Will step-ins lead to more skate-inspired tricks, like this one-footer from Nick Visconti? Photo: Matt Georges

You know when you get that feeling that you really, really want to say "I told you so", but know that you shouldn't because it is a total dick thing to do, but you still do it anyway?

Like when... oh, I don't know... someone buys a rocker snowboard only to find that they can no longer turn properly (but still claim that it makes snowboarding more "fun", as if not ever being able to properly hold an edge and eating shit on icy red runs is "fun"). Or when people try to change a lightbulb without turning the electricity off at the mains first, and electrocute themselves.

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Anyway, that's how I felt recently when Burton announced the return of the Step In, or rather, the arrival of the Step On. It was like a lifetime of "I told you so" moments rolled up into one, after which I proceeded to annoy everyone I have ever met who cares about snowboarding (and who thought the Step-in would never return) by saying "I told you so", like a fucking annoying school swot who did extra revision for algebra when everyone else was assuming that the exam would be all about trigonometry.

"I am shamelessly, wholeheartedly, fully balls-in to the concept of Step-Ins. I am so happy that someone is trying to unlock the next level of the Matrix"

I have long been a wilful contrarian, essentially taking positions that I don't really even agree with just for the sake of making an argument, metaphorically poking the snowboarding bear that is doing a shit in the woods on the internet, while the Pope makes dope smoke signals. It's much more fun than just agreeing with everyone else.

For example, I actually quite wanted America to vote for Donald Trump, just to see what would happen. (Please don't bother to write in moaning about guns, global warming, Russian interventionism, racism, woman-loving, locker rooms or fanny grabbing...I agree with you...but I just thought it would be funny to see the most powerful nation on earth being led by a man who is so incredibly clever, just so incredibly clever that it is going to be beautiful...)

But, in a totally straight-up, legit, honest-to-goodness, I-am-not-taking-the-piss way, for the last decade or so, I have been mourning the demise of the Step-In, and longing for its return.

Not because Step-Ins were ever any good. They were total shite. Even gaper beginners who barely knew the difference between an Elguerial and a Sad Plant and were even dumb enough to wear mitts and salopettes back in the 90s (like, duh! Total douche) quickly worked out that Step-Ins were a nightmare in real world conditions.

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Firstly, they didn't really work if you were on snow. Given that the boot-to-binding interface was typically on the bottom of the boot, where, weirdly, there was also often snow, you would typically spend more time trying to hack ice out of the soles of your boots than you ever spent trying to ratchet your straps.

"Because snowboard schools adopted the Step-In with an avaricious zeal, the technology became inextricably linked to the generic image of a beginner douchebag"

Secondly, they were more painful than wearing an Iron Maiden whilst having your eyeballs eaten by ravenous mutant rats and your testicles battered by a rabid little-person with knuckle dusters.

All the stiffness that should have been somewhere, anywhere else, was in the boot. So your ankles, shins, heels, toes and the ball of your foot would hate you all day, from the moment you put them on until the moment you strutted into the bar, slipped on the wet tiled floor (because the metal bit wasn't grippy like a normal rubbery boot sole), fell on your arse and knocked yourself unconscious.

Finally, by wearing them you immediately signalled yourself out as a prick. That was what really did for them. People will put up with almost anything if it is considered cool (smoking for example, which actually kills you), but because snowboard schools adopted the Step-In with an avaricious zeal (in the hope that it would stop pimple-faced little Johnny taking so long to get ready every time he got to the top of the magic carpet), the technology became inextricably linked to the generic image of a beginner douchebag.

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That was terminal. The Step-In disappeared into oblivion in a cloud of smoke along with the Japanese Selfie stick, head-mounted umbrellas and the Bathroom Buddy.

But from where I was standing (just to the left of the now defunct Sheffield Ski slope, picking my nose and thinking how I could bonk a local board bag) Step-Ins were a great idea - mangled by poor execution, perhaps, but they definitely deserved to exist.

Here's why:

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Straps are actually annoying

Every time I get into my bindings I want the exact same level of tightness. Not almost the same level of tightness. I want it to be exactly the same, so that when I go for a tourist method, I know precisely the angle of my boots in relation to my bindings and thus where the heel edge of my board will be. Straps almost always left me wondering, "do I need another click"? And then I would go for another click and they would be too tight, and I would have to start the whole process again.

"When people say that 'straps work', I tend to show them the large plastic bag in which I have kept of two decades' worth of broken strap parts"

Straps break

I have tried just about every snowboard brand on planet earth and have broken straps on all of them. This usually happens at the top of the mountain, where it is coldest and the plastic is thus most likely to be brittle. This also typically happens to be the furthest from home. I have had to ride one-footed for 1500+ vertical metres so many times that I ended up carrying zip-ties in my snowboard pants, so I could lash my foot to my binding on the occasion of these all-too-regular emergencies.

And if they weren't snapping, the little teeth on the straps were being blunted by my over-zealous cranking of the ratchets, leaving me unable to ever get them tight enough. When people say that 'straps work', I tend to show them the large plastic bag in which I have kept of two decades' worth of broken strap parts, then flick them the V's and laugh like Lord Voldemort.

It takes time putting on straps

Sorry, but it does. Every moment that I spend strapping into my board is a moment I could be riding and doing tindy grabs off moguls, so that is a moment wasted. I also find it a bit awkward, and invariably have to sit down to get it right...which opens up a whole other point I need to make...

