Selecting the appropriate snowboard binding is about as important as selecting the right snowboard. Your bindings will ultimately affect the way your board performs, but with so many different styles, features, and quality characteristics available, the choices can get a bit confusing. This guide will help you determine what style binding you need, how your bindings should fit, and also outline other features that you will find when shopping for snowboard bindings.
|• Binding Styles||• Men’s v. Women’s Bindings|
|• Ability Level||• Intended Use|
|• Binding Quality||• Toe Straps|
|• Binding Compatability||• Additional Media|
Snowboard bindings have evolved just as snowboards have over the years. If you’ve done any shopping around for bindings you have probably seen a variety of styles available, which have no doubt left you with some questions. The majority of what you will find on the market today is categorized as a traditional, or strap-in, binding. However there have been, and still are, numerous styles available. We will discuss these in brief detail to help you gain a better understanding of what you will see when shopping.
Traditional Strap-in Bindings:
The most common style of binding available in the marketplace, traditional strap-in bindings, have withstood the test of time in the ever-changing world of snowboarding. The design simply involves strapping a soft snowboard boot onto a baseplate with a highback, by way of a toe strap and an ankle strap that fasten with a ratchet buckle system.
Over the years, strap-in bindings have evolved with the sport, featuring various levels of quality, features, and materials. A strap-in binding can be used with any brand snowboard boot, but manufacturer boots generally fit their bindings the best (e.g. K2 Boots with a K2 Binding).
If you’ve been into the sport of snowboarding since its inception, or if you are still renting equipment, you are probably familiar with a step-in binding. The step-in system generally includes a stiff boot with some type of pin, or metal piece on the bottom that clicks right into the “binding,” which is essentially a plate mounted on the board.
The idea behind this design was to create a quick and convenient way to get in and out of bindings without sitting down and strapping in. However, most riders found that the plate or the pin, or both, would accumulate ice buildup, making it impossible to click in. Additionally, many riders found that the design lacked sufficient support, and ultimately resulted in a large amount of energy loss. With a traditional strap-in binding the flex of your boot transfers energy to the strap of your binding, this is then transferred to your board. A step-in binding itself provides no support, but rather the boots are simply extremely stiff. This increased stiffness makes the boot practically impossible to flex, and therefore you have to work harder because much of the energy is lost before it gets to the board.
Step-in bindings may have been phased out, but for many the desire for a binding that offers convenience is still there. Many riders feel that strapping in and out of bindings at the beginning and end of every run is a hassle. Fortunately, there are a few manufacturers that have heard their cries and decided to cater to this desire, while still offering a supportive binding that doesn’t sacrifice energy transfer. Here are a few:
Flow was the first company to respond the requests for a binding that offered both the convenience of a step-in binding and the response and support of a traditional strap-in binding. What spawned from this idea was a design with one large strap that went over the boot, and a highback with a latch that unhooked and released the highback down completely. With this design, riders could simply pop the highback down, slide their boot in, pull the highback up, snap it into place and go. The same process was used to remove the boot when needed.
Flow’s idea has now grown into a full line with various levels of performance and quality, while the initial design remains relatively the same. Flow also manufacturers their own line of boots, but any brand snowboard boot can be used in this binding system.
K2 was one of a handful of companies that produced step-in model bindings during their time. As step-in bindings were phased out, K2 still recognized the demand for a convenience style binding. As a replacement to their very popular K2 Clicker, K2 launched the Cinch design in the 2004-2005 snowboard season. This design was similar to the design developed by Flow in that the highback had a latch on it that the rider unsnapped and pulled down. However, instead of one large strap, the binding had a toe and an ankle strap, just like a traditional strap-in binding. When the highback of the binding is pulled down, the two straps will actually rise of from the frame, making it easier to get your boot in and out.
Like Flow, K2 has evolved the Cinch binding into an entire series with various performance levels and material designs, while sticking with essentially the same design. This binding style provides riders the convenience that Flow brought to the marketplace, but with the feel and adjustability of a traditional strap-in binding. Cinch bindings can be used with any snowboard boot, but K2 snowboard boots are likely to fit best.
Contrary to the belief of many, there are differences between snowboard bindings for men and those for women. Women are not built the same as men, so neither should their bindings be. The primary difference exists in the placement of the calf in women’s legs. The calf of a woman is positioned lower; therefore, the highback on female bindings need not rise as high up.
Additionally, women usually have narrower feet, thus their bindings are designed slightly narrower to fit women’s boots better. Place a woman’s snowboard boot into a men’s binding and you will quickly see that it isn’t a good fit. The extra space that exists causes women to lose some of the energy transferred to their board. This occurs because the binding is not the ideal fit for the boots.
Choosing an accurate rider ability level will match you with the appropriate bindings for not only you but your entire setup. It’s important to be honest with yourself and to keep in mind that buying a binding below the level of your boots and board may actually hinder its performance.
A beginner is a first time rider or still new to the sport and is still learning how to carve. The ideal binding for a beginner will be soft and forgiving while offering basic functionality. It will also be fairly simplistic. New riders are often the most hard on their gear, so picking a quality binding is key.
An intermediate rider may be still fairly new to the sport, but is able to carve, is in control of themselves and beginning to explore slightly more challenging terrain. Bindings found in this range are often slightly stiffer and more responsive, but mostly offer more comfort and response. Getting into an intermediate binding as an athletic beginner is often a good idea because they binding will hold up for years and years and will aid in your progression.
An advanced rider is someone who is not only comfortable on the majority of runs and terrain, but is more aggressive and tends to ride at higher speeds. Bindings in this range will have features designed to cut down on weight, aid in comfort and dampen shock and vibration underfoot. They will also be more responsive and reactive then their lesser counterparts.
