Binding Setup for alpine carving
Fine-tuning your binding setup is necessary to squeeze the most performance
out of your carving gear. Think of your bindings as precision instruments, with
5 major adjustments: angle, cant, lift, stance width, and setback. There is
a fair amount of experimentation involved, because the sport of carving is dominated
by personal preference, rather than conventional wisdom.
|The Tweak-o-matic is now up. You can tweak Bomber TD2s using virtual reality.
Binding angle is the angle of the binding's base plate, relative
to the short axis of the board. A binding angle of 0º means the bindings point straight across the board, and a binding angle of 90º means the bindings point down the long axis of the board. The binding angle is largely a personal preference. However, there are some issues
to bear in mind:
- The lower your binding angles, the more leverage you will have across the
width of the board. When learning to carve, start with low binding angles
- lower the binding angle of your back foot until the extreme ends of the
toe and heel of your back boot (including any protruding binding hardware)
are each flush with the edges of the board, as viewed from directly overhead.
You may need to adjust the bias of the binding by shifting the toe and heel
blocks fore/aft to center the boot relative to the edges of the board. Then,
adjust the angle of your front binding to be either the same or a little higher.
- A lot of carvers wind up using angles of 60º front and 60º rear,
a coincidence that is often mistaken as conventional wisdom. Don't use 60º/60º:
instead, start by using the lowest permissible angles for your boot/binding/board
that also provide comfort. Then adjust from there as necessary.
- Lower angles give you the following:
- You use more pressure in your ankles to turn, making toe side turns somewhat easier.
- Along with a wider board, lower binding angles make it easier to balance the board, with more fore/aft and rotational mobility.
- You get more stability.
- For the same width board, you can change edges quicker with lower binding angles, because you use small joints near the board (the ankle). That is why slalom racers want to use the lowest angles possible. However, when comparing the quickness of edge changes among boards of different width, the width takes over as the determining factor, with narrow boards quicker edge-to-edge.
- Higher angles give you the following:
- You use more pressure in your shins to turn, making
heel side turns somewhat easier.
- Along with a narrow board, higher binding angles make it more difficult to balance the board
- You get less fore/aft and rotational mobility.
- High angles also result in more lateral flexing,
which is what hard boots were designed for.
- For the same width board, you will change edges slower with higher binding angles, because you use large joints, far away from the board (knees and hips) in order to complete the edge change. However, when comparing the quickness of edge changes among boards of different width, the width takes over as the determining factor, with narrow boards quicker edge-to-edge.
- On a skinny board, the sidecut radius becomes a larger factor when determining
the smallest possible binding angle: with a smaller sidecut radius, the board
will flare out more at the front and rear bindings, so you can get lower angles
without boot overhang. A good example is the Madd 170: It's a skinny board, but has a small sidecut radius.
- You might be able to achieve a more comfortable stance if the front foot
has an angle 3-5º higher than the back foot. Some people ride with a
difference of as much as 15º between front and back
- Pro racers tend to compete on wider boards with lower angles, as low as
45º, to achieve better balance through a GS course.
- Some carving styles and equipment dictate the range of binding angles:
- The ExtremeCarving people prefer lower angles, around 55/48, on a wider board, to provide more rotational freedom.
- The PureBoarding people prefer a low angle on front, and a very low angle on back: 54/24, on a wider board.
- People with narrow boards are stuck with something around 60/60 or above.
Don't allow your boots to overhang the edges of the board, otherwise your toe
or heel will drag in the snow, and possibly cause your board to lose an edge, a situation known as "boot-out." Also, toe boot-out on the back foot can cause you to auger the nose when you are carving on heelside. If your rear binding comes loose and starts to swivel, your rear boot will probably swivel outward, causing your rear toe to overhang past the edge of the board. The extreme toe overhang cause the back of your board to lift up, which causes all of your weight to be transferred to the nose of the board, resulting in a cartwheel. Other
- As you get better, you will be able to get the board higher on edge, potentially
causing your boots to drag, which means you need to move to higher angles.
