Snowboard Bindings: How to Find the Best Bindings for YouPublished on 04/24/2023 · 13 min readSnowboarding Expert Gaelen Mast walks through the different variations of snowboard bindings to help you figure out the best kind of bindings for your riding style!
TL;DR: Multiple considerations should be made when picking out new bindings, such as binding style, binding flex, and binding compatibility with your snowboard. No “perfect” binding exists, but the right one should be based on your skill level, riding style, and needs/wants.
My name is Gaelen, and I’ve devoted more than half of my life to the intricacies of the snowboard industry. Over the past 11 years, I’ve worked as a snowboard rental technician at multiple mountain resorts and in a snowboard shop. I’ve also worked with thousands of customers on Curated to help them find the right gear for their specific needs and wants! In addition, I’ve had the privilege of snowboarding 50+ days every year in locations such as Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska.
I’ve been able to own or demo many popular snowboard bindings available on today's market. In my experience, bindings seem to be the most misunderstood piece of snowboard gear out there, and many people don’t consider which bindings they choose. However, having the right binding can really enhance your snowboarding experience. All it takes is knowing which ones you need!
Today, I hope to share an overview of this information and answer common questions to better aid you in choosing your next snowboard bindings with confidence!
What Are Snowboard Bindings?
Simply put, snowboard bindings are pieces of equipment that keep your boots attached to your snowboard. They are mounted to a snowboard via special hardware and hold your boots in place via straps or other mechanisms, which we’ll explore in this article!
What to Consider When Buying Snowboard Bindings
How Expensive Are Snowboard Bindings?
Snowboard bindings can vary quite a bit in price, but in general, expect to pay anywhere between $125-$300 for a decent pair. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, and you can find good quality bindings on sale for less, but any cheaper than $125, and you risk purchasing a product that isn’t great quality.
Likewise, most riders don’t need to consider bindings that are more than $300 as they are typically highly specialized or for highly advanced snowboarders, and the casual rider wouldn’t reap the benefits. I’ve personally found the sweet spot for bindings to be in the $175-$250 range, but remember: more expensive doesn’t always mean better.
Does Ability Level Matter When Picking Out Snowboard Bindings?
The short answer is yes, just like how your ability level matters when selecting a snowboard, considering your ability level is also very relevant when choosing bindings. The main differentiating factor between bindings is their flex rating. While we’ll discuss binding flex in-depth later in this article, generally speaking, softer flexing bindings are easier to use, and stiffer bindings are more difficult. Therefore, choosing a binding with a flex rating that suits your ability level and riding style is important. More on this later.
What’s the Deal With Step-on and Rear-Entry Bindings?
Step-on and rear-entry bindings are relatively new binding technological innovations meant to provide a speedier entry and exit process for riders to get in and out of their bindings. They’re quite popular as they not only make the process of getting in and out quicker, but they also limit a rider’s need to bend over or sit down to get in and out of their bindings, making snowboarding more accessible to people with limited mobility.
However, due to the advantages of step-on and rear-entry bindings, they tend to be pricier and are harder to come by, as only a few select brands produce these types for now. It’s worth noting that while step-on and rear-entry bindings are highly coveted, they’re not the “best” bindings out there per se. Many professional snowboarders still use traditional strap bindings; the “best” bindings all come down to personal preferences and needs.
Different Types of Snowboard Bindings
In the above section, I briefly discussed several different types of snowboard bindings and their use cases. Now it’s time to take a closer look at each of them.
1. Traditional (Strap-In) Bindings
Traditional bindings (aka strap-in bindings), which use straps and a ratcheting system, have been around the longest. They’re the most common type of binding to see at the mountain and are the main type of binding offered by most companies. These bindings use a tried-and-true two-strap system: one smaller strap that goes over the very front of your boot (called the toe strap) and one larger strap that goes over the top of your boot (called the ankle steep).
These bindings work well, are typically very durable, and are easier to adjust and repair, even with little experience. They’re produced for all skill levels and every type of terrain and are typically the cheapest binding type option. They can take a bit of time to get used to, and it can be tricky to buckle and unbuckle them quickly, especially with gloves/mittens on. However, with a bit of practice, it’ll become second nature. For example, I can strap in and unstrap in about 10 seconds while standing up, but it took years of practice to do this.
