Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Hard versus soft: The controversy.
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  • #566777
    Anonymous
    76 Posts

    Let me preface this by first teling you where I sit before I tell you where I stand. I am a hardboot and plate binding guy. Period. I would rather ski than ride softies and buckle bindings. I keep my hips and shoulders facing forward – about 90 degrees out of whack with the soft boot world. I ride angles between 60-65 on the front and 55-60 on the back. I do not care for boards that get too much over 20 cm waist width on any type of terrain – even nipple deep powder.

    I consider myself to be a skier that rides one ski rather than a snowboarder.

    My preference all of this is – not the bible of getting down the hill.

    Further, I currently do not own a splitboard, but have encountered too many instances where I would really, really prefer to be skinning than booting it or snowshoeing and although I can ski, I am not comfortable in no fall zones on two planks like I am on a board. Hence, my presence here to research and absorb so an informed decision may be made – I am coming to the conclusion that stiff AT’s, plates and a 179 Prior 4WD splitboard would be BC nirvana. Great site btw.

    Oh yea – brevity is not my strong point.

    So, I have lurked this site a bit, pretty much reading all of the threads on it and today I came a cross a post that made me cringe a bit. Okay, not a bit – alot. Not wanting to hijack a thread started by somebody who has no interest in plates I am starting this one. Starting it not to be a dick or to come out of the gate with my first post trying to start a beef with an established poster, but rather to take issue with a statement, for purely selfish reasons (discouraging plate riding does nothing to help me get access to better, cheaper and more available gear), and try to provide another side so that somebody who perhaps has considered the switch to plates might not be disuaded without considering another side of the coin.

    Please do not mistake my bluntness for assholishness – I am blunt in person as well.

    Posted by bcd:

    Strap bindings exist because they offer the most sensitivity, versatility, and control in a wide variety of conditions. In certain conditions, hard boots might be able to match the control of strap bindings, but they will never come close to matching the sensitivity and versatility.

    Supported with:

    After nearly 20 years of snowboarding

    The lending of expert credence.

    [cringe] Oh brother [/cringe]

    My experiences include soft boots with straps, PMB’s with straps, AT’s with straps, hardboots with plates and skiboots with plates. After settling on HB’s and skiboots and plates as my preferred connection, I have experimented and rode that setup on boards ranging from a 160 freestyle (broke that puppy with skiboots and plates in less than 30 days) to a K2 182 ElDorado to a 185 carving stick and everything in between. All of them all over the mountain. Groom to trees to bumps to steep and deep to steep and icy and everything in between.

    Does that make me me an expert? A snowboarding god or prophet who knows more than bcd or anyone else? I wish. Being a snowboarding god would be cool. But, that is not the case – I am just another knucklehead who likes the blessed combination of mountains and snow and has found what I prefer and what works for me – a combination of goods that suits my style and technique.

    Why did I cringe? What the hell is the point of my rambling and pointing out my disagreement with bcd’s comments? I’m getting there – like I said brevity is not my strong point, but hey, you are still reading so here you go:

    Strap bindings offer the most control and versatility and sensitivity in widest range of conditions? In certain conditions HB’s might – big cringe while suppressing a big laugh – to match the control of straps?

    Damn dude. What are you talking about? Terrain park momma’s backside pinky grab ass scratcher, 20’+ hucks, well softies have an edge there. But that is it dude. Hardboots are the essence of precise control. That is why snowboard racers use them, that is why ski racers use stiff as hell boots as well. That is why a racing car suspension is way, way stiffer than that of a Cadillac Control. Precise and immediate control unmatched by straps and softies. Edge pressure – how much you can develop and how precisely you can place it.

    The sensitivity issue, well I guess that depends upon what you consider a sensitive ride to be. For me, when it comes to transmission of thought and body to board, HB’s and plates are it. Quicker, more solid – more sensitive to my inputs.

    HB’s lend a precision to edge pressure (read: more control and sensitivity) than strap bindings ever could.

    As you are proclaiming the virtue and superiority of strap bindings for sensitivity and control over that of the HB-plate setup, are you doing so while riding in your Sorrels? Get it? Ask yourself what has happened to softies and and straps in the last two decades of your riding and even from before. They have gotten stiffer. There is a reason for that. Nobody uses Sorrels anymore. Not just the boots and bindings either. Boards as well. I still have an old asym 178 Nitro it is a noodle more so than my a bit newer 171 Sims Search which is more so than my newer 163 Nidecker Soul. Not that there are still not still soft boards made, it is just that there are stiffer ones than there used to be. Not that there are not soft softies out there, it is just that there are stiffer ones than there used to ever be. There is a reason that the industry, while keeping the softie appearance has made softies that are one hell of alot stiffer than there was 20 or 30 years ago.