An expert rider prefers to ride aggressively and is comfortable on any terrain or at any speed. Bindings in this price level will again offer the ultimate in comfort and performance, but will also offer top of the line technology and features that may not be seen further down the line until years later. This is where all the bells and whistles are as well as where manufacturers will often introduce the latest and greatest. These bindings are designed for those who demand top performance out of a lightweight package that will take their riding to the next level.
Just like boards and boots, bindings are designed for different types of terrain as well as all kinds of riding styles. They will loosely fall into the categories of All Mountain, Freestyle, and All Mountain Freestyle.
All-Mountain bindings are designed for general cruising and carving anywhere on the mountain. As they progress from low to high end, the strap, chassis and highback tend to get stiffer and more responsive. Padding underfoot increases to dampen vibrations and help the rider transfer energy to their board in the most effective manner.
Freestyle bindings are designed for doing tricks usually in a terrain park with features like rails, boxes and jumps. These bindings will generally have straps that provide a bit more flexibility than an all-mountain binding, while still providing plenty of support. Softer cushioning in the heel and toes also allows for shock absorption for landings, while softer flexing highbacks also allow riders to prefect the style of their tricks.
All-Mountain Freestyle bindings offer the best of both worlds for the rider that truly wants to go everywhere on the mountain, seeking both the pop and playfulness needed for freestyle terrain, as well as the power and response for carving at higher speeds. These bindings will allow the rider to feel comfortable cruising or taking laps through the park. A bit stiffer than their true freestyle counterparts they still over the versatility needed to explore freestyle terrain.
A functioning set of snowboard bindings is obviously essential to your snowboarding experience and performance. However, many people do not realize just how much abuse a set of bindings has to take throughout the duration of a season. Your snowboard bindings have moving parts that you are relying on at the beginning and end of every run, and keep in mind this is all while in the cold. This is where the quality of your binding will begin to show its true value.
There are many differences in both quality and performance across brands and bindings in the industry. It is important that you understand what you will be getting from your binding, and also what to expect. One of the great things about snowboard bindings is that they can be transferred from one board to another, with few exceptions. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you seek out a reliable binding that you can expect to last a while. Simply put, don’t be afraid to spend a bit of extra cash here because your bindings will have longevity and you can move them from board to board if you need to.
The following is a quick breakdown of binding price ranges and what you can expect to find when shopping for bindings in those ranges. Keep in mind this is a guide for original retail, and not the sale price of bindings.
A binding that retails in this range represents an entry-level binding. The buckles are likely to be plastic, as opposed to aluminum, the padding under the heel and toe will be minimal, and the straps will be fairly soft.
$199 - Most mid-level bindings will be found in this price range. Thicker padding will be found on the plate of the binding, as well as the highback, making the binding more shock absorbent. The straps are also a little stiffer, making the binding more responsive. The binding buckles will also be better in quality, and will more than likely be aluminum.
$200+ - Snowboard bindings of greatest quality will no doubt be found here. They are designed to take more abuse and are thereby more durable and longer-lasting. Features will range based on the riding style, which is helpful in narrowing down the binding you need. Shock absorbent pads are often separate from the rest of the padding to provide extra cushioning in high-impact areas. The buckles will be aluminum and ratcheting closure system will be stronger and faster. The binding straps will be customized to provide support and response that is expected in only the necessary areas. In a nutshell, bindings here will cost a bit more, but they will also be lighter, more durable, and last you the longest.
Toe straps used to be exclusively worn over the top of the foot, but over the years that has changed. Burton originally started the change by making “toe caps” that are worn over the toe of the boot. Over the years most manufacturers have followed suit making either a “convertible strap” that can be worn either way, or a toe strap that is shaped specifically to be worn over the toe of the boot. The shape and design may vary by brand, but the idea is to draw the boot back into the binding. This helps eliminate any pressure points over the top of the foot, and draws the boot back into the binding allowing for most efficient energy transfer. The majority of current bindings will now incorporate this in some manner with and the degree to which the toe strap conforms to the boot generally increases with price.
One of the most common questions asked about bindings is, “what bindings will fit my board?” For the most part the answer is almost all of them, however there are some exceptions. While a kids binding will technically mount to an adult board and vice versa the amount of overhang (or lack of it) will not allow the board to perform properly. Therefore it’s ideal to put a kids binding on a kids board and an adult binding on an adult board. There are also a few other combinations that are less than ideal. To make it simple on our site, the refinement called “binding compatibility” simply asks you for the mounting pattern on your board. This is a great tool in figuring out which bindings will fit which boards. Here’s what it all means.
Standard 4 Hole is the pattern found on all non-Burton snowboards and refers to the fact you use 4 screws to mount each binding. Choosing this filter will include all standard disc bindings as well as Burton 3D bindings as they both fit standard 4 hole boards. The only bindings that will not show in this filter are EST bindings which are made specifically for Burton ICS boards.
Burton 3D is a 3 hole pattern found on some Burton snowboards. Choosing this will filter will include all Burton 3D disc bindings made specifically for these boards as well as other brands that are compatible with the 3D system. The majority of all standard disc bindings will fit the 3D pattern but there are still a few that don’t. Again, Burton EST bindings will not show in this filter.
Burton ICS Channel is the system found on most current Burton boards. These are designed to be used with Burton EST bindings. Selecting this option however will show EST bindings, Burton 3D bindings as well as a few bindings made by other brands as they too will fit Burton ICS boards. It is important to remember though that when you use a non EST binding on an ICS board you are losing some of the value and feel of the ICS technology, so if you can it is ideal to choose an EST binding to accompany these boards.