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soft boot setup for non-carving days

John K

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Boots-hmmmm, try on alot and be wary of heel lift.

Bindings-well, I have to say buying Burton P1C's with capstraps was the most comfortable softie setup decision I made when I rode with a soft setup. My old synchros caused alot of toe numbness with the toe straps because I would ratchet them down very hard to make up for the mongo heel lift I was getting. The capstraps go over the front of the boots...

Alternatively, look at Flow bindings.......

Boards....that depends on if you like stiff or soft rides.....

Burtons-nice but not durable

Never Summers-nice, durable, heavy

Ride-the ones I've ridden were nice but I only demo'd

also, many alpine manufacturers make freestyle boards too-Donek, Prior, Nidecker....

also, I'm not too technical so "nice" means a soft board with alot of pop to me


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I used K2 clickers for 4 years until the cleat on one of the boots tore from the sole last year. I replaced the boots but had the same failure after my first use. With the clicker line being discontinued I had to start over.

Three things I liked about the setup were the firm forward flex provided by the boot (Transformer model), the BOA cable lacing system, and the fact that I did not have to sit down to strap in. I wanted to retain those qualities in a new setup.

I went with Flow Aviator boots because they have the BOA and were advertised as a stiff, big mountain boot. After a few weeks of use I'm very pleased. They are light yet stiff. The forward flex is comfortably progressive. Having tried on Burton Riders I felt they were stiff but when pushed too far the body of the boot would deform causing pressure points on the top of the foot. The aviator flex is much smoother and can be controlled more easily through the BOA lacing.

I paired them with the Flow Pro-xfr binding. The rear entry comes close to simulating the click-in convenience. Harder to do it on the fly but at least I don't have to sit down at the top of each lift. The powerstrap is asymmetrical and comes up higher than a freestyle binding would, adding to the toeside stiffness. I have found them to be very comfortable. They hold the boot solidly without needing to by cinched down.

There is a common tendency to look for the stiffest setup possible just to be safe and I have to admit that the setup as a whole is stiffer than I need it to be on a usual day. However, by switching the powerstraps so that I'm leaning against the short side and not cranking down on the boots I've found a very comfortable and responsive ride. And on those steep and fast days it's so easy to just put a few more twists on the BOA and a few turns of the highback tensioner and I'm rock solid.

I have no special insight on the board. I ride a Volkl Sting which they classify as an all-mountain/freeride board and it has certainly served me well.

I also don't have any insight on switching from hard to soft since this is my first season on hardboots/carving board and I've never used hardboots on a "soft" board.

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bindings: find ones that are adjustable with good ankle straps. i do appreciate the ride ex's that i have been rocking for this year. i like that the base plate doesn't bend as much as a plastic one. also the highback can be rotated apart from moving the ankle strap. i've also been playing with the inbinding Kickerfoot cant/lift thing and i must admit that it is a good thing.

boards: support a smaller company. these folks are motivated by boarding and are committed to putting out great rides. they're gonna bust their butt to make sure that you are hooked up with the best ride possible, and it will be well worth any wait time.

boots: ride in something that fits well. get these first, then find a binding that it works exceedingly well with. with great fitting boots and great fitting bindings you can ride a 2 by 6 down the hill.

burton boots from this season are packing out quickly (this is based on all my co-workers who are at about day 50 in their boots who think they should have sized down. they fit very well for a while and now there is too much play).

leather boots rock. leather is a fantastic material for boots, and once waterproofed tends to last forever long. look for it. also look for liners that are well constructed. seams should be at least double stitched, especially in key areas.

and all the footbeds are terrible (for the most part). you should plan to replace these immediately.

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Have you tried softer RAB's (either homemade or the Bomber's) on the 224's? I've done some mods on the 224's (already soft hardboots) to make them relatively flexible (I could go into detail if you're interested) but with the potential of going stiffer with stiffer springs. They are about as flexible as my Malamutes fore-aft but still have the lateral stiffness to help out at the end of the day. If I want to have more lateral flexibility I just loosen the top two buckles and I basically have soft boots on. I'm seriously considering giving up on softies altogether with the abilities the modded 224's give me. Anyway just a thought.