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Re-introducing Step-Ins will wind up "proper" snowboarders

Some people seem to think that by not needing to sit down when you do up your bindings, you are a proper snowboarder. Well, I have been riding for well over a quarter of a century, spent multiple full winters doing nothing but snowboarding, can do several tricks that at one time or another have won Air + Style events and also know the entire discography of all the Robot Food movies in my head, and... guess what, I have to sit down when I do up my strap bindings (despite not being fat and being very stretchy). So you can blow me (ideally whilst I am sitting down, with your head in my lap).

"The Step-In binding is the ultimate fuck-you to the supposedly right-thinking snowboarder"

These petty little rules that "proper" snowboarders rely on to define themselves as "core" belong in the same bin that Donald Trump puts his post-crank (as in "crying wank") tissues into after seeing himself being mocked on Saturday Night Live. (Also in that bin you will find not putting down the safety bar, not wearing a helmet, and pretending that your dad isn't rich.)

The Step-In binding is the ultimate fuck-you to the supposedly right-thinking snowboarder. It's a bit skier-ish. It makes life easier. It is made by Burton. Which means it has to exist.

There is a whole new category of tricks that Step-Ins can unleash

Snowboarding has spent three decades desperately trying to look like skateboarding, what better way than to finally realise this younger-less-cool-sibling ambition than by making bindings more step-on-and-offable? Like a skateboard.

I have already seen an Instagram clip of a dude doing a hippy jump before landing onto (and connecting into) his board to do a "normal" snowboard trick, which not even Scott Stevens can do with strap bindings.

Hippie Hoppin @bonezonebrighton today!@burtonsnowboards @wedrinkwater @dangshades ????: @bundyvision & @wizardlyfe #nailingit #fullyfrothing #nomarksnobustersnomarkassbusters #digtoride

A video posted by Alex Andrews (@alexandrews) on

This is just the start. The possibilities for one-footed, or even no-footed airs are huge if we can crack this technology. Like launching a massive Christ Air and then landing straight into a monster Eurocarve. Surely that would be a good thing? It's got to be better than a Backside 1440 mute Triple Cork? (But obviously not better than a method...like, no way is that possible).

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"Innovation is the life-blood of our sport, and if for one moment we think that it's not worth trying to improve something, then...well, we should become skiers"

Of course there will be issues. When you are riding in powder it might be really difficult (I imagine) to get sufficient resistance under the board to stomp into the binding. Snow will almost certainly get clogged and frozen into the ratchet in the high-back. People in bibs with their trousers rolled up over their boots will point and laugh at you sarcastically.

But I think it is great that Burton are trying to innovate. After all, skiing worked pretty well as a means of getting down a mountain for several decades, but thankfully Mr. Sims and Mr. Burton thought that the experience could be improved, and set about creating functional snowboards. Innovation is the life-blood of our sport, and if for one moment we think that it's not worth trying to improve something, then...well, we should become skiers.

Our sport is all about breaking rules, doing things differently, and if that means making some mistakes in the pursuit of a better experience then we should be applauding those who are bold enough to try.

"Burton's main crime seems to be designing a board/boot/binding interface that actually works together - it's just like those wankers at BMW who make cars where the steering wheel really only works with a BMW and can't be used in a Mercedes. Twats"

But people seem to be hating on Burton for doing this (who, God forbid, have managed to survive as an independent, rider-owned brand for 40 years without selling out to private equity hawks, a luxury brand conglomerate or going bust in a haze of herbal smoke because they didn't understand the difference between an income statement and a balance sheet).

Their main crime (according to the internet people) seems to be designing and making a board / boot / binding interface that actually works together - apparently this forces people to buy their entire setup from Burton.

This is clearly Pure Unadulterated Evil (TM) and mind control at its worst. It is Capitalism Gone Mad (CGM), the very height of avarice. Bring back hanging. I say we should drown them all to see who floats. It's just like those wankers at BMW who keep making cars where the steering wheel really only works with a BMW and can't be used in a Mercedes. Twats.

<<< By the way, not one bit of my own personal setup is made by Burton. I have nothing to do with them, and they don't even know who I am. I am not being sponsored to say this. I am not even a real person, rather a computer programme that randomly generates snowboard-related words with a penguin avatar. Some of you may use this information to mock and discredit me. When you do, I will have won. >>>

A sneak preview of Terje Haakonsen testing Burton's Step-Ons at Riksgransen, Sweden last spring

So I am shamelessly, wholeheartedly, fully balls-in to the concept of Step-Ins/Ons. I am so happy they are back on the scene and that someone is trying to unlock the next level of the Matrix.

But - and this is a BIG, HEAVY HEARTED BUT - having said all of that, I probably won't ever get to try Burton's Step-Ons because I can't see myself replacing my 32 boots, Gnu bindings and Bataleon board with a full Burton set-up, as it would mean dropping about a grand on new gear without really knowing if it works properly yet.

"I have been hoping that this day would come for years, but even I can't bring myself to go all-in and get a Step-On just yet"

Even dudes who are rolling into resort in Audi RS4s and lighting their Russian hookers' farts with £50 notes would probably think twice before picking up some completely new shred tech, for fear that it might fuck up their steeze.

I don't think it is evil that Burton seek to integrate all their hardware and try to improve on all the 'connection points' between different bits of gear. In fact, I think it makes sense... but the reality is that if I need to change my board in order to try out Step-Ons, I probably won't bother. Which is a shame, because I am pretty sure that I could do a Christ Air to Eurocarve if I had Step-Ons.

I am thus hoping that some other brands will see the potential of a strapless world, and potentially even a universal system, and at that point I might just make the leap. Which sort of shows what Burton are up against...I have been hoping that this day would come for years, but even I can't bring myself to go all-in and get a Step-On just yet.

But I really hope that it works. Just so I can say "I told you so".