So you’ve got your board and your boots and you’re ready to shred! Not so fast, little grommet (or big grommet? Who knows, maybe you’re taller than me)…what about snowboard bindings?
As someone who has fond memories of the look of sheer terror on my dad’s face when I first took him snowboarding and he discovered he would be stuck to the snowboard for the whole ride down the mountain, trust me- snowboard bindings are important.
Snowboard bindings play a part in everything from board feel to turning and carving to, well, looking cool as you glide effortlessly down the double blacks…or even as you catch an edge and go sprawling sideways down the bunny slope. Either way, we’re here for you.
Before we get into our reviews of the best snowboard bindings for park/freestyle, we’ll go over some basics so you can communicate with the fine folks at the ski and board shop without having to pull out your phone and Google everything.
- What To Look For In Freestyle Snowboard Bindings
- 5 Best Snowboard Bindings For Park/Freestyle
What To Look For In Freestyle Snowboard Bindings
Park and freestyle snowboarding are all about expressing yourself and seeing how big your snowboard pants can get before they start to act like a sail and propel you helplessly towards the biggest jump at the park. Don’t worry though, because if you have the right snowboard bindings, you’ll be able to handle that jump with no problem. So let’s get started.
There are a few things to consider when buying snowboard bindings for park or freestyle riding.
Just like a snowboard and snowboard boot, you have some options when it comes to how much give you get, from your gear. Why is this important?
Some riders like to have an easier ride with better board feel, and a softer flex will give you just that. If you do a lot of tricks or carve a lot of halfpipes, a snowboard binding with some flex to it will make it easier to turn and maneuver. Similarly, if you come from the skateboarding and/or surfing world, you’ll probably feel more at home with more flex to your bindings.
It’s kinda like riding a softer surfboard or having softer wheels on your skateboard.
If you’re a beginner, you want to split the difference slightly but still on the side of softer flex rather than harder, because the bindings will be more forgiving. In other words, go for a medium-to-soft binding, or a 3 or 4 out of 10. It’s the same idea behind picking a snowboard boot or a snowboard.
Ideally, if you’re first starting out, all those components should be of similar flexibility and feel. This will give you a degree of consistency and make it easier to learn how to ride.
Later on, as you get a feel for your style and preferences, you can mix it up a little. If you mostly ride parks, you can try a flex rating of 1 or 2. If you still ride the rest of the mountain as a freestyle rider, go for a 3 or 4. If you ride a lot of halfpipes or bigger jumps, then you should get a stiffer binding, like a 5 or 6.
The footbed is the soft, cushioned part of the snowboard binding you step on. Footbeds help with shock absorption. Some footbeds are canted, which means they tilt your feet slightly inward. For some riders, this is more comfortable because it can take the pressure off your knees and make it easier to balance.
There are two different mount types for snowboards, a disc system and an EST system. The mount type will depend on what type of snowboard you have and its hole pattern; that is, how many holes are drilled in the board to mount the bindings, and what sort of pattern they make.
Baseplates are the part of the snowboard binding that mounts to the snowboard itself. They’re generally made of carbon fiber or a combination of fiberglass and nylon. Some baseplates are cushioned and some have removable footbeds.
Strap Bindings Versus Rear Entry Bindings
Traditional strap bindings have a heel strap and a toe strap with ratchets to adjust the tightness. The straps are generally cushioned and the buckles are usually either aluminum, which is very sturdy, or magnesium, which is very light.
Rear entry bindings (also known as speed entry bindings) are made of similar materials but typically only have one strap which can be adjusted accordingly to fit your boot. They’re a little more similar to the concept of a ski boot and tend to be faster to put on (just don’t do it on the lift or they’ll yell at you!).
5 Best Snowboard Bindings For Park/Freestyle
1. Union Contact Pro
The Union Contact Pro binding is a medium-soft flex and is best suited for intermediate or advanced riders, but is a great choice for beginners who want something they can grow into as they progress in their skills.
