Burton Step On

The Burton Step On system revealed. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Burton Step On

Burton VP of Product Chris Cunningham, who helped to create Burton Step On discusses the boot interface on Wednesday morning. p: Walsh

words: Pat Bridges

photos: Mary Walsh and Gabe L'Heureux

After years of rumors and elusive on snow sightings, Burton officially unveiled their new Step On strapless binding system to select media, retailers, and pro riders at Vail, Colorado on Wednesday December 14, 2016. With a few inches of accumulation overnight and intermittent flurries throughout the day, all manner of conditions were on tap for this debut, making it an ideal opportunity to see how the Step Ons held up in firm, soft, cold, and variable snowpack. Along for this maiden voyage were Alex Andrews, Kimmy Fasani, Jack Mitrani, Danny Davis, Dave Downing, Terje Haakonsen and retailers like Dennis Nazari from Salty Peaks and Raul Pinto from Satellite.

While I had heard speculation about the Step On project a few seasons back, it wasn’t until the US Open last spring that I had a chance to not only look at a pair up close, but also see ‘em in action. Mid-nineties switch stance evangelist, Dave Downing and Burton good times ambassador, Alex Andrews were each running a pair as we lapped Vail. They were both turning, jibbing and jumping, but I didn’t pay too much attention as it seemed like more of a novelty than anything else. Two months later, while on a trip to Riksgransen, Sweden, Terje Haakonsen debunked my skepticism and completely changed my opinion, cementing the notion that these aren’t the punchline step-ins of the past. Terje showed up for the King of the Hill reunion and the Riksgransen Banked Slalom with a pair of Step Ons mounted and ready to ride. What you need to know about Terje is that he is very particular about his setups. For instance, Haakon has been known to splitboard up a mountain with a normal board strapped to his back just so he doesn’t have to compromise performance on the descent. Knowing this, I figured he would ride a hundred yards in the Step Ons and then hike down the rest of the mountain in disgust. Instead, he practically smoked the whole field in the race en route to winning the masters division and then proceeded to send not one, but two methods sixty feet into the middle of a rugged, pepper-strewn, ungroomed mogul field! As a matter of fact, I don’t think I even realized Terje was riding the Step Ons until the end of the day. He was just riding like Terje, which when it comes to something as illustrious as step-in bindings, is a very good thing.

Burton Snowboards Step On, Kimmy Fasani

Kimmy Fasani showing off the women's Step On bindings. p: Gabe L'Heureux.

Burton Snowboards Step On

Getting to untracked runs quicker at Vail. p: Gabe L'Heureux.

Jack Mitrani and Kimmy Fasani, Burton Step On

Jack Mitrani and Kimmy Fasani. p: Walsh

Alex Andrews, Burton Step On

Alex Andrews, mid-froth. p: Walsh

Dave Downing, Burton Step On

Dave Downing assists was on hand at Vail to help familiarize everyone with their strapless set ups. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Burton Step On

(clockwise from lower left) SNOWBOARDER Creative Director Pat Bridges, Burton VP of Brand Marketing Randy Torcum, Burton VP of Product Chris Cunningham, Burton Director of Rapid Prototyping Chris Doyle and Terje Haakonsen on the first ride up of the day. p: Walsh

Terje Haakonsen, Burton Step On

Terje shared his experience for Step On novices. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Burton Step On

The Step Ons ability in powder was tested extensively at the binding's release in Vail. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Raul Pinto

Satellite Boardshop Owner, Raul Pinto laid down some groomer carves before hopping on the lift to snag more powder turns. p: Walsh

Wang Lei

Kimmy Fasani warms up with some flatground fun. p: Walsh

Burton Step On

The Burton Step On system presentation prior to heading on hill. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Burton Step On

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 Haakonsen, Burton Step On

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.

Terje Haakonsen

Terje. Method. p: Walsh

Burton Step On

No stopping at the top of the lift. Step On and go. p: Walsh

Burton Step On

Burton VP of Brand Marketing, Randy Torcom introduces Step On to everyone Wednesday morning. p: Gabe L'Heureux

Burton Step On

Nice bibs! Kimmy Fasani and Burton Hardgoods Product Manager, Clarissa Finks. p: Walsh

Terje, providing insane style on Vail's plethora of sidehits. p: Walsh

Randy Torcum, Burton Step On

Randy Torcom throwing up a roost at Vail. p: Walsh

Alex Andrews, Burton Step On

Alex Andrews sends one out of the Vail woods. p: Walsh

Skeptics may scoff at the return of step-ins, yet without the notion that antiquated concepts can be revisited and updated with modern engineering, materials and design philosophy we wouldn’t see reverse camber on every beginner slope, swallow tails on every pow day or asymmetric shapes in every new school park edit. Who knows, maybe ten years from now step-ins and Step Ons could become the norm and I may be sitting here writing an article about how someone is re-introducing strap bindings.

The Burton Step On binding will be available next fall at select Burton retailers (roughly seventy storefronts worldwide) for $249.95, with the Ruler Step On boot retailing for $299.95 and Photon Step On boot available for $399.95. The Limelight Step On boot ($299.95) and Felix Step On boot (399.95) are the women’s specific models for the Step On binding and will be available at the same time.

Burton Step On

Burton Sales Director Mark Wakeling, Satellite Boardshop Ownder Raul Pinto, and professional froth puppy Alex Andrews. p: Walsh