This season, Burton Snowboards has given away hundreds of its Freestyle SI step-in boots and bindings to riders around the world to collect feedback and help refine the product. The program might be the largest attempt to get consumer input on a specific product in the snowboard industry.

To distribute the free pair of boots and bindings, Burton reps across North America have given out approximately 400 Golden Tickets to advanced riders. These Golden Tickets let the riders order the boot and binding combo from the company simply by making a phone call and giving the company their foot size. Then Burton will ship out a pair of the boots and bindings, along with a promo T-shirt.

According to Burton Sales Manager Clark Gundlach, the Golden Tickets were passed out to advanced riders who work at shops, resorts, or are just influential in their territories.

“We're really trying to take the product to the next phase,” he says. “We want to know what riders think of it. We want the product to be appealing.”

Burton pro Joe Curtes has been named advanced product coordinator and is overseeing the program.

“Step-ins are my deal,” he says. “We feel step-ins are going to be the future. Every rider will be using step-ins. But the product-development process is not finished yet, and we're not done evolving them.

“I'm going to be a link from riders to the offices,” Curtes says of his new role at Burton. “We're looking for more feedback and trying to get the product to key riders. In January, I'll get feedback forms to all the riders who got the step-ins through the Golden Ticket program, and we'll start getting their feedback.”

With step-in recalls last season from Burton and Rossignol, and the recall and cancellation of Salomon's Pilot step-in program this year, the Golden Ticket program will definitely give a big confidence boost to the category and will help get the shop kids supporting and promoting the beleaguered systems.

However, Burton employees claim this is simply an attempt to evolve the product, not to influence riders' boot and binding choices. “We're making a huge investment in the program,” says Gundlach. “We're going in the right direction to find out what riders want.”