    Several reasons actually. Control. Versatility. Sensitivity. Precision. All of these realized with a stiffer Sorrel.

    Now, all of that being said, whatever floats your boat dude. You like straps and softies? Cool. I know people that rip on all terrain on them. If you have been riding for twenty years I will assume that you probably rip as well on all conditions and terrain in your setup. Nothing wrong with that. Is it a superior ride in the areas of control, sensitivity and versatility? Absolutely not. Plates are every bit as versatile (what a plate gives up in the jibber park to softies it gains back in pure ability to stick and hold an edge at high speed – tradeoffs) in the groomers, in the trees, in the steeps – everywhere and every type of snow condition.

    Technique … style … desires … preferences … individuality.

    I think you are flat out wrong dude, but please do not be offended by my bluntness. In a dicipline as small and unheralded as the one I choose I want to be vocal about inaccuracies I see purported so that others that have considered the switch will not be discouraged by misinformation.

    HB’s and plates are incredibly versatile, offering extreme sensitivity and extreme control on all terrain and conditions – if you know the technique.

    We enjoy a sport where dudes and dudettes rip all mountain in whacky no fall shit on alpine skis, tele’s, softies and plates with a range of boots to … um … boot. From leather to stiff as you can get plastic. I’ve skied with a couple of different guys who prefer alpine skis, leather boots and 10th division cable bindings. Impressive. All kinds of gear out there. Which do you choose? You choose straps and I choose plates. Yours works for you and mine works for me. They both work. They are also, as you rightly acknowledged, very different as well.

    Any other all mountain plater rippers out there?

    If you are still reading, my $0.02 on straps and mountaineering boots – stay away from PMB’s. Go with AT’s. Why? My opinion. I prefer AT’s and the control, precision and versatility it affords my style. More ankle and lateral support for weight and power transmission. With my PMB’s I have jammed my ankles pretty good on toeside chatter on icy stuff and they just do not provide enough above the ankle support in any direction – for me. More than once I wondered if I would snap my ankles. Now my PMB’s are relagted to kicking snow and ice off of a snowcat.

    #582689
    Jon Dahl
    384 Posts

    but as a fellow hardbooter I agree with you. I too have ridden many combo’s and ended up where my feet are the most comfy, my heelside/toeside’s are rippen’ when I want them to be, and I can still walk to the car at the end of the day. Soft boots kill my feet bad, pmb’s and straps offer marginal control (I rode Adams in that setup, ugh) I can do 14 mile afternoons in my leather mountaineering boots, but they snowboard like #### in plate bindings. So I’ve ended up in a pair of well-modded Raichle 123’s in Snowpro step-in toe/heel pieces mounted to my slider tracks. The boots are a little heavy for long hikes in, such as 2 mile approaches, but they skin well and ride like a dream. I will not be using soft boots ever again as long as I snowboard, but I am willing to try A/T boots in the search for less weight. But I will miss the step-ins though. Oh, btw, I prefer narrower board also, in the range of 23cm or less, and starting length of 165 or so. The Voile mtn. gun 171 looks pretty good to me, coming in close to the ideal. 😀

    #582690
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    Welcome CatJockey!

    Nice to see the passion in your post.

    These are the two things I really took from it.

    @Cat Jockey wrote:

    Technique … style … desires … preferences … individuality.

    And your opinion is…

    @Cat Jockey wrote:

    HB’s and plates are incredibly versatile, offering extreme sensitivity and extreme control on all terrain and conditions – if you know the technique.

    The thing I’ve learned in this age old debate is that there is no perfect choice for everyone. We all have different needs, goals, and conditions in which we ride. It is fun to argue our points on why we choose what we do but we shouldn’t take it personal. In the end, what works best for the user is what should matter.

    BCD did the same thing you did which is share his opinion.

    @Cat Jockey wrote:

    I want to be vocal about inaccuracies I see purported so that others that have considered the switch will not be discouraged by misinformation.

    I can totally relate to this. I use K2 Clicker HBs (step-in boot with a tradition high back type binding) and I can remember putting a lot of time into point out the inaccuracies when people would lump this set-up into the soft boot category. Due to the step-in feature on the boots they have a stiff sole which makes them similar to a hardboot. They can accept a boot crampon and work better than softboots for skinning and kicking steps. They do not have a plastic shell nor do they have a Vibram sole. Some of the Clicker boots came in similar stiffnesses to the softer flexing hardboots.