- Proven track record of working for any skill level and any riding style
- More affordable than other binding types
- Has a typically easy repair process
- Wide selection of options to choose from
- Can be difficult to strap and unstrap quickly
- May require users to sit down to strap and/or unstrap
2. Step-On Bindings
Step-on snowboard bindings are the newest binding innovation that Burton Snowboards pioneered. They have no straps but require specialized boots with mechanisms that snap right into place within the binding, allowing riders to simply step into their bindings. Many people want Step-ons as they are seen as a faster method of getting in and out of bindings and can help reduce the number of times a rider has to bend over or sit down to get in their bindings. However, it is worth noting that there is a lever release system to get out of the boots that still requires riders to bend over and reach down.
Step-ons, while still new to the market, have been used for all riding styles and are suitable for any skill level. However, they are the most expensive style of bindings when the specialized boot required is taken into account, and riders should expect to pay a minimum of $600 for the boots and bindings.
- Eliminates the time it takes to strap and unstrap bindings
- Reduces the time a rider must reach down or bend over to adjust their bindings
- Expensive compared to other binding types
- Limited options for both bindings and compatible boots
- Complicated repair process
- Can only be used with compatible step-on boots and vice versa
3. Rear-Entry Bindings
Rear-entry bindings were the predecessors to Step-ons and the first “quick entry” binding. While not nearly as popular as Step-ons nowadays, some companies, including Flow and Nidecker, still produce them as a cheaper alternative to Step-ons as they can be used with any snowboard boot. Rear-entry bindings look the same as traditional strap-in bindings.
However, instead of buckling and unbuckling the straps of the bindings, users simply lower the highback to slide their foot in or out of the boots. The straps stay buckled the entire time. One can use these bindings for any riding style and skill level, and they are typically moderately priced.
- Allegedly quicker than traditional bindings and less expensive than step-on bindings
- Compatible with any type of snowboard boot (except for step-on boots)
- Complicated repair process
- Somewhat limited options for binding brands that produce this bindings style
Features to Look Out for When Buying Snowboard Bindings
As I mentioned earlier in this article, many people overlook the importance of choosing the right bindings. Below are three of the main considerations every rider should take into account before purchasing bindings.
Much like snowboards, bindings also have a flex rating on how flexible they are, specifically their highback. This flex rating goes from 1-10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the stiffest. The general rule is that softer bindings are more forgiving and less of a workout on the legs, and stiffer bindings take more effort to control but provide a more responsive board feel.
Soft Flex: Soft flexing bindings offer a more forgiving ride as the bindings don’t respond as quickly when riders move since they flex more. This means that if a rider makes a jerky movement or overcorrects, they’re less likely to fall as the energy they put into the bindings when making this movement isn’t transferred as rapidly to their board. Therefore, their board won’t, in turn, make a jerky movement too. Therefore, soft flexing bindings are suited for beginners. However, they’re also popular among freestyle riders as it allows them the most mobility for presses/butters and hitting rails, boxes, and jumps.
Medium Flex: Bindings with a medium flex are what most riders will typically use. They’re soft enough to be forgiving and easy to use but stiff enough to provide support and a responsive feel. Medium flexing bindings are great for anyone from the high-beginner phase up to advanced riders and are typically used by all-mountain riders who like to dabble in all sorts of terrain.
Stiff Flex: Bindings with a stiff flex are reserved for the riders who need the best possible response time from their boards and don’t mind working a little harder to control them. Since stiff flexing bindings have very little flex (or give), riders must exert more effort. However, stiff bindings respond much faster than other bindings, and energy transfer from the boots to the bindings to the board is almost instantaneous.
Typically, stiff bindings are only used by high intermediate to advanced riders, especially those who ride a lot of powder, steep terrain, or otherwise want the maximum response. Be advised that medium flexing bindings will do the job for most riders, even if riding expert terrain, and will be much more comfortable than stiff flexing bindings. Only purchase stiff flexing bindings if you’re willing to experience some serious leg fatigue while you get used to them.