Observe your trenches to detect boot-out.
- Some bindings have toe and heel mechanisms that stick out more than others,
which may require you to increase the binding angle to prevent drag.
- You can change the bias of each binding (moving the toe and heel blocks fore/aft) to minimize boot-out. If you must allow some boot-out, it's better to have it on the toe side, because it's easier to feel it when it strikes, and to take recovery measures.
Binding Cant/ lift
Technically, cant is the angle at which your foot rotates around the toe/heel
axis. Lift can actually have two different meanings depending on the context
- riser lift or built-in lift are terms
for the overall height of the bindings above the board, whereas lift
or heel/toe lift are terms for the angle between the toe/heel axis
and the surface of the board. binding lift is ambiguous. For binding cant/lift, we are talking about heel/toe
lift. The cant/lift of bindings is partly a personal preference. For GS carving,
most carvers use a binding setup where the front foot is canted inward and lifted
at the toe, and where the back foot is canted inward and lifted at the heel.
The following advice applies to GS carving:
- Generally, a more natural carving stance is achieved when bindings provide
mostly canting at low binding angles, and mostly lift at high binding angles.
- Generally, you will get a more comfortable stance, with less torsion applied to the board, if you have heel lift on the rear binding. The more you use upper-body rotation, the more heel lift you need.
- A surf-style stance for alpine carving
would use a high binding angle up front, with mostly toe lift, and a low binding
angle in back, with less lift and more inward cant.
- Select a binding cant/lift so that when you are in a carve, you will be
in a stance that minimizes the strain on your legs: from this position, you
should be able to shift your weight fore/aft easily. Your back knee should
be able to comfortably tuck behind your front knee on a heel side carve, and
at the same time apply some flex pressure to the board without any soreness
from cuff pressure. Without inward cant/lift, you may be able to apply more
flex to the board, but you will burn up your muscles trying to achieve the
right stance position.
- Cant/Lift can also prevent the board from twisting, a common source of heel side chatter. If you rotate your torso toward the nose of the board, and you have a bent-knee style of carving, your stance will naturally twist the board, causing the nose of the board to carve a tighter turn than the tail. As a result, the board may skid or chatter. Adding heel lift to the rear foot can solve this problem. Also make sure that the bias of each binding is centered: board twist is exacerbated if the front binding is closer to the toe side, and if the rear binding is closer to the heel side.
- If you are bowlegged, you will want less inward canting - try either flat
on both bindings, or maybe even some outward canting. Vice-versa if you are
- Cant and lift can be adjusted in several ways:
- Some bindings, like the Burtons and the Bomber TD1, include fixed cant/lift
wedges mounted under the bindings, with the wedges mounted so that their
slope is in the direction of the long axis of the board. The bindings
are mounted on top of the wedges, and angled, in which case:
- If the bindings are mounted at 0º angles (perpendicular to
the length of the board), the wedges provide only cant.
- If the bindings are mounted at 90º angles (in line with the
length of the board), the wedges provide only lift.
- If the bindings are mounted between 0º and 90º, the wedges
provide both cant and lift, and are therefore called cant/lift wedges.
Notice that this setup follows the natural stance convention of having
mostly lift for high angles and mostly cant for low angles. The formulas
are as follows for a disk slope angle of a and a binding
angle of b:
arctan(tan(a) × cos(b))
a × cos(b)
arctan(tan(a) × sin(b))
a × sin(b)
|Example: A 3º cant/lift wedge on
the rear binding with a binding angle of 60º provides a
cant of 3º× cos(60º) = 1.50º and a lift
of 3º× sin(60º) = 2.60º.
- Some bindings such as the TD2 have cant/lift wedges that can be mounted
so that the slope of the cant disk can be set to any direction, not just the
direction of the long axis of the board.
- Catek bindings allow the cant, lift, and angle to be independently adjusted.
