An Expert Guide to Union BindingsPublished on 07/11/2023 · 12 min readStrap in for success with our expert guide to Union bindings. Discover the perfect blend of comfort, performance, and durability for your snowboarding adventures!"
Photo courtesy of Union
TL;DR: Union offers a range from beginner to advanced, all-mountain to freestyle and freeride bindings — and there are many models to choose from. Considering your snowboarding experience level, riding style, and the attributes of your current snowboard will help you choose the best model for you.
My name is Gaelen, and you could say I’m a bit of a snowboard gearhead. I’ve been riding for 11 years, and I’ve been involved in the snowboarding industry for the past six years. During this time, I’ve had the chance to research most of the snowboard gear you can buy today, totally nerd out over the technical specs of various products, and test out a TON of gear firsthand when riding in places like Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, and even Alaska!
Today I want to discuss Union, one of my favorite brands on the market! Through the years, I’ve had the chance to demo many of their bindings, I currently own two different pairs from them, and I have spent many hours explaining their various models to customers both in-person at the snowboard shop I worked for and right here as a Snowboarding Expert for Curated!
Many people think of Union as the best snowboard bindings on the planet, you’ll see them at every mountain you go to, and they’re one of the best-selling binding brands on the market today! Union was founded in Seattle, Washington, in 2005. The brand is acclaimed for its premium, durable bindings designed to enhance performance on snow. They immediately began gaining popularity because of their fantastic durability.
This is also what makes them so legendary today as they continue to pioneer new technology to make their bindings even stronger. All of their products are made in-house, and they’re independently and employee-owned, making them one of the most core snowboard brands out there!
What to Consider When Buying Union Bindings
1. How Much Do Union Bindings Cost?
Most of Union’s bindings fall in the $200-$300 range for both men and women. They also have entry-level options for under $200: the Union Flite Pros (men’s) and the Union Rosa (women’s). Their most expensive bindings are from the Atlas series and can reach up to $469 (for the 2024 model).
For perspective, the average binding costs about $150-$300, and while there are plenty of options that are cheaper or more expensive than this, it’s safe to say Union is about on par with the rest of the industry, if not just a touch more expensive.
2. Is a More Expensive Binding From Union Better?
No, this is a common misconception for snowboard products as a whole. While saying that you “get what you pay for” is true to an extent, buying the most expensive binding, board, or anything snowboard-related doesn’t mean it’ll be the best for you. While I would never advise looking for the cheapest possible option, you don’t always need the most expensive either.
That’s because it’s more important to get snowboard gear that suits your ability level and riding style more than anything else. Simply buying the most expensive pair of bindings from Union that you can afford may mean you’ll end up with a product that doesn’t suit your ability level and riding style and will actually make your life harder.
3. What’s My Ability Level and Riding Style?
Ability level is somewhat easy to gauge as trails at a ski resort are typically rated accordingly: green circle (beginner), blue square (intermediate), black diamond (advanced), and double black/triple black diamond (expert). While these ratings aren’t standardized across all ski resorts, knowing what trail rating you can comfortably ride at your local mountain gives you a decent idea of your ability level.
Your riding style is a little more subjective. Some people like to ride only groomed trails. Some like to seek out ungroomed off-piste riding, and some like spending their days in the terrain park doing tricks. Many people also like to dabble in a bit of everything, and that’s alright too! You don’t need to fall neatly into any of these categories, but consider what sort of terrain you enjoy the most. Knowing this will come in handy later when we look at the different types of bindings that Union sells
3. What Binding Flex Do I Need?
Binding flex is perhaps the single most important consideration you should make when choosing which bindings to purchase from Union. Bindings are typically rated as either soft, medium, or stiff flexing, and all have their own purposes. Soft flexing bindings are more comfortable and put less strain on your calves but aren’t as responsive. Stiff flexing bindings are very responsive but are less comfortable and can put more strain on your calves. Medium-flexing bindings try to strike a balance in the middle.
I’ll explore this concept a bit more when we look at the different types of bindings Union produces later in this article! Additionally, you should always try to match your binding flex as closely as possible to the flex of your snowboard. This will create a smoother transfer of energy from your body through your bindings and into your board’s movements.
4. Which Union Binding Size Do I Need?
Union has an awesome interactive section on its website that will give you this information! All you have to do is input some relevant information needed to determine your binding size from them. You can check that out here.
What Are the Different Types of Union Bindings?
Union offers a diverse range of bindings, each tailored to specific riding styles and experience levels. In this section, I'll explore the variety of Union's offerings, detailing their unique features and benefits to help you identify the best fit for your snowboarding needs.
1. All-Mountain Bindings
All-mountain bindings are designed for versatility and provide solid performance in just about any terrain and snow condition. They’re typically medium flexing which will provide all-day comfort and enough control and support to tackle just about the entire mountain.
- They are designed to handle a variety of terrains and conditions, making them suitable for riders who like to explore different parts of the mountain
- Offer a balance between flexibility and stiffness, accommodating a wide range of riding styles
Keep in Mind:
- While they're versatile, they won’t deliver the highest performance for specific styles like park or powder
- Some all-mountain bindings might be too aggressive for beginners who need more forgiving flex
2. Freestyle Bindings
Freestyle bindings are for riders who spend a lot of time in the terrain park and ideally have a freestyle-specific snowboard. They typically have softer flexing to make it easier for presses and tricks that require a wide range of movement, but some freestyle bindings can have a stiffer flex if they’re geared towards bigger jumps and absorbing impact.
