01Front Binding/Setback


1.    Front binding

(At this point, just take a guess)

Where you mount your front binding will have a marked effect on how ‘neutral’ your board responds.  For this reason, front binding location should be determined functionally, rather than geometrically.  This location will vary based on rider weight, and to a lesser extent, binding angle.  If the front binding is set too close to the tip of the board, the board will skid out easily on a heel-side turn, and feel quite twitchy in general.  It will also be difficult to traverse heel-side one-footed, on shallow terrain, without the board spinning out.   Unloading lifts may present a challenge.  On soft or variable snow, the danger of ‘folding the nose’ is increased.


If the front binding is mounted too far back, the board will behave, but it may seem to take an awfully long time for a turn to come around.  This sensation may take a few runs to realize, but if the board does not feel nimble, and it feels like you are driving a bucket loader around town, the front binding is set too far back.  For the neophytes (and you know who you are), if the board does not skid out on a heel-side turn when you ‘sit on the toilet’, then your front binding is set too far back.


The two previous statements assume that you are on a board with flex characteristics remotely appropriate for rider weight and intended usage.

Ideally you want what could be called ‘calibrated oversteer’, such that once on edge, it begins to turn, but not enough to skid.


Setback can have a pronounced effect on rider posture and subsequent riding tactics.

A snowboard needs to be tilted, and bent into an arc, in order to turn effectively. If the board is already ‘bent’ thus receiving unintended turning input, just by standing on it, then you, as the rider, will be trying to remove the bend from the board when you want to ride straight. This situation requires constant vigilance and muscular adaptation, leading to premature fatigue.  This is an extremely common problem facing both hard and soft-boot riders.  Similarly, if the board will not bend without excessive input from the rider, then dexterity and accuracy go out the window, along with fun and, to some extent, safety.


When standing on a snowboard, there are several statements, which seem to hold true.

1.    On a heel-side turn, the preponderance of pressure tends to go to the front foot.

2.    On a toe-side turn, the preponderance of pressure tends to go to the rear foot.

The effects of these tendencies are that a snowboard will generally skid with little effort on a heel-side turn, and’hook up’ or not skid, or come around slowly, on a toe-side turn.


A snowboard should be chosen based on intended use, rider weight, and foot size.  If you ride at a big mountain, buy a bigger board.  If you ride at a small mountain or will be teaching, buy a smaller board.  If you fall outside of the recommended weight range, then you will have difficulty either getting the board to turn, preventing the board from turning, or establishing your preferred stance width.  If you buy a board that is too narrow, you will have to learn to ride at a different stance angle.  If you buy a board that is too wide, the stance angle that you are used to will not be effective, in that the toe and heel of your boots will fall inboard of the edges of the board, cheating you of leverage, and increasing muscular tension.  As a rule of thumb, angles between 55 and 63 are appropriate for alpine snowboards.  The angle of the front foot relative to the back foot should not differ by more than 5 degrees.  Parallel is most likely optimal, unless, like me, you are a mutant.  (I ride toed-in).


Example: myself

Rider weight: 175-190

Boot: ski boot size 8,sole length 305mm (downsized to 300mm)

Boards: Madd 158,170, Burton fp157 etc.

Angles: 60 front, 63 rear

Width: 45.5 cm +/-

Front toe lift: 2.7d

Front Cant:  1.8d outward

Rear heel lift: 4.1d

Rear cant:  5.5d outward (Not at present, as boot shells have changed)

Internal ramp, front boot,  5 degrees

Internal ramp, rear boot, 6.7 degrees


On the 2004, soft flex 158 Madd, my front binding is mounted on the rear set of holes, centered on the disc.  (When I rode the 170 with the front gripper in this location, it felt like an aircraft carrier.  It was very stable, but took forever to come around.  Moving the binding to the front set of holes made the longer board feel much shorter and more tractable).  On the FP, I was one set back from the reference circle.  On the mid-flex ’06 Madd 158, I ride all the way back on the middle inserts.  (I’m calling it a mid-flex because it is just a touch stiffer than my 1flex, but not as stiff as a 2flex that I also have in my possession.)  I would like to be back another 5mm but do not presently have the initiative to make any more new parts.  Similarly, my stance width is now closer to 47 cm, which I don’t really like, but…