A lot of snowboard bindings at this skill level have a canted footbed, which doesn’t always work for some riders, especially if you want a lot of board feel for parks, pipes, and bowls. However, these bindings are made with a full-bottom baseplate, which keeps your feet level but secure and gives your snowboard more of a surfing/floating feel.
What We Like: The full-bottom baseplate has EVA cushioning, so it feels very soft and responsive. There’s also less chance of board chatter/vibration at high speeds or on icier terrain.
The aluminum buckles on the straps are strong and light, and make the bindings easy to get in and out of quickly. The ankle strap is soft but strong and won’t put uncomfortable pressure on your foot.
What We Don’t Like: Some riders find the mini-disc mounting system finicky and find that they need to tighten it often. And unfortunately, these bindings don’t fit a board with a 4×4 mounting system…bummer, dudes.
Price: The older style Union Contact Pro bindings average at about $140 and the 2021 model is about $240.
These bindings are great for all-mountain riding as well as park terrain. They have a canted footbed, as well as an aluminum heelcup for proper stability and balance over the edges of your board. They’re a medium-soft stiffness with a nylon highback and come in sizes M or L.
Especially if you’re a beginner still getting a feel for turning and carving or have narrow heels and need a lot of ankle support, these are a great option with room to grow your skills.
What We Like: The ankle strap is made of one piece and the toe strap is a minimal design, which cuts down on weight and allows you to get in and out of the binding easily.
The ratchet system is a linkage system, so there’s less play in it and you’ll get a snug fit. Between this and the heelcup, you get a lot of board feel for not a lot of money or fuss.
What We Don’t Like: The smallest size is a Medium, which fits men’s shoe sizes 6-10, so if you have smaller feet or wear women’s boots, they likely won’t fit as well. Some riders might want more toe strap support and might find the heelcup too hard.
Price: These are listed at about $220 but have been marked down as low as about $132.
Burton Freestyle Re:Flex Snowboard Bindings
These bindings are a little more beginner-friendly and therefore more versatile and accessible to all riders. They’re also a little more affordable.
However, they are a pretty soft binding and not everyone is into that, especially if you’re a more intermediate or advanced rider. The poly-carbonate baseplates are lightweight and flexible in any condition and terrain style, and are made of only one material for a consistent feel.
What We Like: You can set the forward lean angle of the hi-back by using Burton’s MicroFLAD sliding plate adjustment system. The Re:Flex FullBED cushioning cuts down on fatigue during epic all-day shred seshs at the park. If you’re on a budget, these are a solid deal.
What We Don’t Like: As mentioned, they are a medium-soft binding, so if you need more stability, this might not be the best choice for you. The ankle straps feel pretty stiff. If you think you’ll be progressing quickly, the Burton Custom Re:Flex bindings are similar but have slightly better cushioning and more comfortable straps.
Price: The Burton Freestyle Re:Flex bindings go for about $180 on average, but can be found used for as low as $85-$100.
Burton Malavita EST Snowboard Bindings
The Burton Malavita EST bindings are a medium flex with Burton’s EST system, which gives you tons of cushioning on the baseplate and lots of options for adjusting your stance. These are a significant step up from beginner bindings in their craftsmanship and have a canted footbed and a no-lean highback, so they’re great for all-mountain freestyle riding as well as hitting the park.
What We Like: You can adjust the straps without tools, which makes life easier for long days on the mountain. The EST baseplate has a hinge that flexes with your feet, so it’s great for landing tricks and hitting big jumps while keeping a dynamic and flexible board feel.
What We Don’t Like: The smallest size is a men’s 8. If you want a similar binding in a smaller size, we recommend the Burton Lexa EST. They’re a bit pricy if you’re used to spending $200 or less on bindings.
Price: These range in price from about $272 to $360.
Nitro Ivy Snowboard Bindings
The Nitro Ivy series comes in women’s sizes S/M, which range from women’s shoe size 5.5 to 10.5. If you have smaller feet, this is a great alternative to the Nitro Team Pro series.
