Similar to choosing a snowboard, choosing bindings can be just as tricky. You want to make sure that you are getting the right binding for your style of riding, but one that also matches your comfort and responsiveness needs. Lesley Betts, the senior product manager for the hardgoods team at Burton, recommends matching your binding stiffness to that of your board.
“You want something to match the ride that you are doing and the board you are choosing to ride,” she says. “So not an extremely stiff board with a soft binding, for example.”
It all depends on what you (as the rider) prefer. Here’s our guide to learning about the different parts of a binding and what type of bindings you might want to invest in.
Parts of a Binding
Before diving into what you want in a binding, let's start with what comprises a snowboard binding.
Baseplate – The baseplate is the horizontal plate that your boots stand on and what attaches the binding to the board. Baseplates have a variety of stiffness or flex, and often have some sort of cushion for comfort.
Highback – The highback is the vertical part of the binding that goes from the heel cup to your calf. Similar to the baseplates, highbacks also come in a variety of stiffness and flex, and are shorter on women’s bindings to better support the calf.
Toe Strap – There are three main types of toe straps: traditional, toe cap, and hybrid. The traditional strap buckles in over the top of your foot and rests on top between the arch of your foot and where your toes start. A toe-cap strap, which is gaining popularity for precision, responsiveness, and comfort, buckles over the top and front part of your boot, securing the toe box into the bindings. Lastly, there is a strap that mixes the two previous ones. The hybrid strap can be worn over the top of the foot like a traditional strap, or over the toe box.
Ankle Strap – The ankle strap is wider than the toe strap and secures across your ankle to hold your boot into place.
Stiff vs. Flex – In regards to the baseplate on the binding, “a stiffer baseplate will provide a faster response from toe to heel, while also giving the rider better power transmission,” says Tom Johnson of K2 Snowboarding. “If you want a more surfy feel, a flexible baseplate can do that instead.”
The highback of a binding also differs in flex. Similar to the baseplate, a stiffer highback is going to provide better control and response edge to edge, while a softer one is ideal for freestyle and “surfy” snowboarding.
There are four main types of bindings: the most popular are strap-in bindings, rear-entry bindings, step-on (-in) bindings, and then backcountry touring bindings. Here are the differences between them:
The traditional (and most popular) binding model is one that includes an ankle strap, a toe strap, and a highback. Strap-in bindings vary slightly from model to model, but overall are the most popular option. The straps and the highback provide support, structure, and responsiveness.
Iterations of these bindings include variety in toe straps (traditional, toe cap, hybrid) as well as varying stiffness for the highback and baseplate.
Originally on the market by Flow in 1996, rear-entry bindings were another way for boarders to avoid sitting down when strapping in. These types of bindings have a highback that is able to rotate back toward the ground from two side axis points, allowing the rider to slide their boot in from the back, and pop the highback back into place.
“K2’s rear-entry technology offers riders the micro-adjustability of a traditional strap binding,” says Tom Johnson with K2 Snowboarding. “But always keeps convenience on the front of mind. Once those straps are fit in the front, you never need to deal with them again.”
Disadvantages of past rear-entry bindings include getting them on or off in deep powder and a lack of responsiveness.
Step-on (-in) bindings were popular in the ’90s and early 2000s as a way of convenience for riders – you didn’t have to sit down to strap in. Instead, special boots were made to click into the special step-in or step-on bindings. With issues arising (ice obstructing the step-in system, little support with no highback, poor responsiveness) these types of bindings basically disappeared for the past decade and a half.
“We wanted to make something that was easy to use and something that most importantly, showed we learned from the mistakes of the past,” says Betts. “Past bindings like this were heavy because everything was metal and everything was connected underneath the foot. Boots were uncomfortable and had to be reinforced.”
Now, these step-ons are said to be as responsive as your go-to strap system and with boots that are just as lightweight and comfortable.
For touring in the backcountry, snowboarders need a specific type of binding that can be used on a splitboard. These bindings are able to be quickly mounted for uphill skinning and then removed and switched for ride mode.
“For Spark R&D bindings, we have the Tesla snap ramp and our touring pins,” says Dan Ventura of Spark R&D. “The stainless steel pins are built into the toe end of the binding and slide sideways into the offset touring bracket that is attached to the board. The Tesla snap ramp then snaps down to lock you in place in tour mode.”
For ride mode, you’ll need disks or pucks on your split board that work with the different modes for touring – uphill and riding. The bindings, like those by Spark R&D, slide onto the pucks and are locked into place during ride mode. During tour mode, the bindings are secured at the toes, so you are able to pivot your foot up and allow the heel to be free for skinning.
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