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Expanding on alpinegirl's binding notes:

Get something where the entire heel cup / highback assembly can not only rotate, but slide towards/away the foot flat. This allows you to precisely center the heel and toe of your boot across the board while still keeping the binding disk centered on the board, which in turn allows you to use the disk to make small adjustments in stace width rather than heel/toe balance. I've noticed since I started hardbooting that I am *much* more senstitive to both toe/heel balance and stance width than I used to be. If I spent much time in softies I would sell my Salomon SP6's and replace them with some Rides or other bindings that allow for such adjustment. I also use the Catek freerides but the more I use them, the less I like them... They aren't as comfortable as other bindings for me (even with super-comfy Salomon straps and HB) and they don't offer the "soft boot feel" that I want. If I'm going to have a setup that feels like plates, I'll just ride plates since my hardboots fit better. The Catek FRs are nice and adjustable though!

Boots - keep in mind that softies are less "fittable" than hard boots... so they need to be a decent fit right out of the box... except they will pack out generally.

Boards - I am partial to Donek Freeride boards, some find them too stiff. I like a Wide 161 which some would say is too short and too wide given my weight and boot size, but it has plenty of surface area and I can rip it around in trees at slow speeds, although I find I prefer plates and an Axis 172 or similar which feels better at higher speeds for that. My wife has a slightly customized Donek Phoenix 155 that she loves.

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there are some great softboot bindings out there, catek pros, burton P1s, nidecker 900s and Ride tomcats all rock

boots I like burton Drivers but with boots go for fit so thats gonna depend on you

for boards there are a ton of options Burton makes some decent stuff as do most other companies but I am partial to never summer, Ride and Rome

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It all really depends on what kind of riding you will be doing when you "aren't carving." Having ridden with you a lot recently, I am pretty sure you mean two things: 1) following skiers down KT-22/Headwall and 2) powder (and powder related stuff, like chop, or possibly trees if I can talk you into it(!)).

I don't think you mean going mach-50 through chop in massive, arcing lines. If you were, I'd recommend Randy S's setup with like a 210cm monster and hardboots ;)

But I think the kind of non-carving riding would be like the non-carving riding I do, and so I'd say a pretty stiff softboots for some support at medium speeds and a short, floaty board you can muscle around those Volkswagon-sized moguls on Silverado.

My setup is:

Solomon Malamutes (Nice, stiff boot)

Catek Freerides (nice so you can put in some heellift to help negate that torsional twist when you rotate towards the nose on your heelsides)

156 Prior Khyber (Burton fish-like shape so it floats without having to put 90% of your weight on the back foot yet short enough to be super easy to whip that tail around in chutes/trees/chop/moguls.

I like all of those items.

The previously recommended Never Summer I also really like. I have a 161 Premiere that was a wonderful go-anywhere board. It cut through chop at higher speeds than the Khyber does, but I don't see you as a huge speed demon anyways...

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I personally like my Malamutes, they're stiff and they have the speedlace system so I don't have to worry about tying them tight enough. I'm never going to buy another boot that I have to tie, I'll either stick with Salomons or find a boot with the Boa system.

For bindings I cannot say enough good things about the Ride EX binding. It's aluminum construction, so you can still be riding them 6 years down the road. They're stiff, and very comfortable and supportive ankle straps, and the toe strap in convertable between a standard toe strap, or you can rotate it forward and use it as a cap strap. The binding is fully adjustable, except for highback rotation. If you have the money, the Ride SPI is a nice step up with it's nicer rachets and stiffer baseplate.

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For bindings I cannot say enough good things about the Ride EX binding. It's aluminum construction, ....QUOTE]

Yeah, I have them for many years now. Actually, after owning the whole series (LS, LX, EX) I actually like the LS the best since it does not have the toe riser on it. Nothing ruins a healside carve like a toe riser. So I have to grind it off the LX and EX series. Now, in fact, I not only grind off the toe riser but I buy a hard piece of 3/8 rubber (from my local hardware store) and glue it to the heal so that I have forward cant. Again, this makes the binding carve a mean healside.

But things changed for me this year because of this website. All the positive reviews about Flows made me go and try a set:

Flow XFR (I ride them at 18 & 9 degrees)

I bought the M/L size which is just barely large enough for my size 9 boot to keep the fit tight (again from warnings on this website to get the smaller size for your boot). Well, let me say it is night and day over all the strap bindings I have ever owned. Carve Friendly? That is an understatement. This is the closest thing to hardboots you will ever strap to your feet. I have always hated my 160 Donek Incline with any model Ride bindings but with the Flows this board "carves the house" !

But Flows are an enigma to me when it comes to ease of use. I don't find them easy to get on, get off or comfortable on the lift either. In fact I find them largely to be a big pain in the ass in that regard. But man can they ever carve!

