The step-in binding, the little darling of the SIA show last year, is still on everyone’s minds. Airwalk, Device, Blax, K2, Santa Cruz (DNR), Switch, Original Sin, Emory, and several other companies are showing step-in soft boot solutions, but one question still remains: are these things really going to catch on?
Ride Snowboard’s President Tim Pogue doesn’t get it. “I can’t believe what some of these companies are showing,” he says. “We’re not going to show anything until we have something that performs better than a conventional binding and so far there aren’t any that do that, including our own prototypes.”
Performance is still a major issue with most manufacturers. Chris Sanders at Avalanche wants to wait until something good happens. “I’m not willing to trade 20 feet of comfort for 1500 feet of performance,” he said. “When they ride better than regular bindings I’ll ride them.”
The story in the Burton booth was similar, but with an added vapor-wear bonus. “We’re working on the binding but it’s not done so we’re not going to show it, even thought it is way further along than what some people are showing,” said one rep.
Burton is probably being careful after the rap they got last year for showing a Bondo and balsa binding in their dealers-only showroom. Obviously they’re not making that mistake again. One rep from a Burton competitor jokingly asked, “Hey, did you see Burton’s new step-in binding? It’s light as a piece of paper. In fact it’s only on paper.”
Airwalk, the company that decided that boots just weren’t enough, is showing a binding that is a complete design ricochet from what they showed last year. It’s a plastic binding that looks a lot like a covered Switch Binding. Though, when I mentioned that to the designer he quickly explained that the locking mechanism is completely different in the Airwalk Quad.
All the negative talk about step-ins doesn’t sit well with those who currently market the bindings. Jamie Meiselman, general manager of Generics/Blax, is one. “The people who are saying the step-in binding is not ready yet, are the people who haven’t been in development for very long or haven’t even started yet,” he says. “The product we’ve developed is based on years of research.”
Meiselman, whose work on step-in bindings started in 1988, believes the Intec system coupled with the Blax I-spine inner cuff solves many of the problems people have with step-ins. “There are no moving parts on the binding whatsoever,” he says. The binding is the lightest, easiest to get in and out of, and snow clogging is not even an issue.”
The problem that remains, however, is that every binding still requires a specialized boot. Emery held a meeting on March 6, 1996 to try and get all the snowboard manufacturers together to decide on a standard. But many felt that was something that should be left up to ASTM and not bothered with here at the show.
While no one is sure what binding will prevail as the standard, they’re most are sure that it will eventually happen. It’s the how and when that has everyone stumped.