A note about board, binding, and boot flex: It’s a good practice to try and buy a board, bindings, and boots that all have a similar flex. A bit of variety is fine (for example, if your board and boots are a medium flex but your bindings are softer flexing, this is no big deal). But if the flex between these three pieces of gear varies too much, they won’t function or react to a rider’s movements as they were intended to.
Not all bindings will fit all boards! You must choose bindings that will fit your board; otherwise, they won’t do you much good! Three main binding mounting patterns exist: 4x4, 2x4, and the channel system. Boards that use a 4x4 mounting system can use bindings with a 4x4 or 2x4 mounting pattern, and the same is true for boards that use a 2x4 mounting system. However, the channel system is where people run into issues, and that’s because only one company uses this mounting system: Burton. So if you’re considering buying a Burton board, it is imperative that you buy bindings that are compatible with the channel system.
All Burton bindings (since 2005) are compatible with the channel system, and many other brands are also starting to make compatible bindings. Alternatively, if you’re interested in pairing Burton bindings with a non-Burton board, you must get the right Burton bindings. Burton makes most of its bindings in two styles: the “Re:Flex” and the “EST.” The “Re:Flex” style of bindings will fit any brand, but the “EST” style will only work with the channel system (aka only Burton boards). So even if you’re currently interested in a Burton board and want Burton bindings, consider buying the “Re:Flex” version if possible, as they won’t limit your option to only Burton boards in the future.
Ensuring board compatibility can be a hassle and a costly mistake if done wrong. If you want to ensure you’re getting the proper bindings for your board the first time, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or another Snowboarding Expert on Curated for some free advice!
This feature may seem obvious to some, but it’s worth stating: make sure you’re purchasing the proper binding size for your snowboard boots! Unfortunately, not every brand follows the same boot sizing guidelines for their bindings, so while your size 10 snowboard boot may require a size “large” binding for one brand, it may require a size “medium” for another. So always take the time to double-check manufacturer specs to ensure you’re getting the correct binding size. The good news is almost all binding brands will post a sizing chart on their website. Simply google “brand name binding size chart” and you should find what you need!
How to Choose the Right Snowboard Bindings For You
Now that we’ve covered the main aspects of choosing bindings, it’s time to bring it all together! Below are examples of three riders I’ve helped while working at Curated. We’ll go through their needs and wants for snowboard bindings, and then I’ll cover the most important binding features to prioritize when shopping, as well providing examples of bindings that fit their criteria.
1. Adam: The Freestyle-Lovin’ All-Mountain Rider!
Adam is a freestyle snowboarder who loves to butter and press but also likes to get some speed on wide-open groomers occasionally. He doesn't want to spend much money but wants a quality binding that matches his riding style.
Features Adam should look for:
- Soft/medium binding flex for freestyle-friendliness and stability at speed.
- Traditional strap-in bindings for a lower price point.
2. Sarah: The Casual Weekend Warrior
Sarah is getting older but still loves to snowboard. She rides a non-Burton board and can’t find “Re:Flex” step-on bindings anywhere, but she’s interested in a quick-entry binding as it’s getting hard for her to reach down to buckle and unbuckle her traditional binding straps. Sarah’s a solid blue square rider and isn’t looking to do anything crazy.
Features Sarah should look for:
- Medium flex binding for a balance between comfort and stability
- Rear-entry bindings for easier use and compatibility with a non-Burton board.
3. Mark: The Determined Newbie
Mark is a beginner snowboarder who already spends enough time on his butt after falling and has no desire to spend any more time on the ground when strapping in. He was gifted a Burton board, is interested in quick-entry bindings, and is willing to spend the money to get a quality pair.
Features Mark should look for:
- Soft/medium flexing bindings for forgiveness and ease of use while learning.
- Burton Step-on bindings in either an “EST or “Re:Flex” style.
Hopefully, you’ve seen how your ability level and riding style play a huge role in what sort of snowboard binding you choose. While there’s no “perfect” binding out there for you, there are various factors you should take into account to pick bindings that will suit you well! If you’re still feeling as if you’d like some further assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to my fellow Curated Snowboarding Experts or me for free snowboard gear advice! Happy shredding!