Adjusting For Performance The right setup goes far beyond simple placement-stance width and angles.Actual riding performance lies more in the subtleties of your binding adjustments. While styles andpreferences vary, the technical and physical needs of every rider remain more or less the same. If you leaveyour bindings as they came in the box, and slap them onto your board, you’ll be putting yourself at a severedisadvantage on the slopes.
Instead, take some time to tweak them a little bit, at least making yourself awareof the options that exist. Forward lean has finally become public knowledge. It’s the angle at which a softbinding’s highback, or the shaft of a hard boot, leans forward toward the rider’s toes, and it’s the single mostimportant performance aspect of binding adjustment. Most bindings have a forward-lean adjustment on thehighback itself, a piece of plastic or metal that rests on the binding’s heel cup and can be moved up or down.
The farther down you slide it, the more it will push the highback forward (Alpine riders will find aforward-lean adjustment on the back of their boots). Ride with as much forward lean as you can tolerate,you’re calves will get used to it. This will allow you to apply pressure to the board’s heelside edge, and keepyour knees and ankles bent. Note: Step-in boots that have incorporated highback support (no externalhighback) may have a system of straps either inside or outside the boot that adjusts forward lean. SoftBoot/Strap Bindings Adjustability is the highlight of the soft (strap) binding setup. The upper, or ankle,strap should be shortened or lengthened until it’s as snug as comfortably possible-from it comes your control.
Move the ankle strap up to a different set of holes for more freeriding support, or down for freestyleflexibility. The toe strap should be tight enough to hold your forefoot down on a heelside turn, and positionedover the ball of your foot. For the best performance, your highbacks need more than forward lean. Line themup with the heelside edge of your board rather than with the binding, and be sure there’s no gap between thehighback and the binding’s heel cup. Step-Ins Step-ins place the sole of your boot directly on the topsheetof the board without the added height of a binding baseplate. This decreases the angle between the toe andheel of your boot and the snow during a turn, significantly increasing boot-drag. To compensate, you’ll haveto ride with more angle on your bindings or look into a wider board. You may also have to ride a narrowerstance with step-ins than with traditional soft boots because many of them (especially the ones with built-inhighbacks) are laterally stiffer. The use of step-ins probably accounts for a recent narrowing in stance widthsamong freeriders in general. Toe to heel centering is one part of setting up your stance that you may not haveto consider with step-ins. Most bindings affix to a predetermined and pre-centered spot on the sole of theboot.
Alpine The Alpine (hard boots/carving board) setup requires explicit honing. Because the stiff bootsallow for little compensatory flexibility, hard boot/plate binding stances and adjustments have to be right on.Most noticeably, the narrow-waisted boards demand steep binding angles, like 50 to 60-plus degrees, toavoid hitting the toe or heel of your boot in the snow during a carve, what’s called “booting out.” Theseangles also spread your feet apart (think how far the back heel is from the front toe). Throw in a lack oflateral flexibility, and you’ve got to ride a narrower stance-try two to three inches narrower than yourfreeriding setup (I ride my freeriding board at 21 inches, and Alpine at 18.75 inches, for example).Additionally, to keep you centered, raise the heel of your back foot and throw in a bit more forward lean onthe back boot than you use on the front.