Burton has moved into the world of alternative binding systems with something it calls the Step On system, or in the words of one sales rep, a convenience-based system that doesn’t suck.
The Step On is a reinvention of the step-in system that long ago lost out to ratcheted ladders and straps. Flow and K2 have been the key providers of alternative binding systems for years, but even those use straps and ladders. (The difference has been a highback that reclines backward, allowing you to slip your foot into and out of the binding as if it were a loafer.) But with Burton’s might and money, it’s possible that the Step On system will mean that alternatives to strap bindings (of which Burton makes plenty) will gain some traction.
Like the step-in systems of old, Burton’s Step On bindings are part of an integrated system: To use the bindings you need to buy boots specifically built for the binding. There are systems for both men and women, with the only difference being which boot you buy. In the 2017-18 season, there were two different boot models for each sex: one with an MSRP of $300 and another with an MSRP of $400. A Burton customer service official told me there will be additional models for the 2018-19 season.
The House, a national distributor, has produced a video with employee Matt Huff and Burton sales rep Jayson Henderson that gives an introduction to the Step On system. Henderson said that the system was five years and “millions of dollars” in development. Changes in engineering practicing over the last 20 years, including the rise of 3-D printing, helped the process along. The result is a “completely different riding system” compared with the step-ins of old.
Both boot models have the BOA lacing system (no more fumbling with cloth laces!) that has been making inroads in the snowboarding world for years now. The more expensive model has an adjustment dial on the shin and another one on the ankle; the less expensive one has one on the shin only. The boots come in both male and female versions. The lesser-expensive model has a softer feel; the more-expensive one has a better liner.
The boots secure to the bindings at three points: once at the heel and twice on the toes (on either side of the foot). Henderson said Burton experimented with a four-point system (two securing points on the heel) but decided it made the setup too rigid.
These are an improvement over old step-ins, Henderson said, because they are now as light as most strap systems. Their footprint is also the same width as a strap binding, and the system has no metal underfoot to introduce a dead zone.
There are two limitations to the system, Henderson allowed. One, the toes are secured to the binding by aluminum cleats and if for some reason the cleats come loose, you need to buy new boots. But, he said, they’ve been tested through cycles of hundreds of thousands of uses, and everything else about the system is replaceable, should the need occur.
The other limitation is that it’s not possible to rotate the highback from side to side. I’ve never experimented with that adjustment, so I can’t speak to how that might affect a rider. But it appears that Burton thinks that’s not enough of a problem. And by the way, it is possible to adjust the forward lean on the binding. Two small screws do the trick.
“We’re not saying this is for everybody,” Henderson concludes. But, he said, “it’s gonna bring in a lot of new people to the sport.”
And maybe it will.
But early in the 2017-18 season, Burton issued an “update” (most people would call it a recall) to one part of the system, which you can read about at Agnarchy.com. Here’s hoping the next season’s products will have no such glitches.