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Scraping. That's what a lot of snowboarders do instead of actually carving turns. But it's not always their fault: Most equipment simply isn't engineered to let riders carve smoothly in all conditions.
The primary culprit is too much play between strap-in boots and bindings, an energy leakage that causes you to lose traction when turning. A secondary issue is leverage. Unlike skiers, whose inch-high bindings enhance edging motion, snowboarders ride low to the snow.
Both problems have existed since the invention of the sport, but this season the major companies have mustered a response: Boots and bindings are being designed to work as a seamless unit, free of energy leaks. And leveragetaller bindings, raised platforms on your boardis getting built into the system.
All prices in U.S. dollars
Like most manufacturers' top-of-the-line boots and bindings, the Salomon Malamute ($280) and SP6 ($250) were built in tandem. But their level of integration is exceptional. Carefully coordinated geometry and sticky plasticssticky, patterned PVC on the outside of the Malamute and a sticky, dual-density-plastic ankle strap on the SP6are key to keeping the boot from sliding around in the binding.
Movement within the boot is also nearly eliminated: The Malamute's single-pull lacing system sucks your heel into the back of the boot, while heel counters prevent ankle rollover during hard turning. And, to increase leverage, the SP6 has a toe ramp (which improves front-side turning) and a stacked heel pad (which strengthens back-side turning).
Board Riser Systems: Palmer Powerlink and K2 Recon Riser
While add-on riser systems such as the Palmer Powerlink have been around for a couple of years, the only board with built-in leverage is the new K2 Recon Riser.
It takes only a small height difference to magnify the board's snow-slicing edge control, so the Riser's platforms measure less than a quarter inch tall (0.6 centimeter). But smaller riders will feel the difference immediately because more leverage is akin to more weight. Larger riders will be able to ride a narrower board because added height reduces toe drag.
The Riser has an aggressive sidecut to further sharpen the board's carving ability, and its binding platforms dampen vibration.
Photographs by Eric Piasecki