If you imagine snowboard gear like a military-style chain of command, relaying orders from your body at the top to your board at the bottom, then bindings are your sergeants. As anyone who’s watched Platoon will know, these tough-as-nails enforcers are vital to effective operations in the field. There are three main things to consider when choosing your snowboard bindings: Fit, flex and features.
Obviously bindings come in different sizes to fit different boots, and a snug fit between boot and binding is vital for effective control. Perhaps less obviously, different bindings also fit different boards. While most brands’ products will work OK together there are exceptions. Burton, for example, make their boards with three-screw insert patterns, meaning you need a set of Burton bindings to ride them. These days, a lot of their boards feature the ‘ICS channel system’, two sliding inserts which also require a conversion kit (which Burton provide with new boards) or better still, one of their EST bindings. These are designed specifically to work with the channel, so won’t fit with other companies’ boards. Make sure your bindings will fit your boot and your board before you buy them!
Flex is determined by materials – the particular combinations of plastic, aluminium or composites used to make a binding. It’s a question of personal preference, but there is a general rule of thumb: Softer bindings are more forgiving and easier to ride, making them good for beginners, jibbers and park rats who’ll need a bit of extra ‘give’ round their feet to help with sketchy landings. Stiffer bindings offer greater response, making them better for freeriders and advanced freestylers who need that kind of precision control at high speed.
While most bindings share a lot of features in common, there are a few things that differ from model to model. Here are some of them.
Entry systems can vary, although most bindings still go for the traditional two-strap system that you can see here. Flow bindings, for example, have a folding highback which means you can literally put the boot in their behind! Several other brands, like Apo and SP, also boast this feature. Meanwhile, both Ride and K2 have their own unique systems that only require one strap to be tightened – the Contraband and the Auto.
Highbacks can be made of a variety of materials. Many top-end bindings feature spider-web style highbacks to reduce weight, and some brands, like newcomers Switchback or Now, give you the option of getting rid of your highbacks altogether.
Straps also vary, both in size, fit and the amount of padding they feature. A lot of brands also produce ‘cap-strap’ bindings, where the toe strap fits over the end of your boot instead of across the top.
Tool-free adjustment features on some companies’ models, meaning you don’t have to carry a screwdriver with you to set the straps or highback angles differently.
Forward lean adjusters angle the highback forward so it fits with your natural riding position.
Cushioning is something that you’ll see on most bindings these days, especially high-end ones. It makes for softer landings.
Gas pedals are a feature on many bindings these days – an adjustable toe ramp that lets you customise the fit to your boot shape.