- They offer a softer flex which makes it easier to perform tricks and presses
- They’re often lighter weight, so riders can pop higher
- Typically designed with good shock absorption to handle the impact
Keep in mind:
- Not all freestyle bindings are soft flexing — make sure you choose the right ones
- Their softer flex might not provide enough support and stability for high-speed carving or steep terrain.
3. Freeride/Powder Bindings
These bindings are for off-piste snowboarding: trees, moguls, powder, and any other uneven terrain you can find! They usually have a stiffer flex, giving you precise control and stability at high speeds.
- These offer greater control and responsiveness in gnarly terrain
- These provide increased stability at high speeds and in variable conditions
- Built to withstand harsh conditions, so they’re often very durable
Keep in mind:
- The stiffer flex will be unforgiving, making them unsuitable for beginners
- The stiffer flex may make your calves ache as they take more energy to control
- These are not designed for freestyle riding and don’t give the proper range of movement needed
- Union Atlas Pro
- Union Falcor
4. Youth Bindings
Union also caters to younger riders with some of the best youth bindings in the industry. They’re specifically designed to fit smaller youth boot sizes.
- Designed for smaller boots
- Typically feature a softer flex, making them more forgiving for beginners
- Many models offer room for growth with adjustable size features.
Keep in mind:
- Kids can quickly outgrow their gear, requiring frequent replacements
- Fewer high-performance models available for advanced young riders
- Youth sizing can be tricky
- Union Cadet
- Union Cadet Pro
Features to Look for in Union Bindings
Below are two lists of features to look for in your next pair of Union bindings. The first list includes generalized binding features that are important to consider for any brand, and the second list includes key features specific to Union bindings.
- Flex Rating: The flex rating will dictate both the comfort and response of the bindings.
- Baseplate: The baseplate connects your boot to the board. Baseplates can be built with different materials with different durability and weight levels.
- Highback: The highback provides support for your calves during turns. The flex rating of a binding reflects the flex rating of the highback.
- Straps: Straps secure your boots into the binding and come in many different styles. They have different levels of cushioning and are made of different materials, which can affect binding response and comfort.
- Cushioning: Many bindings have cushioning, which reduces the impact on your feet and legs when landing jumps or riding on rough terrains. More cushioning means there will be less board feel.
Specific features and technologies unique to Union bindings include:
- Duraflex ST Nylon: Exclusive to Union, Duraflex material is designed to maintain its integrity in cold temperatures, offering a consistent ride in any weather. It's used in various parts of the bindings, like the baseplates and heel cups, ensuring durability and responsiveness.
- Magnesium Ratchets: Union uses magnesium for their ratchets because it's four times stronger than aluminum while remaining very light. This results in a durable ratchet system that won't weigh you down.
- Extruded 3D Aluminum Heel Cups: This technology enhances the binding's response and reduces the overall weight. The heel cups are designed to optimally fit your boots, ensuring a secure and comfortable ride.
- Forma Ankle Straps: These are designed to provide better comfort and response. The design distributes pressure evenly, allowing for a snug, secure fit.
- Canted Gas Pedals: Union's canted footbeds angle your stance, aligning your joints for a more natural and comfortable riding position. This can reduce leg fatigue and improve your control over the board.
- Ultra Grip Toe Straps: These straps use thermoplastic anti-slip material to keep your boot securely in place, so you can wear the toe strap over the top of the boot or over the toes
- Mini Disk System: This system reduces the baseplate contact area on the board, allowing for a more natural board flex and feel. It's compatible with all current mounting systems, including the 4x2 and the Channel from Burton.
How to Choose the Right Union Bindings for You
Below are a couple of scenarios of snowboarders I’ve helped here on Curated! Let’s look at their needs, features they should look for in a pair of bindings, and what bindings from Union might best suit them. Think of this as a mental exercise where you take all the above information and put it to work!
Meghan is an intermediate snowboarder who wants the legendary durability from Union but doesn’t want to spend a ton of money. She’s an all-mountain rider looking for a good value deal for her money!
Features to Look For:
- Lower-priced Union bindings
- All-mountain focused bindings with a soft/medium flex to them
Union Bindings to Consider:
Riley is a freestyle rider and wants some bindings that will give him plenty of range to really work on his butters and presses. He’ll be putting these bindings on his freestyle-specific board, so he’s ok with them not being useful in other terrain.
Features to Look For:
- Freestyle-focused bindings with a soft flex to them
- Lightweight bindings for a lighter snowboard set-up overall
- Some cushioning for impact when landing
Union Bindings to Consider:
James is an all-mountain rider, but he enjoys riding gnarlier terrain from time to time when there is fresh snow. He’s worried about getting freeride bindings because they may hurt his legs, but he also wants plenty of response when he finds his way onto steeper terrain.
- Medium/stiff flexing bindings for a good blend of response and comfort
- All-mountain or freeride-oriented bindings depending on flex rating
Union Bindings to Consider:
Are Union Bindings Right For You
Ideally, after reading this article, you’ve gotten a feel for Union bindings and what they’re all about! This guide is meant to serve as a starting point for your research into Union products. However, this doesn’t have to be the end of your research phase with Curated. That’s because, at Curated, you can chat (for free) with me to determine the best board, bindings, or boots for you based on all your specific needs and wants!
It takes only a few minutes to get connected with me or one of my fellow Snowboarding Experts and start chatting, and there’s no obligation to purchase anything or any hidden fees. If you’re interested, you can get started here!