When I first heard about the Burton Step On Binding – like most – I was apprehensive. My mind immediately went back to my early days of using rental equipment, the stiff boots my 90-pound body couldn’t flex, and the inevitable ice buildup on the bindings that always had me questioning whether or not my boot was actually locked in.
It had been 10+ years though, and I figured if Burton was going to re-launch something this big they were going to do it right. With that in mind I headed out to Vail, Colorado for the first retailer/media demo and gave it a shot. Here are some of my first impressions:
I rode the Felix boot. Not only because I prefer a stiffer boot and Focus Boa, but I liked the idea of the strap on the instep, as I was hoping for a similar feel to that of a strap in binding. I also own the regular version of the Felix so I figured I would be able to tell if the boot felt stiffer, more sluggish, heavy etc. It didn’t. In fact it felt pretty similar to the regular Felix and nothing like the step in boots of old.
As I stepped onto my binding for the first time, it took me a second to line it up correctly. Those who had already been riding it for days could step right in while riding off the chair, but for me this took a bit of practice initially. My stance is pretty wide so that wasn’t helping, but by the end of the day I was getting in with ease.
Getting out took a second to get used to also, as my natural instinct had been to pull the release then to pull my foot straight up and out of the binding like a regular strap in binding. This was causing the binding to grab back onto my boot. A fellow rider noticed and told me to tilt my knee inward and just like that I popped right out. After that it was easy. Even with a bit of snow buildup underfoot I was able to quickly get in and out of the Burton Step On Binding.
What surprised me the most was how comfortable the Burton Step On Binding ended up being. About midway through my first run I forgot – I had forgotten – anything was different. I felt like I still had the same control and response found in a traditional binding. If not a bit of a closer feel as I wasn’t losing the response in the connection between the boot and binding, they were acting as one. I was also able to flex the boot normally and it felt consistent, and true.
In the name of full disclosure, we had gotten over a foot of fresh powder the night before, and in the back of my head was the nagging notion that anything could feel good right now and the true test would be on something a little more hard-packed. A few months later though, I had that very opportunity and I’m happy to report that I still felt the same way.
Today is 11/2/2017 and last night I received my very own Burton Step On Binding system. Holy crap did they make some amazing minor adjustments changes for production. When I mentioned above that it “took a bit of practice initially” I was referring to a few things. Previously it took a second for me to make sure the heel piece was lined up and after that when I would snap the two toe pieces in it took a little effort. I found this was consistent with other lightweight riders. What I received today, which is what is available for consumers, has a slightly different heel piece and what I imagine are softer “wings” for the toe pieces to lock into. To make a long story short, I can now step in smoothly and effortlessly with one motion. It’s incredible. I just stepped into my binding without it on a board, with my eyes closed and got in first try. I quickly showed it off to anyone else who had demoed the preproduction system and they were amazed.
With any new product there are bound to be initial bugs, but that’s where Burton’s countless hours of testing and doing these demos over the past year well before the product made it to production comes in. I don’t mention these to bash the product or lower anyone’s confidence in it by any means but simply to illustrate that Burton was committed to putting out a complete and working product and that’s exactly what they have done.
When you hear legendary riders like Terje Haakonsen and Kimmy Fasani raving about it, it’s hard not to get on board. The Burton Step On Binding system is fast – worlds different than the old school step in’s, and could potentially bring those with bad knees or the inability to easily get up and down, back to the sport. It also makes things easier for those riding with skiers because no one is waiting up for you and in the Midwest, where runs can take a whole 2 minutes to get down (it could probably even get you a handful more runs).
Will I make the switch personally? Maybe; I’m a bit of a creature of habit so making a full on boot and binding switch is a pretty big deal. I’ll be giving the Limelight’s a shot this season because the Felix just isn’t the right fit for my foot, and will probably be switching back and forth for a while. I may not be 100% ready to make the jump, but I was impressed and am confident in the product.
I will also say that there is something to be said about not having to bend over and strap in when you’ve had a few too many the night before.