Variables – Rival Schools

Forward Lean

Forward lean, or the relative angle of a highback to the baseplate, is adjustable with the little knoblet tech-gizmo on the back of most highbacks. Cranking up your forward lean will make you bend your knees and give you wicked edge control on heelside turns. For this reason, a lot of halfpipe riders use it–but jib-kids hate the stuff, because the last thing you want to do on a rail is edge. Most people like their forward lean somewhere in the middle.


“I haven't ridden forward lean in a long time because I don't really ride pipe anymore. When I used to coach, if kids had a problem bending their knees, I'd give 'em some forward lean 'cause it'd force them to bend their little legs.”–T.J. Schneider

“I've never used forward lean before–I tried it once and it hurt my legs so much. I prefer being lazy-style.”–Priscilla Levac


“I like some forward lean, but not too much. I use two notches of forward lean with the Burton C60s to help with the backside wall and heelside turns.”–Ross Powers

“Too much hurts my calves, and my legs are bent too much–too little and my heelside turns become gutless.”–Jeremy Jones (big mountain)

Boa Boot-Lacing Technology

The Boa system uses titanium wires run through a reel instead of traditional nylon laces. Just crank the reel to tighten up your boot. Flick the reel out, and your boots are instantly loose. Man, that sure is nice at the end of a long day when all you want is to get those death traps off your feet. But if you want certain areas tighter than others, this might not be the right option. Also, Boa boots do come with a replacement wire, but quick fixes with torn wires when you're out on the hill are pretty dicey.


“The Boa is definitely way better than laces–I can have my boots ready before my friends with laces have one of their boots on. It's all about being lazy and not hurting your hands trying to get your boots tight.”–Doran Laybourn

“Boa is the shit–you can take off you boots in about five seconds, and it's better than normal lacing because you don't get tender hands.”–Chris Coulter


No Boa

“I don't use the Boa system yet because I like my boots tight around my ankles and loose around my calves–the current Boa setup doesn't allow for strategic tightness.”–Todd Richards

“I use regular laces because I have more options on how I tighten my boots–I can tighten more or less in certain areas, depending on how I'm riding.”–Hana Beaman

Customs Footbeds

Feet take an awful lot of abuse carrying around your carcass for a lifetime. No wonder the damn things hurt all the time! Getting custom footbeds is one thing you can do for the little critters. With custom footbeds molded to the natural shape of your foot, there's virtually no play in between your foot and liner–all it takes is a minor movement to initiate turns. Footbeds also support your arches and take some strain off your lower back. They do take a while to break in, though, and they're noticeably stiffer than your boot liners alone–a downside for riders who like their boots soft.


“They stiffen up the sole of my boot and give added support to the foot. I really notice the difference on long top-to-bottom runs.”–Jeremy Jones (big mountain)

“I've been using a pair of Sole custom footbeds in my running shoes and have noticed that at the end of a session my feet don't hurt near as bad, so I got another pair for my snowboard boots. It's really nice to ride and not have your feet fall asleep or cramp up.”–T.J. Schneider

No Footbeds

“I don't use any kind of footbeds–my ThirtyTwo liners are comfortable enough.”–Nico Droz

Board Flex

It goes without saying that different riding styles and body types are good for different flex patterns. Stiffer boards have snap and spring and generally demand more aggressive riding–you have to handle it or it will handle you. A softer board is more forgiving and buttery, but might not be quite as responsive or stable in the chop.


“I like soft boards–they're better for jibbing and forgive more. I feel more like one with my board.”–Priscilla Levac


“I prefer a stiffer board. It's easier to hold an edge and charge through the flatbottom in the pipe.”–Ross Powers

“Stiff boards work good for kickers in backcountry and for jumps with soft or slush snow because you keep your speed and balance.”–Nico Droz

Duck Stance

The era of Haakonsen's narrow, steep-angled racer stance is over–which is good when you consider that Terje's been having problems with his hips for years. These days, a lot of snowboarders ride duck stance–positive angle on the front foot and negative angle on the back–because it keeps you centered on your board and tends to feel more natural when riding fakie. However, it all comes down to what feels most comfortable for your body.

Ducked Out

“My feet are naturally pronated, or is it supinated? They're naturally 'nated in some way, and riding duck is more comfortable on my knees–not to mention terribly in fashion.”–Todd Richards

“I run positive-twelve and negative-nine. It feels more comfortable when I jump and ride switch.”–Nico Droz

Not Ducked Out

“I can't ride duck stance–it hurts my knees. I ride eighteen degrees on the front and zero on the back.”–Luke Wynen