Interface 2000: Boots and bindings for the next century.

Don't underestimate the importance of the right boots and bindings. It's easy to become obsessed about buying a new snowboard–and, of course, a good board is crucial–but more often than not, it's ill-fitting boots or malfunctioning binders that'll cause you the most aggravation. Blisters and cramps from your boots or broken binding straps will have you cursing and wailing all the way to the lodge, where you'll be waiting for your blister-free friends 'til the lifts close.

Deciding on which boots to buy is trickier than it may seem. Everyone's feet are unique. Heck, most people even have one foot that's bigger than the other!

It's important to find a dealer truly knowledgeable about the finer points of the boot-and-binding interface. Boots that feel great for the fifteen minutes you try them on in the shop may end up being a huge bummer once they “pack out,” or get worn in after a handful of days on the hill. On the flipside, boots that seem like torture devices on the rug may end up being those trusty friends you rely on season after season. Think about it–do you have buddies who absolutely refuse to give up their stinky, beat-to-hell, older-than-God boots? Thought so.

An experienced salesperson should be able to help find you a pair that'll feel great for the long haul. Check out the boot-buying tips we've provided to help you through the process (“Tarsal Knowledge,” page XX). Take your time. Ask lots of questions. If you don't have confidence in the shop's staff, or the products they recommend, trust your feet to someone else.

On the binding end of things, there's one major question to consider: straps or step-ins? Traditional highback bindings with straps (two, usually) are undergoing constant refinement. At this point, they work pretty darn well. A majority of snowboarders still swear by them.

By attaching your boot to the board with a locking mechanism rather than ratchet straps, step-ins offer hands-free binding entry. The naysayers claim the performance benefits of traditional strap bindings far outweigh the few seconds step-ins may save you, but the new systems seem to make giant leaps forward in both fit and performance every year. They're worth a look–now more than ever. Check out our comprehensive step-in review starting on page XX.

So there you have it. Peruse this year's millennial boot-and-binding offerings. Then go out and get equipped for the upcoming winter. Your feet will thank you.