In the infinite quest to find the ultimate performance enhancing binding set up people have gone to lengths to experiment with their bindings. We’ve had baseless, canted, mini disks, etc. etc. to get better feel and along the way we’ve toyed around with what to do with our high backs. Some have stuck with the tried and true form, others went for low backs, and then there’s those that have shunned them all together and been the bad asses of nothingness and gone with the no back. So which does what and why would you want to use them?
Having lived through the 90’s and been stuck in the perpetual time warp that was Western NY I’ve ridden all forms of these at some point or another. At this point in my life I prefer having support of my ankles and am a firm believer in a good boot and solid binding make all the difference in the world. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying out various incarnations of things when I get a hair up my ass that needs to be plucked.
The high back solely exists to give support to the lower leg and allow you to press into it as you leverage your weight on to your heel edge. This also helps with control in variable conditions so if you’re going from chunder to groomed and even pow there you go. Now for those that like adjust-ability you have the option of adding more or less forward lean depending on where you want your knee placement and rotating your high backs to match up perfectly with your heel edge. Both of which I put into the different strokes for different folks category. I have never rotated a high back nor do I ever care to after one experience on a demo pair that killed my lower leg muscles. As far as forward lean back when boots didn’t have natural lean in them and weren’t as supportive as those created today I rocked a few degrees but just enough to give me a little bend, none of this crazy 20 plus degrees bullshit that some people have going on. Now with the advancements in boot technology straight zero works well as the boot is providing the natural lean I need but the high back is still there for when I drive backwards into a heelside turn. Also when jibbing it has enough play that I’m not feeling locked in when going through a kink.
After market Low Backs.
My first real pair of bindings were a pair of metal based Morrow Low backs (circa early to mid 90’s) with possibly the shittiest ratchets on earth. Much like the high back this still provides something to lean back into on a heel side turn and still gives control on varying conditions although with it being lower you can create a crease point in the boot. In the park these things are fucking money as you can set yourself up better on jibs and tweaking shit gets insane. The lower cut of it really does let you get more of a tweaked skate feel but that should be obvious when you just look at these things.
High backs and toe straps are over rated!
Now riding with No Backs is something that should fall into the different strokes for different folks category along with the everything old is new again mantra that’s going around in snowboarding. Yeah Tarquin Robbins did it back in the early 90’s and Mike Ranquet spent the better part of this decade figuring it out then wrote about it for Transworld. So what are the benefits of this? Well as many claim the boot provides all the lean and support you need, sure it provides support and has natural lean built in, but that’s only to a certain point. Sure you’ll get a more loose skate feel and have more play in the ankle which as many claim takes us back to our roots with how the first rudimentary boards rode and how skateboarders do things. So tweaking grabs will be amazing and jibbing should be off the hook. Well news flash people we’re not skateboarders, they’re better than us, yeah I said it lets face the facts they aren’t strapped in but that’s another issue. Also do we really want to go back to the way we rode those first generations of snowboards? I wouldn’t think so. So yeah while you’re getting more play from your ankles you’re also forcing yourself to use more muscles and not having as quick of response. Then there’s the control issue while people rave about this in slush and in pow wow go figure riding in conditions that you could set yourself on autopilot it works awesome. Think about the control you’re losing on hardpacked or icy conditions. I know when I did this back in NY it sucked donkey balls on those boiler plate days. Also this is something most people over look without high back support if you flex back into the heel cup with the way your boot is made you’ll start snapping the back spine of the boot unless you’re using something that’s ungodly floppy and has next to no support. Which was one of the reasons you could get away with it in the 90’s, even the stiffest boot back then (excluding hard boots) would be the equivalent of a low to some mid level boots now.
Whatever your poison is there’s always going to be a pro and con to it. Get out there try it and see what happens. I personally will continue rocking high backs in some way , shape, or form. So what’s your choice?