- If you have no clue, start with zero cant/lift on the front binding (flat),
and a combination of inward cant and heel lift on the back foot (3º cant/lift
wedge on the TDs). Then if you need more, progress with this series of tweaks
- Add toe lift up front
- Add inward canting up front
- Add heel lift and more inward canting on the rear
- The higher-end Burton bindings like the Race Plates and the Physics previously came with a single cant/lift wedge .
- Burton previously sold the Unicant, which is adjustable.
- In addition to the standard setup that provides inward cant + toe lift
on front and inward cant + heel lift on rear, there are two other common variations
that may better accommodate the natural flexion of the legs, and also
the flex of the board:
- Toe lift and no cant on the front binding, and a typical combination
of heel lift and inward cant on the rear binding.
- Toe lift and no cant on the front binding, and heel lift and no cant
on the rear binding.
- Certain binding cant/lift settings can also assist the forward weight shift:
- For the front binding, ride flat, or use outward canting.
- For the rear binding, use more heel lift.
- Binding cant/lift can also assist with riding in powder, by adding more
toe lift on front to shift your weight back (shifting the back binding further back also helps out in powder).
- Extra toe lift on the front foot (without additional canting) has the following
- It provides more leverage for your toe side turns.
- It lets you pressure the front of the board quicker when entering a
turn, but it may make it more difficult to throw your weight
forward when entering a turn.
- It may allow slightly lower binding angles.
- Be aware that binding cants work in concert with the boot forward lean.
If you tighten up your boots with a booster strap, it will have the effect
of slightly decreasing the boot's forward lean, which will decrease the overall
- Before twiddling with binding cants, it is best to first set your boot cuff
cants to accommodate the shape of your lower leg.
- For slalom racing, a lot of people use no cant or lift, because the board
is supposed to be a direct extension of your body with no added leverage to
- Racers often like bindings with the lowest built-in lift possible - it's
easier to feel the snow and react quicker.
Bias is the fore/aft position of the toe/heel blocks on the binding. Some considerations for bias:
- If you want to move the bindings side-to-side, don't try to turn the center binding center disks perpendicular - use bias instead. However, some Burton center disks come with a multi-hole pattern specifically to allow the center disk to be moved perpendicular to the board's long axis. But that's not a good idea with carving gear.
- You generally want to move the bias so that the boot has an equal amount of boot-out (hopefully zero) on both toe and heel side.
Stance width / setback
The stance width is the center-to-center distance between the two bindings.
In the US, stance width is often measured in inches, despite the fact that
every other parameter of a snowboard is in metric.
Stance is like binding angle - you don't determine it theoretically, but instead,
you adjust it until it feels right. However, there are three common recommendations
for a starting point for setting stance width:
- Use your shoulder width
- Use the distance from the floor to the middle of your kneecap
- Take your pants inseam and multiply by (Phi × 3 / 8) = 0.607,
which is taken from Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.
For wider stances, more inner cant and lift on the front toe, plus more inner cant lift on the back
heel is usually required so you won't put your legs under tension. For hardbooting,
wider stances provide two main advantages:
- A wider binding stance will provide more stability and balance, especially
on ice, and will allow a larger range of movement so that you can shift
your weight fore and aft with more control. You will have more control
over the pressure that gets exerted at the nose and tail, which will benefit
both entering and exiting turns.
- Wider stances allow you to get low and compress, while keeping your
On the other hand, a narrow stance will allow you to carve tighter turns,
and transition from edge to edge a little quicker.
After you shift your weight forward to initiate a turn, your center of gravity
should be over the apex of the sidecut. In order to achieve this geometry, the
midpoint between the two bindings must be set back from the apex of the sidecut
to compensate for the forward weight shift. The apex of the sidecut is the center
of the effective edge, not the center of the board length. This setback is typically
2-4 cm. Board makers shift the two insert packs rearward by this amount, so
that you can mount your bindings symmetric to the insert packs and get the right
setback. Some manufacturers, like F2, specify on the topsheet pre-marked stance
positions so that you know where to mount the bindings to achieve the recommended
setback. If there are no pre-marked stance positions, mount your bindings symmetrical
with respect to the hole pattern. However, binding setback has a large impact
on carving performance, so it's something you should spend some extra time tweaking:
- Incorrect binding setback can cause bad habits. If you have too much setback,
you will find yourself breaking at the waist to get your weight forward. If
you have too little setback, you will find your self riding the back of the
board all the time.
