrower feet, smaller anklebones and lower calf muscles, the boot also offers a goose-down liner to keep your feet toasty and a cool-looking colored see-through shell in ice blue that makes a fashion statement. $475. 802-764-6400, www.langeskiboots.com.
* Atomic Izor Skis
Who knew a material about one-80,000th the width of a human hair might improve your carving? The Izor ski series and the Balanze women's ski series are the first to use injections of nanoscopic silicon oxide crystals to create what the manufacturer claims is a tougher, lighter, more responsive ski. Several versions available, with varying concentrations of nano crystals. $499 to $899 with bindings. 800-258-5020, www.atomicski.com.
Snowboarders with bad knees, or those who have a hard time getting off the chairlift, may benefit from this gizmo, which goes between your board and your binding. With one click of a lever, you can point your boot toe forward when you're not actually boarding. $139. 800-688-7283, www.autospin2.com.
* Smith Optics Prodigy Turbo Fan with Prodigy Hop-Up Kit
Goggles with a silent microelectronic fan that runs continuously to eliminate fog. Add any of the eight Hop-Up kits, components that click on to the goggle frame to customize your look; for example, "city camo" shows a city skyline. Goggles $180, Hop-Up kits $10 each. 208-726-4477, www.smithoptics.com.
* Descente Passport Jacket
This ski jacket doesn't look like anything special, but it comes with a bonus -- a passport containing $1,500 worth of ski passes to 33 ski resorts throughout the United States and Canada, including Copper Mountain in Colorado, Park City in Utah and Snowshoe in West Virginia. After online activation, just show up at the slopes wearing your jacket with passport in hand, and ski free. Five styles for men, two for women, five for kids, starting at $170. 801-317-0017, www.descente.net.
* Erin Baby UGG Bootie
Demanding infants will be doing some apres-ski styling in these sheepskin booties with thick fleece lining that come in traditional baby pink or blue, plus four more grown-up colors. $40. 888-432-8530, www.uggaustral ia.com.
* SmartWool Versawear
Specially bred New Zealand merino sheep that are "free range and live in a pristine, earth friendly environment" are used to make these lightweight natural wool hoodies, pants, pullovers and other items. Material is designed to wick moisture into the fiber, eliminating odors. Comes in rich colors, such as sapphire blue and violet. Prices vary; for example, $85 for men's Vortex Crew. 888-879-9665, www.smartwool.com.
* DinoHaven Hat
This is the hat version of the build-a-bear concept, whereby you can create a one-of-a-kind customized fleece hat by going online and following several simple steps. First choose from one of 36 styles (choices include "funky," "snake" and "jester"), then color the various parts of the hat (30 colors to choose from), add bells, ties or embroidery, and you've designed a personalized hat statement. Prices range from about $10 to $80; adult and kid sizes. 314-629-5553, www.dinohaven.com.
* Hot Chillys Salsa Performance Thongs
These seamless thongs are made for the gal who doesn't want any pesky panty lines to show through her skintight ski pants. Admittedly, the thong doesn't offer a whole lot of coverage, but it is made of the same undergarment material used to keep skiers warm. $16. 800-468-2445, www.hotchillys.com.
* LifeAid Sport
Protect the skier who likes the backcountry powder with this palm-size "shrill-blast whistle, dual beam LED flashlight with built in compass and thermometer" that clips onto clothing. The flashlight, which also has a strobe setting, is visible from a mile away. $25. 800-431-2486, www.zelco.com.
* Bridgedale Ski Ultralight Socks
Designed for expert skiers and riders who wear their boots so tight they can't fit in anything but the thinnest socks. Made of a merino wool and Isofil blend. $20. 802-658-8322, www.bridgedaleusa.com.