You're rocketing down a groomed run in Vermont when a red squirrel darts in your path, forcing you to make a quick, unplanned turn. Suddenly all your weight is on your heels, the tips of the skis are lifting off the snow, and you're riding your tails with precious little leverage to turn. Worst case: You flail backward and--pop!--tear your anterior cruciate ligament; the squirrel buys the farm. Take two: You're skiing the clever new X Balance System, a binding plate developed by the Italian ski company Nordica ($900-$1,150, depending on the ski; nordica.com). Now when you get thrown back on your heels, one of two discrete cantilevered plates on each ski redirects the tail pressure toward the tips, ensuring that more of each edge stays grounded. The result? Your boards continue to arc smoothly through the turn you initiated instead of shooting
off-course. You regain your balance. The rodent lives.