- You can decrease the setback (even a little forward of center) to increase
edge engagement. It will be a little easier to initiate a turn, especially
on ice, but you won't be able to hold an edge as well at the end of the turn,
and the board will have no performance in powder. If your front shin is getting
bruised, or your front leg muscles get sore quickly, it may be because you
are putting too much effort into shifting your weight forward on the board,
and decreasing the setback can help out.
- You can increase the setback, and your edge hold at the end of the turn
will increase, but you won't be able to attack the turn as much at the beginning.
If the board is hooking too much at the front when entering a turn even after
you detune the tip, you can try to increase the setback to compensate. Increasing
the setback will increase the surface area of the board in front of the front
binding, which improves performance when surfing in powder or riding in the
- The amount of setback you should use depends on the binding angle: very low binding angles will result is a smaller degree of fore/aft weight shift, so you need less.
The location of your center of gravity is determined by the setback and also
the cant/lift settings, so you have to keep both in mind.
People doing a lot of racing or ExtremeCarving often prefer a binding that provides the lowest amount of total height ("binding lift") possible. A lower total height provides two advantages:
- You can feel the snow better, for quicker feedback
- The body lever is shorter, which makes transitions easier.
However, some people use lifts (also known as risers) to raise the height of bindings off
the board. Lifts have long been used by skiers, and provide a few benefits for
- Lifting the bindings 1-2 cm increases leverage and allows you to
channel more pressure directly to the edge of the board. In particular, this
modification can increase the "carvability" of a soft board.
- Lifts often have a suspension system for dampening vibrations.
- Lifts provide greater clearance for your boots, so that you can either turn
down your boot angles or use a narrower board.
- If you have huge feet, you may not be able to ride a snowboard without lifts.
- Some freeride snowboards come with risers integrated into the board, such as the K2 Recon Riser freeride snowboard, which has 6mm of lift.
Bindings provide varying amounts of built-in lift: F2, Phiokka Highlander,
Phiokka Macho, and Burton race plates are the lowest-profile, with Bomber step-ins and Cateks
sitting higher. Some bindings, like the Nidecker freecarve step-in, provide
a ridiculous amount of lift - almost 4 cm. There are a few riser options available
if you want to increase the lift of low-profile bindings:
|The Bomber suspension system is available for Bomber TD2 bindings. In this photo, the suspension system is the light yellow elastomer, which is underneath a pair of Bomber TD2s. The suspension system consists of a soft (40 durometer) urethane ring that provides 3/16 of lift, and a metal center disk with a thickness that matches the elastomer thickness. It is primarily intended for racers who want a soft binding, and allows the TD2s to replace the more traditional plastic bindings favored by racers. On the other hand, the suspension kit adds to the lift, which is sometimes not ideal for racing. In summary: If you have TD2s, and you race, you probably want to test out the suspension system. The suspension kit may also be of use when carving on really icy slopes with bad grooming (but you shouldn't be going to that resort to begin with).
A close-up of the Bomber suspension kit. It is available with a 3D or 4x4 pattern.
- Surf-Eye makes the very cool looking Active Flex Riser.
- Polr Sports also makes a cool looking riser.
- Gerab riser plates, sold by rabanser. It looks like they have to be bolted to the board using drilled holes.
- The hangl-spirig snowboard riser plate. Sold by Sigi, and used by racers.
- Bomber previously sold lift kits for the TD1s.
- The Volkl V-flex provides 20 mm of lift and has the advantage of retaining
most of the flex pattern of the board. These risers are highly recommended,
and provide both dampening and good power transmission to the edges. It looks
like Volkl may not be selling them any more.
