The ski and snowboard industry is constantly evolving in line with the rising consumer demands and new technologies.
The first modern skis were invented in Norway in 1868 and were made from wood. The first-ever snowboard, however, the “snurfer”, was created in the mid-1960s by a surfer named Sherman Poppen and also consisted of wood with an added rope for navigation.
In the 1980s snowboarders were not allowed on the slopes and had to hike the mountain illegally at night to shred in the snow. Nowadays, the world of winter sports is brimming with snowboard competitions. It’s a highly praised sport that has even entered the Olympics.
As the technique of snowboarding advanced, so did the design of the board with steel edges, high-back bindings, rounded tails, hard boots, plate bindings, and specific boards for different snow conditions and terrains.
One of the most essential components of a snowboard is the bindings, as they equip you with better balance and allow for more accurate turns, board control, and maximum safety. Today, a new trend in bindings is disrupting the market – step-on bindings.
Here, with SIA Austria, a ski instructor academy, we explore why snowboarders are embracing them and how they can improve your performance on the snow.
From straps to step-ons
Generally, snowboard bindings consist of straps that secure your boot to the board. In the ‘90s, the snowboard company Burton introduced its step-in bindings system, which became a hit on dry slopes, indoor snow domes, and snow parks because it provided the snowboarder with ease and convenience. Step-in bindings mean that you don’t have to undo your strap bindings at the end of every run, which saves you a lot of time.
However, these early prototypes of step-in bindings featured very stiff boots, which made them challenging for use as ski boots. That meant that some people didn’t see the benefit of the convenience of step-in bindings.
In 2017, Burton introduced a revisited version of step-in bindings, which reflected the owner’s belief that snowboarding should be more convenient and accessible to everyone. The new technology is called step-on bindings. It incorporates a high back, so the boots keep their comfort and lock into the high back through the EST rail system, which is common for all Burton boards these days.
The 2017 step-on bindings were well-received by snowboarders, with the system proving to be responsive enough for excellent edge control when carving.
In order to appeal to a wider demographic, Burton expanded its range in Winter 2022 to include more size offerings, such as men’s 14 and 15 with XL bindings and 3K in kids’ sizing. Burton is also launching two new step-on models that offer a softer, more playful, and high-end ride, as well as a new lace boot with extended sizing.
Other companies are also branching into the step-on bindings market, in order to expand the range.
Step-on bindings for professional snowboarders
Step-on bindings are becoming more and more popular amongst snowboarders. According to Chris Fidler, Burton’s Vice President of global merchandising, 50% of the company’s boots and bindings sales across all its channels are comprised of Step-On set-ups.
Burton is also licensing third parties to design and manufacture step-on bindings with the aim of expanding the market. Chris Fidler commented: “Collectively, we’re changing the way people can get their boots and bindings. If it’s easier to ride, we can get more participants.”
Step-on bindings are extremely useful in the learning process too. For those pursuing snowboard and ski instructor courses, it’s vital to be able to master the best practices in order to offer their students the most robust lessons. With step-on binding, the snowboard instructor can quickly strap in and out of their board so that they can better support students on their learning journey. When learning how to snowboard for the first time, students tend to fall a lot and find it hard to get up. Being able to quickly adjust the bindings and the board will save them valuable learning time and help them progress quickly.
Step-on bindings are extremely useful when it comes to accessibility and inclusivity. Kiana Clay, who is an adaptive snowboarder and Burton team rider with a fully paralysed right arm, was able to perform better at competitions due to step-on bindings. That is so because she spent less time adjusting her bindings and more time mentally preparing for the competition.
Although step-on bindings are not used by freestyle riders in competitions, the goal is to expand the reach and help riders perform better with this type of bindings technology. Regardless, they can be adopted by both beginners and experts who are looking for ease of movement and convenience when on the slopes.