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Burton sells strapless bindings — again

Change likely to appeal to older snowboarders

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This year, Burton is re-introducing something into its lineup that was thought to be long dead — a strapless binding system.

The company's new Step On system boasts a new fastening system, and according to Burton, it is a big step up from its previous version, a clunky set-up that had a reputation for not being secure.

The new system uses a cleat, attached to the back of the boot, to lock into a mount that's located in the high up on back of the binding. Stepping forward locks you in, making a distinctive (and loud) click.

To get out, you lift a lever.

The boots are pretty stiff, but with a mostly rubber sole, look like most others.

"We want it to feel like you're riding a normal boot and binding — this was the key," explained Marcos da Roza, Burton's rep for the Sea to Sky.

"When you're walking, it actually feels like a regular boot."

Da Roza said he was skeptical of the new set up at first, but found it functioned well when he tried it.

"I was very pleasantly surprised," he said.

The Step On system is a big gamble for Burton, the industry's largest (and most polarizing) manufacturer.

According to Burton, development involved three years of testing with a wide range of riders, including the company's all-star lineup of pros.

As an OG snowboard company, Burton played a key role in growing the sport, building a massive business along the way.

But in recent years, snowboarding has dipped in popularity, with advancements in ski technology making it a more attractive option for many.

According to SnowSports Industries America, the sport has gone from high of 8.2 million participants in the 2010-11 season to around 7.7 million for 2015-16.

Paul Shore, who held a new box of Step On boots under his arm, said the system is exactly what he was waiting for.

"It's so simple — it's just so simple," he said.

For the past 15 years, Shore has rocked a discontinued strapless system. But last year, he "blew them out" on 7th Heaven.

"My boots just exploded — they were finished," he said.  

Shore, 50, believes the system will appeal to the older set at first.

"The less you have to crunch yourself during the day, the better your day and season is going to be," he said.

But over time, he can see younger people come around to it.

"I think the knock that's been on these is that the performance hasn't been there. If the performance is there, everyone should like them," said Shore.

That may be a tough sell. Snowboarding has always had a rebellious streak, with the core brands — such as Lib Tech, Union, and ThirtyTwo — holding the most cachet.

So "stepping on" isn't going to be for everyone.

"It's definitely not going to be for the park rat kid or anyone that's freestyle orientated," said John Martin, manager at The Circle, an independent snowboard shop that carries Burton, though not the Step On system.

"People who are weekend warriors, who are mostly into hitting groomers — they just want to be able to step on their board and go," he said, adding that they're likely sound given the huge investment Burton has made in them.

"Companies get rich off other people's laziness!" he said. "That's really what it is!"

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