The biggest news at Santa Cruz and most of the show was the new DNR step-in binding system designed by Shaw Kaake and tested by ex-World Overall Champion Mario-Paolo Dabbeni.

The binding, called the 003, is the closest the snowboard industry has come to building something as solid and sophisticated as the standard ski binding. By grabbing the boot in the middle of the sole, the 003 binding puts most of the mechanical action into the binding leaving the boot pretty much untouched. While other step-in systems require the boot to have all kind of hooks, bars, and buttons, the DNR boot has two inverted pyramid shaped indentations on either side into which the binding clamps down. It’s actually quite elegant.

But they’ve been working on their boards as well. Focusing mainly on the cores. Santa Cruz introduced two new cores for their snowboard line this year: the SLX and the DLX. Both cores are made from Volkl’s own air-dried wood and designed for different styles of riding. The SLX is a softer flexing core designed for freestyle and the DLX is a bit stiffer and build for all-around freeriding. “The specialized cores allowed us to make the them thinner and reduce the weight,” says Brett Sigur, marketing and team manager for Santa Cruz Snowboards.

But does the air-dried wood really make a difference? According to Sigur it makes a big difference. “With kiln dried wood you get cores that have the life heated out of them. They warp, or they’re dead right out of the press” he says. “Being air dried allows our cores to keep their liveliness all the way through the construction process, which means more consistent flex patterns both laterally and tortionally.”

That may be why Santa Cruz uses clear top-sheets. “We make the boards that way so people can see the quality of our cores,” Sigur says. “There are no knots or staples just quality Volkl cores. All you have to do is look at the boards to see the difference.”

Sigur hasn’t ridden the step-in bindings himself so he saved comment on them till he could ride them. “If Paolo’s happy with them I’m sure I will be,” he says. “I trust his opinion on design a lot more than I trust my own.”

Fair enough.