They have a medium stiffness with a canted footbed and are ideal for intermediate riders who want to ride the mountain or the park with equal comfort.
These are rated a 9/10 for comfort and their Stealth Air baseplate with its Air Dampening technology is great for anyone with narrow heels or who wants more cushioning for rough landings at the park.
What We Like: The mini disc mounting system snaps into place when you set your stance and takes up less room than a traditional disc system, making for more flex.
The baseplate corners are rounded so there’s less stress on your board. Both ankle and toe straps have cutouts to mold them better to your feet, and the toe strap has rubber underneath to hold it in place.
What We Don’t Like: This one is slightly pricy if you’re used to spending $200 or less, although when the 2023 model comes out, they’ll likely go on sale. Some hardcore park riders might find that they’re a little too flexible.
Price: The Nitro Ivy ranges in price from about $270 for the 2019 model to $300 for the 2022 model. Some outlet sites have them for lower than $250, but sizes and styles are hit or miss.
How are snowboard bindings sized?
Snowboard bindings are usually sized as Small, Medium, Large, and X-Large (or Small/Medium, Medium/Large, and Large/X-Large) and correlate approximately to men’s or women’s shoe sizes from 4 to 15 (same idea for kid’s bindings).
Check the manufacturer size chart because some bindings are sized differently from others. Especially if you’re between sizes, make sure you try them on and make sure your snowboard boots are sized to match the width of your board.
Am I goofy-footed or regular-footed?
A regular-footed stance means that when you’re going down the mountain, your left foot is in front of you. A goofy-footed stance means your right foot is in front.
This is not to be confused with riding switch, which is when your bindings are set up to be regular or goofy and then you rotate the board while riding down the mountain so that your stance is “switched”. This is also not to be confused with riding fakie, which is when you ride backward.
Stance doesn’t always correlate with whether you’re left-handed or right-handed. Keep in mind that your stance is not set in stone and it’s just a starting point. There are a couple of ways to find out if you’re goofy or regular, but be sure to try switching your bindings to see how the other half lives. It just depends on your comfort level and style.
What stance should I have for park/freestyle riding?
The other component of your snowboard stance is the angle of your snowboard bindings. If you look at your baseplates, you’ll see measurements in degrees to show which way each binding turns.
A lot of freestyle riders, especially park and pipe riders, prefer a “duckfoot” stance where the angles of the left and right bindings match. It’s easier to ride switch since it’s symmetrical. You shouldn’t go any further than 15 degrees on your back foot though, because it will put stress on your knees and that’s no fun.
You can also try a “forward stance” which is more of an all-mountain stance, where your front foot points, well, forward slightly, and out.
What are strapless bindings?
Since I’m old, I can tell you all about Clickers, because I tried them in high school and that’s how I learned that my boots were too big…but I digress.
Clicker bindings are made by K2 Snowboards and were originally derived from technology similar to ski bindings and clipless pedal shoes for cycling. Remember that you always need Clicker boots to go with Clicker bindings.
Burton makes a similar type of binding called the Step On binding. Again, you’ll need the matching Step On boots. The Step On bindings attach from either side of the toes and at the heelcap, so they’re less prone to getting jammed with snow and you get much better board feel.
The key with strapless bindings is to make sure your snowboard boots are snug. If your heel lifts out as you’re turning or carving, you’re gonna have an especially bad time with no ankle straps.
Also, I wouldn’t advise using Clicker or Step On boots with strap bindings. The boots themselves have a very stiff sole to make up for the lack of straps and support, so it won’t be comfortable with a strap binding.
Hopefully, this points you in the right direction (ideally down the mountain or off that sick jump) and prepares you for the next season of riding.
Remember that your snowboard boots and bindings need to work together, so try them on first if you’re able to. Most of all, if you’re a beginner, don’t be afraid to get a binding you can “grow into” if you feel comfortable doing so. Lastly, be safe (wear a helmet!) and have fun!