- The Palmer Power Link system: Most
of the lifts have 10 mm of lift and are good at reducing boot drag. The PLS
Super is a 20 mm lift and provides more edge leverage. However, the Palmer
lifts have a large footprint and tend to distort the flex pattern of the board.
They are also designed for soft bindings. Palmer lifters also dampen any board.
- The Burton Elevator provides 12 mm of lift. It also can convert from Burton's
3D hole pattern to a 4x4 hole pattern. Because the elevator takes all the
force from the bindings, they are not necessarily recommended for hardbooting.
- New for 2006, Edge Risers are available for soft bindings.
- Snowscoot.com sells a carving
kit that is supposed to allow "elbow in the snow" carving on
In addition to risers, you can also buy dampening plates that bolt onto the
topsheet. If you are considering going with a dampening plate, you might want
to consider a custom snowboard with built-in dampening, like the newer F2 boards that have an integrated Conshox. However, some racers still use dampening plates in competition:
|F2 previously made the F2
Conshox, an 8 mm thick butterfly-shaped lift that spans both bindings. It is
a dampening system that provides more stability and extra grip for ice. It
has insert holes up front, and slots in the rear. On the front, you attach
the Conshox to the board inserts, then you attach your bindings to the inserts
on the Conshox. On the rear binding, you attach the binding through the slots
on the Conshox and directly into the board inserts. It works with all F2 boards and is generally
recommended, however the effect on other boards is unpredictable. When using
it on non-F2 boards, you have to make sure that the inserts on the rear that
you want to use are accessible through the Conshox slots and not hidden under
the Conshox. The Conshox comes in only one size, and has a greater effect
on smaller boards. Starting in '05, F2 no longer sells the Conshox, and now
integrates it onto the Silberpfeil and Speedster as the TCS (Torsion Control
For the rear binding, you need longer screws to go through both the binding and the Conshox: For TD2s, go with 25mm screws.
- Flo Tubes are flat plastic containers filled with buckshot that sloshes
around. The Flo Tubes attach to the topsheet, and the buckshot sloshes to
the front of the board at exactly the right time when you need more weight
at the nose so that it bites into the snow at the turn initiation. It's an
older accessory and no longer manufactured, but Mark Fawcett has raced with
- Derby Flex is a dampening system for snowboards that consists of a plate
that can bolt onto the snowboard. Mark Fawcett has also used this system for
- The Tinkler plate bolts onto a snowboard and provides dampening.
When the board decambers, the plate slides over the topsheet and dissipates vibration.
- The Kildy-Flex is a dampening system designed by Olympic snowboard racer
Mike Kildevaeld. It consists of a plate that is added to the top of a snowboard
that isolates the rider from vibration, but preserves the flex of the board
as well as the tail spring. It can be attached separately to a snowboard via
inserts, or integrated with the snowboard construction. The 24/7 snowboard
brand used this dampener.
After you have set your binding angle, cant/lift, boot lean position, stance
width, and setback, check to make sure that your setup allows a sufficient range
Check your tucked-knee position:
- You should be able to easily swing your back knee just behind your front
knee when your knees are bent (90º between upper and lower front leg),
and at the same time apply some flex to the board, without feeling too much
pressure from the top of the cuff.
- You should be able to move easily from a standing position down to a position
where you are almost sitting on the back of your board, without feeling resistance.
- Unfortunately, you can't always check the setup of your gear on the living room carpet: you have to be on the slopes, in the middle of a carve, with the board on edge and decambered, and shifting your weight around, in order to feel whether your setup is right. You should be able to shift your weight equally to the front or rear of a centered position on the board.
Check your knees-facing-the-bindings position:
- You should be able to easily get low on the board, and not feel as if your
legs need to twist to control the board.
