Canting. Sounds technical doesn’t it? Like you have to have worn either aGS suit or a name tag that says snowboard store employee before you’re allowedto use the word. The truth is that canting is a fairly old concept that isactually simple to understand, yet can be very dramatic in its effects. Butcanting’s role in snowboarding has gone through an evolution, with freestylers,racers, and freeriders alike. Similar to the theory of asymmetry, the theoryof canting has changed as snowboarders have changed the standards of riding.
What exactly is canting? Canting is the lateral, or side-to-side angulating,or tilting of your boot or binding. Canting is usually achieved with anaftermarket device that typically consists of a sloped platform, or wedgethat you mount to your board underneath your binding. Canting is sometimeserroneously called beveling which is actually a custom edge sharpening practice,and is totally unrelated to canting. Canting is also not the front-to-backlifting of the toe or heel.
Cants came about when people looked to the world of skiing for a way to improvethe comfort and effectiveness of their riding. Racers originally used cantsto help center their body between their feet and to help make riding in hardshelled boots more natural. Freestylers formerly used cants to help tweaknose oriented aerial tricks. It is important to note that the popularityof canting was born in the days when carvers stood more across the board;they needed something to make facing forward more comfortable.
The next step in the evolution of canting came when Alpine riders startedriding with steeper binding angles and asymmetric Alpine boards became thenew technological must-have. While the angles got steeper, the cants stayedthe same. This presented a new problem, where the cants that used to pointtowards the middle of the board were now pointing significantly towards theside of the board as well. Would-be carvers back knees were awkwardly andunstably locked into the back of their front knees, forcing a host of brandnew bad carving habits to arise.
Finally, with the advent of 360 degree freedom of binding angle adjustment,cants have settled upon a circular wedge shaped disk design that slopes onlyalong the long axis of the snowboard. These are a vast improvement sinceno canting takes place towards the side of the board anymore. Cants are usedmainly by Alpine carvers and freeriders; freestylers have abandoned cantsfor the close-to-the-board feel and unidirectionality.
There is a new theory in the school of binding tilting that goes hand inhand with the new symmetrical carving technique, and it just may help youget over that hump or plateau in your Alpine abilities. Much like symmetricalcarving boards, this technique is beneficial to anyone riding with anglesgreater than 45 or 50 degrees.
The setup involves a toe lift, not cant, for the front foot, a heel liftfor the back foot, and a slight outward canting of the back foot. The bindingsshould be mounted parallel, such that no part of your boots or bindings protrudepast the edge of the board when you view the board on the floor from above.Some people, including Mark Fawcett, even ride pigeon-toed, with their backfoot angled more than the front foot. But if that sounds like contortionistsnowboarding, parallel is always a good choice. A parallel stance unifiesyour lower body and helps your legs work together. With a splayed stance,your legs and joints fight each other, and your efforts are less efficient.
But how do these new cants work? The toe lift under the front foot helpsto compensate for the forward lean built into all hardboots and ski boots.Forward lean in a boot is good because it is natural for your ankle to bendthat way when your knees bend. But if you ride without a lift, that forwardlean causes an uncomfortable and unstable situation where both your legsare tilting forward, and your whole lower body is cocked awkwardly out towardsthe nose of the board. The toe lift brrings you back to a more natural,comfortable position and your knees are more able to naturally adjust tothe terrain and the carve. The heel lift on the back foot works with thetoe lift to augment the effect. Heel lift also enables you to comfortablyuse a slightly wider stance, which can improve stability at speed and increasethe effects of fore and aft weight adjustments throughout a carve. With narrowerstances, the heel lift may not be necessary, and the forward lean or softnessof a boot may be enough.
The most radical feature of this setup, and the newest idea in canting isthe slight outward canting of the back foot (outward meaning to the rightand tailward for a regular foot, and to the left and tailward for a goofyfoot). One of the big advantages of the whole toe/heel lift technique isthat it lets your knees stay more naturally apart and somewhat side-by-siderather than one jammed in behind the other. The outward rear cant takes thisidea one step further by actually bringing the rear knee slightly fartheraway from the front one. When looking at a snowboarder carving a toesideturn from the front with this cant in place, both knees will actually bevisible.
Conventional cants, while better than older cants, still lead to that popularizedmethod of carving with the knees stuck together. When the knees are together,they become a single point of support, and the body teeters precariouslyon top of it. With the new system of lifts and the slight outward rear cant,the knees are free to act independently and naturally. The benefits of thiscant are noticed mainly on toeside carves. Carve initiation is executed withfar greater ease, and a level, upright, quiet upper body is maintained. Nolonger will you have to inefficiently tilt your shoulders into the hill toget the board angled, the setup allows you to initiate your toeside carvefrom your center of gravity down, where you should.
This setup is the next step in binding alignment, and binding manufacturerswill soon be enhancing the adjustibility of bindings to include these planes.Some, like CAT, already have. The notion of canting the rear foot slightlyoutward may seem counterintuitive, but you will know it works when you feelit. Using these lifts and the slight cant is all part of the concept of makingyour stance more natural, comfortable, stable, and conducive of the modernsymmetrical Alpine riding and racing style. It will also hopefully shed lighton the joys of hardboot carving by disproving the misconception that a hardbootsetup is too restrictive or uncomfortable.
If your Alpine setup feels at all awkward or unforgiving at times, or youfeel that your carving ability has reached an impasse, try this setup andfeel how much better and more fun carving can be!