WORDS: Devin Silverthorne-Lillie
PHOTOS: JP Van Swae
Freestyle snowboarding is driven by personality, and with a board strapped to your feet, potential is almost limitless. From urban concrete and Colorado corduroy to the crust and mush of springtime in Vermont, these bindings went through trial and tribulation before the cream of the crop rose to the top. We want to help you start the season with bindings that will inspire your freestyle game. These five should do just that.
Union Trilogy – $230
Known for their lightweight and durable designs, Union left testers with no surprises in the Trilogy. The binding has a comfy and casual low-profile arrangement with all the essentials. If you want a taste of the lightest freestyle women's binding on the market, take a bite out of this. The EVA foam of the naturally canting footbed forms to unique footprints, fashioning response where riders personally need it. A medium heel-to-toe response with lateral play in the highback makes it perfectly flexible and forgiving, and the mesh toe strap fit testers' boot tips nicely without digging in or causing fatigue.
Union's mini-disc technology improves binding-to-board relationships. Say "Hello" to truer board feel and seamless board flex. The slim footbed design put the binding further ahead of contenders with continuity between rider and board, offering a lighter ride with more pop and less baggage! Unique to Union is the durable material choice, made in partnership with Duraflex. As a result, the flexibility and strength is excellent. After being bent, ladders returned to form, even in bitter cold temps. The binding has a one-year warranty, except for baseplates and heel cups, which are backed for life. This binding has your back when it comes to tweaked airs and unpredictable landings, and offers its rider style with ease. It's made specifically for women, and it's battle proof!
K2 Hue – $250
The women's Hue is an easygoing ride. All of the straps offer hassle-free, tool-less adjustments, and the binding is low on weight. It should appeal to exploratory riders who like to throw down in the park but also lay out soul carves across the rest of the mountain. The highback is laterally flexible, allowing riders to tweak any grabs, and the ergonomic toe and heel straps fall open on a hinge for easy entry. The binding offers great board feel and response, thanks to only the baseplate cushion and bushings touching the board. K2's Tripod technology includes three sets of bushings with each binding, all with unique levels of firmness to let the user set their preferred level of vibration dampening and power for a longer, more progressive ride.
Testers recommended this binding for aggressive freestylers and all-mountain freeriders with acrobatic tendencies. The Hue was said to provide great freestyle support due to its winning combination of stability and flexibility. The toe strap sat well on all boots it was wrapped around, and the low-profile design did its job well, securing boots snugly without any unnecessary pressure. All ratchets were easy to escape from when hot-lapping the park and needing quick release between runs. The ride was comfortable, and testers said they felt excellent board control under foot.
Rome Madison Boss – $240
The Madison Boss was one of the most versatile bindings tested. It was designed strong and with dampening for riders who take speed into jumps and style smooth approaches into rails. This binding can take you places, as it's an all-around shred partner built for freestylin', shredding pow, and lacing aggressive carves that make the boys jealous. Its sturdiness is one of the binding's strongest attributes.
The metal frame's ergonomically mounted straps helped eliminate foot fatigue and provided testers with a surfy feel. The metal heel cup offered superb heel-to-toe power, and the ankle strap, which attaches directly to the baseplate, provides a streamlined board feel for quick response. The polycarbonate components make it lightweight, adding to the freestyle flexibility. The asymmetrical highback offers full rotation, so testers were able to adjust it to their particular stances. This made the binding even more versatile and personalized to individual styles, and reduced stress on their knees.
The toe strap was a crowd pleaser; it perfectly molded to toes and never slipped, because the rubber material contoured perfectly to boots. This attribute reduced foot fatigue and provided great toe-edge support. The straps were a cinch to adjust on-mountain. No freaking out because we couldn't find a tool bench or didn't have a handheld screwdriver! The easy-entry bindings have a rubber elastomer called an Auto Strap, which holds the ankle strap open so riders can get turnt up in no time! The Madison Boss was designed for freestylers with all-mountain capabilities and proved itself so.
FLUX GS – $255
These bindings took on varied terrain en route to the park and motivated testers to throw down upon arrival. The lightweight build might have even helped testers send airs higher than usual! The highback's contoured shape provides a wide range of effective boot-to-board response, and testers reported not noticing much chatter at high speeds. All who rode them experienced a comfortable amount of pressure around the ankle, not too tight but just enough for a dependable grip, just like a friend who gives the perfect hug! Pair all this with a medium flex and lightweight build, and what's delivered is a natural ride.
The material seems as if its made to last, and all adjustments were easy to make in a pinch on the hill. Toe straps fit well on all boots they were tested with, and didn't dig into boots or cause discomfort when cranked down tight. Go ahead and get a little tweaky--the GS will love you for your imperfections and save your ass in the process. Look good, ride better!