At this year’s SIA Show in Las Vegas, there were no less than four new, innovative soft-boot, step-in binding systems on display for retailers, including designs from K2, Switch, Device, and T-Bone. To add to the frenzy, two other companies, Airwalk and Burton, also previewed 1996¿97 prototype soft-boot step-in binding systems to selected audiences.

To Fred Riehl, buyer for Brave New World in New Jersey, the new systems seem to be where the overall trend in binding development is going: “Everybody’s tired of sitting down in the snow to strap in.”

Riehl points out the other advantage to converting to a new standard. “Consumers will then have to buy all new boards, bindings and boots,” he says.

Compatibility seems to be the most immediate concern. None of the systems are interchangeable with each other, and none are adaptable with existing boots or bindings¿although all are offering compatibility to the 4 X 4 hole pattern. Not to say that the new soft-boot, step-in binding systems look all that foreign from what snowboarders use today.

Indeed, all four companies utilize soft boots that are related to the traditional models¿minor reinforcements are added internally, but the external look of the boots is not drastically altered.

Retailers seemed to be pleased with K2’s Clicker, probably due in part to the company’s established position in the industry, while reserving support of the other three companies’ systems because of their newness. Says Scott Donahue, owner of Out of Bounds in New Jersey: “I liked the K2 Clicker, and we ordered it.”

But Donahue, like many other retailers, are keeping an eye on the other companies, possibly to buy from them in the near future.