I also know why someone here said you always see "Flow riders laying on their stomachs trying to enter/exit their bindings for some reason". Well I know why now. And that is because that is your ONLY fallback position if you can't lock in while standing up.


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oh yeah, forgot about that thing that i took for granted (heel toe centering). already did that so i don't think about it.

but dude, the ride ex binding does indeed have a rotating highback. either that or i have been smoking some very heavy stuff (yeah, currently injured, but no pain meds). if i go and stare at my pair in cedar red (ooh, yeah), i see that the highback can indeed be rotated.

oh well, waxing marathon.

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You'll be soorrry! I entertained the same evil thoughts last year and went ahead and bought some top o' the line Solomon boots and bindings and mounted them on a Prior Khyber. Long story short....can't stand it! The only advantage I've found is that walking around is a bit easier. Tonight I'm going to mount a pair of Bomber stepins on the board and use my 224's maybe in the walk mode. Unless you're in the half pipe/park I really don't see any advantage to the soft boot setup. Just the hassle of putting on the boots and getting into the bindings was enough to turn me off. Well...that and the lack of control when riding. I bought the board for bumps, trees , powder and general sloppy conditions.. I love the board but have no time for the softy setup. Just my take on it.


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You'll be soorrry!... Unless you're in the half pipe/park I really don't see any advantage to the soft boot setup.


I'm in total agreement with Miguel. Take your all mountain board and put on some flexy plate bindings (F2/Proflex) and use a soft hardboot like the Raichle SB413.

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Call john Mcginnis of garage snowboards he builds the best stuff out there and it isn't on the open market yet so its great semi custom stuff for a great price. He builds great all mountain boards to. 406-250-2220

I recomend vans switch ntypes with boots that fit tight in the heel. heel lift sucks. Ebay is the only source left for the most part for the switch step ins

PS you will hate it on the groom but its great in the deep steep stuff particularly off run in the trees.

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Guest owaysys


Buy these first. Make sure they fit. Size down from your shoe size, because the liners will pack out, no matter what the manufacturer. I wear a size 10.5 or 11 street shoe and wear size 9 boots. How far to size down is personal preference.


DON'T MIX BRANDS!!! That's my only advice. Find a boot that fits and then buy bindings that are made by the same company. This may not be such a huge problem for all boot/binding combinations, but I had a serious problem mixing Burton boots with Ride bindings. Both (Burton Ion boots, Ride Tomcat bindings) were high-end products, but just didn't work well together. The boots were so much narrower than the binding that my boots slid around even when I had the straps ratcheted all to hell. At the least, buy boots that fit then have them with you when you're buying bindings. Manufacturers usually design their bindings to fit their boots. Oh and yes, Ride's highbacks do rotate, as do Technine's. They don't have as much adjustability as Burton, but they are adjustable.


So many options, so little time... I rode only Burton boards for a long time and liked them a lot, but then I didn't really have anything to compare them to.

Boards that I've ridden recently and liked:

Illuminati Hybricon Light 161.5(www.illuminatisnowboards.com)

A small Jackson, WY company owned and operated by its pro riders. Bryan Iguchi, the former Burton pro, rides for them now. His pro model is evidently pretty sick.

pros: holds edge better than any soft board i've ridden, burly base, holds wax well, excellent warranty department and customer service (you can still exchange emails with Lance, the president, if you're into that)

cons: illuminati doesn't sell boards through shops, so you have to buy, bring up warranty issues, etc. directly with the company

Santa Cruz Guerrilla Division AK 159 (http://www.scskate.com/snow/05_06/)

Been in it a long time. This board is wide (26.2 cm waist), but they make a ton of models and their top-end boards are pretty sweet.

pros: poppy and responsive, durable base, cool graphics

cons: weird base structure (speed dimples?), base doesn't hold wax very well (it's extruded, not sintered), topsheet scratches very easily

Burton Custom 162 (www.burton.com)

The Custom line has been around forever, and just keeps getting better. The last one I rode was an 02/03

pros: light, quick edge-to-edge, really snappy, base holds wax well, good warranty department

cons: soft base, not durable, history of snapping cores under stress from heavy/strong riders.


Bottom Line: If I rode in the Midwest or East Coast, I would ride all Burton stuff, all the time. Since I live with the reality of rocks on groomers and everything else off the groomers, I still ride Burton boots and bindings but have switched to more durable, better warranteed boards.

Hope this helps!

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