Hard boots and plate bindings are usually associated with carving and racing-precision and power are theirmost noteworthy attributes-but the setup is also indispensable for serious backcountry riding. Hard bootsvary in support, or stiffness, which is the main factor in their performance.

The taller the boot and the more buckles (typically three or four) it has relate directly to the amount of support it offers. The stiff plastic solematerials and rigid shanks of hard boots enhance board response and allow hard-carving riders to transfermore energy (create more leverage) to their boards than is possible with a boot that distorts or folds.Snowboard mountaineers depend on hard boots for sure-footed soles, kicking steps in hard snow, andeasily attaching crampons (metal spikes that affix to the bottom of a boot for traction).

While racers should lean toward the powerful, stiff end of the hard-boot spectrum, and mountaineers need more flexible modelsbecause of the amount of time they spend hiking, the all-around carver falls in the middle. Plate bindingsfunction primarily to create a strong, safe connection to the board. Bindings range in flexibility to allow fordistinct styles of carving, but all attach the boot in more or less the same manner, and none releaseautomatically.

Current trends in plate bindings are related to strength and rigidity. Many riders (especiallyracers) now use very stiff boards, which in turn require stiff boots and create greater force on bindings. Oneadvantage of hard boots is that riders have their choice of custom, conformable liners, footbeds, and fit aidsfrom the ski industry, which can achieve a level of fit superior to most soft boots and any linerless boot.Properly fitted hard boots can also be warmer and more comfortable than soft boots by alleviating thepressure of binding straps over the instep and toe (which cut off circulation). Whatever your reason or styleof riding, there’s a hard boot worth looking into.