Seeing as I have been riding without highbacks for the past 2 years, I thought it was about time to write some views on the matter. Firstly, why? Well my main reason is the freedom that this gives you. Modern snowboard boots give you just the right amount of support and if you can stand in the right place, stack over your board and use your core effectively then there is actually no reason to block the ankle with a highback. Mike Ranquett is the real pioneer of this movement and has written a great article that explains the history of the highback. I had used it in the past as a training tool to promote good posture and balance but until Dave Lee lent me his board to test I hadn’t actually thought of riding without highbacks full time. Dave was riding sans high back and after a few runs I was totally hooked. I could bore you for hours with the pro’s and con’s of highbacks, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. To me, quite simply, it gives me more freedom and doesn’t harm or hinder my snowboarding – it makes it more fun. There is no other reason to ride besides that. Forget the hype, the bullshit and all the other propaganda, if you fancy a change, a new sensation on your board, try it. You’ll either like it, loathe it or sit on the fence. Ultimately, don’t make a decision until you give it a go – plus you can throw down some uber rad laybacks!
Now that the no highback movement is gaining pace, several brands are releasing no highback bindings or bindings which give you the option of riding with/without. This means that the 2 current options of either sawing the highback off with a jigsaw or just completely removing it may well be a thing of the past. Not that this matters but sometimes the heelcups can be too low or not padded, therefore give your boot more wear and tear than necessary.
So far I have seen the sample of switchback bindings which seem really simple, getting rid of all the fancy add-ons that sometimes aren’t necessary, and allow you to construct your own binding in the shop. You choose all the parts you want and build them yourself. If you don’t want a highback, you don’t need it, but there is a piece that you add into the heelcup which prevents your foot from being further back in the binding.
The second binding I have seen is the artec binding, which comes without a highback, but a slightly raised heelcup with protective rubber on the inside. Really simple and effective and for the true no-backer. Finally, the latest NOW binding looks really rad as has a new hinge technology to replicate the movement of a skateboard truck. It cants slightly between the toe and heel edge and also has the option of removing the highback without compromising the heelcup. With or without, your foot sits in exactly the same place on the binding.
Check out the photos below, taken yesterday at Snow Avant Premiere (French board test) In La Clusaz, France.