- To test your stance in the living room, clip in and tilt the board from
flat to a 45º angle. Verify that you feel equal amounts of tension in
both legs, and that both legs have equal control over the board, without feeling
Carving is a sport of tweaking, followed by micro-tweaking, since carving performance
is greatly affected by even small changes in any of the following settings:
- Board stiffness / length / sidecut / dampness / flex pattern / camber /
- Side edge bevel underfoot / forward / back
- Base edge bevel underfoot / forward / back
- Edge sharpness / tip-tail detuning
- Binding stiffness / stance width / setback
/ footprint size
- Lift /cant /angle of the front binding
- Lift /cant /angle of the back binding
- Splay between binding angles
- Boot stiffness / flex / lean position / cuff height / cuff canting / booster
- Slop between boot and binding
- Muscle fatigue: morning vs afternoon
- Your technique
Every degree counts, and millimeters can make a difference. Some carving gear
even has vernier adjustments: the Emery Course bindings have a set of vernier
offsets to allow 1 º resolution. When adjusting bindings, it helps to be really anally-retentive (as measured in sphincter-newtons). In carving, there is always an element
of uncertainty as to whether your performance is limited by your equipment settings,
or your technique. Even as an advanced carver, you will be constantly experimenting
and tweaking with these parameters in a quest to find the single adjustment
that provides a breakthrough in carving performance. If you have Cateks, tweaking
will become an obsession and lead to a downward spiral of psychosis - they are not advised for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Take small
steps and change one parameter at a time. It also helps to swap things out one
at a time, like boards, boots, and bindings: you can isolate how each part of
the linkage contributes to carving performance. At the beginning of each season,
you will burn a fair amount of time re-dialing all of your settings. Also remember that
the surface conditions of the terrain have a huge impact on carving performance.
For these reasons, when evaluating carving gear like bindings:
- The best reviews don't evaluate the gear in isolation, but rather compare
the performance of different models under identical conditions, for two reasons:
- Some performance aspects of carving gear are too subtle to notice unless
you do an A/B comparison with other gear.
- External conditions like snow texture have big impact on perceived gear
performance, which means that you need a control rig. Otherwise your evaluation
can be way off and you won't even realize it.
- The best reviews point out what tweaks were necessary with both the gear
and technique to get the best performance from each product. Until you've
figured out these tweaks, you haven't really evaluated the gear.
And finally, everyone seems to be fixated on what the big guys use, so here
is the latest intelligence:
- Mathieu Bozzetto rides 58º/48º, 3.5º on front and 7º
- Sigi Grabner rides 54º/51º, 6º toe lift on front and 7º
heel lift on back (no cant). He rides a very stiff setup: Burton Race Physics bindings and Burton Fire boots. For SL,
he rides a board 160 cm, 20 cm width, 51º/48º. Sigi initially rode on Burton boards, then on a Tomahawk
(185cm), then on a custom Japanese model, perhaps Ogasaka. He now has his own line of race boards. Sigi also has general
advice for fine-tuning a stance setup: "don't copy anyone else."
- As of February 2006, Jasey-Jay rides Catek short plate step-ins. He rides goofy, on a Titanal Coiler, with a 47 cm stance width, 60º front and back, and:
- For PGS, the board is 185cm, 18.8 at the waist, 15M radius (radial sidecut), with 6mm of taper. The 6 mm of taper allows JJ to make adjustments quicker.
- For PLS, the board is 164cm, 18.5 at the waist, 9.9M radius (radial sidecut), and 3mm of taper.
- Chris Klug rides a Burton Factory Prime 185 (15.5 M radius) for racing and
freecarving, with a custom 21cm waist width (a bit wider than usual). Angles
are 57º/54º, with Burton Race Plates and the older Burton Furnace
hard boots. He rides flat on front with a 7º cant on the back, with a
shoulder-width stance. Chris is 6'3", 200 lbs. Lately he has been pushing
- Mark Fawcett rides 60º/60º, 18.25" wide stance, toe lift
on the front foot and heel lift on the back foot. Mark is 5'8", 170 lbs.
A few years ago, Mark used pigeon-toed binding angles, with the rear binding
3º higher than the front. Mark has also ridden on customized Catek bindings
that used Burton Race Physics toe and heel pieces.
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