Choosing the right snowboard bindings gets harder and harder each year as manufacturers continually develop new technologies, materials and styles. There are bindings that specialize in one style of riding over another. For example, a rider looking to progress his/her jibbing will want a different binding than someone spending most of his/her time riding the half pipe. And freeriders may want something different altogether.
So how do you choose a binding that will work for you? Keep these three things in mind and you won’t go wrong:
1) Make sure you get a binding that fits your boot and board properly.
2) Choose a binding with the performance features for the style of riding you do.
3) Decide which attachment system and other convenience features you’re looking for.
Expert tip: Consider buying bindings from the same company that makes your snowboard boots. Most manufacturers make bindings designed to fit their own boots as seamlessly as possible, meaning you’ll likely need to make fewer adjustments to get a good fit. In addition, the sizing chart that comes with the bindings will match up with that manufacturer’s boot sizes, whereas you might have to guestimate a bit when it comes to other boot makers’ sizes. This doesn’t mean that you can’t mix and match. Most bindings, especially high-end ones, come with many different adjustment points that let you customize the fit of your binding to any boot size and shape.
1) Fit/Sizing of snowboard bindings
There are three basic things you want to look for fit-wise when you’re going to purchase a new pair of bindings.
A) Make sure the heel of the boot fits into the heel cup of the binding. You want a nice fit that allows the boot heel to go in and out of the binding without jamming, and just a little wiggle room from side-to-side. If the fit is too tight, cold temperatures and snow buildup will only make getting into and out of your bindings more difficult.
B) When you place your boot in the binding, make sure the front of the boot and the curvature of the binding’s toe ramp stay in contact as much as possible. The binding’s toe ramp should end before the boot (i.e. the boot should stick out more than the toe ramp). Many bindings come with adjustable toe ramps, which are nice for really dialing in the fit of the binding.
C) Make sure that when the straps (or other attachment system) are properly aligned, the center of the straps line up with the center of your boot. And double check this with your foot in the boot.
2) Performance/Style of snowboard bindings
What makes one binding perfect for freestyle riders, while another is geared for freeride scenarios? You can break it down into the four main components of a snowboard binding.
A) Baseplate and heel cup material: Baseplates are typically either made of plastic, metal or a composite of plastic and some other material (such as carbon fiber).
Plastic baseplates are durable and offer a fair amount of vibration dampening; however, they are also usually heavier than composite baseplates and allow more flex (which may be what you’re looking for depending on your riding style).
Composite baseplates offer some vibration dampening and are typically more rigid and lighter weight than plastic ones.
Metal baseplates are the most rigid — which gives a rider real-time response and control — but typically have very little dampening effect. Depending on the metal used, metal baseplates can be heavy (steel) or fairly light weight (aluminum).
Also common these days — as manufacturers search for the perfect combination of feel, performance and weight — are bindings with a mix of materials making up the baseplate and heel cup. For example: A plastic or composite baseplate with a metal heel cup for a responsive ride while absorbing vibration from the board.
B) Footbed material: The binding footbed is the most important transfer point for sensations from the snowboard back into your foot.
Harder footbeds give the rider real-time reactions and a skate-like feel. Typically both aggressive freeriders and jibbers tend to like harder footbeds for those reasons.
Softer footbeds absorb a lot more of the vibration from the board, and also cushion hard landings from bigger jumps, making them a good choice for freestyle riders.
Other options include a “canted” footbed, which looks like a wedge and is designed to properly align a rider’s knees when in a riding position.
Note: With Burton’s EST bindings, all the different EST footbeds are interchangeable, making it easy to swap out one style for another.
C) Highback style: From short and soft to high and stiff, highbacks come in a variety of materials, shapes and rigidities.
-Jib-style riders typically like their highbacks soft and short to allow for a big range of motion in the ankle.
-Freestyle and park riders will want to look for softer style highbacks with good forward-lean adjustability.
-Freeriders will want stiffer (e.g. carbon) highbacks, also with good forward-lean adjustments.
-Other features include highbacks with “wings,” which allow for better pressing on terrain park features.
3) Attachment System and Convenience Features
The way you lock your boot down to your binding can vary greatly. Most riders — probably close to 80 percent — opt for the traditional two-strap ratcheting system, which has been tried and tested to give the best performance and adjustability.
Within the two-strap category, there are straps with more or less padding. Typically, more padding equals more comfort but less response and feel; however, high-end bindings will build enough structure into their padding to give you a responsive strap that is still comfortable.
How the Toe Strap fits can also vary, with straight over-the-top toe straps that simply pull your snowboard boot down, and convertible/toe cap straps that actually pull both down and back. The advantage of the convertible/toe cap style straps is that they allow you to ride with your ankle strap a bit looser, which allows for a greater range of motion in the ankle without sacrificing performance.
On the more exotic side of things are bindings such as the Contraband by Ride, which combines the ankle strap with a fixed toe cage, giving you just one strap to open and close to get in and out.
And the biggest competitor to the traditional two-strap system is the Flow binding system, which uses a single strap with four lock down points and a collapsible highback for easy boot entry/exit from the back of the binding. Flow bindings were once much less adjustable than traditional two-strap bindings; however, lately Flow has added ratchets to their strap, which allows for more adjustments and a more precise fit.
4) Summing it all up
Most snowboard binding manufacturers make a wide range of bindings for all different levels of rider and purpose.
Remember that a good rule of thumb is to match your binding to your boot, whether that means buying bindings from the same company, or just making sure that the binding you purchase can be adjusted to fit your boot well.
If you’re a beginner snowboarder, a binding with a little more flex and cushioning in the baseplate and footbed will make your progression more fun and forgiving. And be sure to look for a highback that can adjust as you improve and want a more aggressive stance.
Intermediate/Advanced/Expert level riders should look for a binding that really fits their riding style, whether that be jibbing, park, halfpipe, carving or charging in the backcountry. But remember that most riders do a little bit of everything, and binding manufacturers know this. So expect to find a good selection of “all mountain” bindings that will do it all well.
Finally, don’t forget about style. Plenty of binding companies make three or four different versions of the exact same binding, only with different color schemes or patterns to fit riders’ various style preferences. So whether you’re an all-black kind of shredder or want the most colorful binding on the market, chances are there’s a company that can hook you up.