Kimmy Fasani warms up with some flatground fun. p: Walsh
The Burton Step On system presentation prior to heading on hill. p: Gabe L'Heureux
Doyle, Terje, and the Burton Step On binding. p: Walsh
So, what makes the Step Ons different than the Clicker, Device, Switch, Arcane, T-Bone, or even Burton’s own SI offering of the 90’s? Well for starters, this isn’t a rush to market gimmick. Four years ago, Jake Burton rounded up his most elite group of engineers and said this was his moonshot. Guys like Burton VP of Product, Chris Cunningham and Director of Rapid Prototyping, Chris Doyle were then sequestered from the rest of the company and given as much time and as many resources as they needed to re-invent the step-in. Tens of thousands of man hours, hundreds of prototype,s and millions of dollars in R&D later, the result is the Jake-coined, Step On. The most distinctive characteristic of the Step On is its three points of contact. Flanking the toe box of the boot are two hooks, with a cleat on the heel providing the third connection point. The motion to engage is heel-to-toe, which is less intuitive for people with a skiing background, but simple to use nonetheless. One of the most novel aspects of the Step On is Burton’s choice of a ratchet and ladder for the heal engagement. For nearly a quarter of a century Burton has been perfecting their ubiquitous ratchet mechanism for use on straps. This approach is rather ingenious considering that the same performance, durability, and ease of use that makes a strap worthy is what will ultimately need to be achieved with the Step Ons. Once a rider’s heel is led to the back of the baseplate tray, a series of clicks will inform the user that the boot is locked. From there, a rider leans forward and clicks the two fore hooks in place. Release comes from a lever protruding from the side of the heelcup. Burton claims this system will save an average rider thirty seconds a run, though bystanders dumfounded by the lack of straps asking to check them out will make this time savings negligible until widely adopted. Aside from the aforementioned lack of straps, the Step Ons look like any other traditional binding, complete with a baseplate and highback. Channel, three-hole and four-hole compatibility comes from the use of Burton’s Re:Flex disc, meaning Step Ons will be useable on virtually any board available in the last three decades, as well as for many years to come.
Terje investigates and early season drop. p: Walsh
With the exception of a fifteen-minute carpet session at the Burton headquarters in July, December 14th was my first time getting a chance to experience the Step Ons firsthand. It is worth noting that this debut journey was complicated by the fact that I was broadcasting the run on Facebook Live, which meant that I was not only taking my first turns ever in step-ins, or in Boa boots for that matter, but I was also filming and follow-caming the whole process. Upon reflection, the most striking part of the experience is how uneventful it was. By that I mean, I connected my boots to the bindings sans straps, without using my hands in any way and was focused on filming from that moment on. At no point did I feel too much or too little connection. It wasn’t loose, it wasn’t stiff. Honestly, I just felt like I was snowboarding. That isn’t to say I didn’t yearn for adjustment. Just like any new boots or bindings, user tweaks are to be expected. With the dual Boa and internal lacing there are a lot of variables to getting the boots themselves dialed and furthermore, the Photons I was using were new, which meant they could use some breaking in. So, while I didn’t fret at all about the unique attributes of the Step Ons themselves, the ease of engagement and disengagement, flex, forward lean, warmth, weight, etc., I did feel like I needed to invest some time in adjusting to the Photons as they seemed stiffer than my normal fare, particularly in the toe box. Three weeks ago, I encountered the same challenges while breaking in a new pair of adidas Sambas right out of the box. After a couple of days of trial and error with lacing techniques and allowing my foot and the bladder to get acquainted, the Sambas provided hassle free comfort and performance. Knowing this is the norm for all new boots, I am optimistic that the Photon and the softer flexing Step On Ruler boots could be as comfortable for my foot as anything else out there. I should also point out that there have been bindings as recently as last season where I spent a single day using them and vowed never to try them again. The ultimate test would be to have a strap binding on the front and a Step On mounted on the back. That’d be an interesting approach for Burton to take at on snow demos this spring.