Pricing as shown: Women’s Stria snowboard ($549); E.S.T. bindings ($299); Q snowboard boots ($249);
For a sport as dynamic as snowboarding, it’s amazing how slow the equipment has been to evolve. Since the late ’90s, most bindings have featured a circular baseplate—typically an aluminum or plastic-and-carbon-fiber disk through which the bindings are screwed to the board. Baseplates are great for shock absorption, but they allow riders to adjust their stance in just tiny, 3-degree increments and tend to deaden the sensation of a pure ride.
It’s enough to make snowboarders of a certain age hanker for the early ’90s, when baseless bindings with no plates meant they could get their boots right up against the board. But baseless had its drawbacks, too: “It sucked to mount,” says Chris Cunningham, category manager of Vermont-based Burton Snowboards. “You had to have all sorts of holes throughout your board. You could never get the right angle, and you could never get the right stance. Plus, you were standing right on your board, so your heels were always getting bruised.”
Now Burton may have found a way to replicate the sensation of baseless without the discomfort. The first of two revolutionary systems dreamed up by Cunningham and his team is ICS, which stands for Infinite Channel System. On most boards, three or four screws determine where the bindings can be placed, and riders adjust their stance in a tight, radial pattern. ICS-enabled boards offer infinite adjustability by scrapping the three-hole binding system altogether. Instead, the new boards have two slots that let riders mount their bindings wherever they like and move back and forth along the board in a continuous range of motion.
While ICS works with any kind of binding, Burton recommends using its latest: E.S.T. (Extra Sensory Technology). Cunningham hesitates to call the new binding baseless—that term has “a stigma,” he says—but the idea is similar. “We cut out everything that’s underneath your foot and replaced it with padding”—that is, a dampening material dubbed SensoryBED. Made of shock-absorbing EVA—the foam that’s usually found in a sneaker’s midsole—the padding allows riders to feel the snow beneath their feet, without the knocks. It might sound complicated, but you won’t need an engineering degree to feel the difference. Both ICS- and E.S.T-enabled boards are available with Burton’s 2008 collection. —Paul L. Underwood