    Anyway…I can relate to trying to point out the differences in gear.

    Thanks for coming out of Lurk Mode and happy splitting! 8)

    ps. JD, sorry I havent got the Alpine boot article up yet… 🙁

    #582691
    SanFrantastico
    1514 Posts

    If this can be done on straps…

    and this can be done on plates…

    then it doesn’t seem like such a controversy to me.

    But then I can’t do either one on either setup…

    The PMB advice seems pretty right-on to me, though. Are there any diehard PMB people out there?

    Thanks for explaining your setup, BCR. I didn’t really get the concept until now. It kind of sounds ideal for where I’m at. Do I understand correctly that you strap into bindings with clicker boots? What’s your binding of choice?

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    #582692
    bcd
    232 Posts

    I don’t doubt the fact that hardboots offer precise control in certain conditions. You give the example of snowboard racing, and I agree with you. These are certain conditions where hardboots are advantageous:

    Flat, groomed, smooth, generally icy, and very consistent.

    While many racers love this stuff, I do not. The point I was trying to make was that hard boots would not allow me to do the things I like to do.

    Here is another example: Another form of snowboarding that requires precise control is the halfpipe. Halfpipe riding is the single most technically difficult aspect of snowboarding. Nothing else even comes close. Hauling ass down a race course becomes ridiculously easy once you have mastered the basics of halfpipe riding. Riding a halfpipe requires skill, edge control and precision that snowboard racers can’t even comprehend. So how many halfpipe riders wear hard boots?

    I know what you’re thinking. Halfpipe riding does not belong on a slpitboard discussion forum. And you’re right. I was simply using it as an example, because that type of riding requires extremely precise edge control, and it’s a little better example than, say, comparing snowboarding to race cars.

    Here’s the thing: Precise edge control of the snowboard goes FAR beyond the simple pressure of your feet. Precise edge control in variable, steep, and technical terrain goes far beyond the boots on your feet. Precise edge control is dependent upon body position, body tension, and flexibility. And it is very dependent on the sensitivity of your footwear. This sensitivity includes the ability to feel the terrain under your feet, and make minuscule lateral movements to adjust your balance and center of gravity.

    Am I over-analyzing this? Yes. But only because I am trying to offer some insight into what I consider to be the requirements to ride TRULY steep and technical terrain.
    In order to hold an edge in steep, variable conditions a snowboarder needs to be able to make movements that I do not believe are possible with hard boots. Many people think it is possible, but I think this is just a matter of perspective.

    When it comes to precise control and sensitivity, I think you and I are talking about two different things. It’s just a matter of perspective. You might think a certain descent or certain conditions require “preciseâ€Â

    #582693
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    @sanfrantastico wrote:

    Do I understand correctly that you strap into bindings with clicker boots?

    No it’s a special Clicker binding. Imagine a strap binding with no straps. Its makes getting in and out of the binding fast and easy. It also cuts down on the weight of the binding (one of the drawbacks to strap bindings for splitting). There is an instep strap on the boot itself for added support.

    The Burton SI system is a similar concept but not as effective as the Clicker design in my opinion.

    http://mirror06.burton.com/images/gear/pp/B6110301.jpg

    http://mirror06.burton.com/images/gear/pp/B6168101.jpg

    #582694
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    Good discussion. 🙂

    random un-bias points…

    the discussion is currently about the descent aspects of hard vs soft (no mention of ascent differences)

    gear choice is critical…but lets not also forget that the rider makes the rider, the gear doesn’t make the rider

    aren’t John Griber and Stephen Koch considered professional?

    #582695
    Zach
    127 Posts

    Soft boot, hard boots… neither is inherently better than the other. They both offer sensitivity, control and manueverability in ALL terrain. Which gear to use is more dependent upon the balance and physiology of the rider.

    I used to ride in soft boots, and I thought they were the only answer… then, someone taught me how to set my angles and cant and lift on plate bindings. Now I ride exclusively in hard boots, and I probably won’t go back. I learned that I prefer to be oriented facing down the fall line, and that my ankles are not strong enough to control soft boot turns (repeated injuries from riding BMX).

    I know of a number of, and I’ve ridden with a couple of guys who will school you on any terrain (half-pipe, groomers, steeps, chutes, etc….) in hard boots. Pete Santanello took 2nd at Verbier in hard boots. Jim Zellers and Tom Burt did almost all of their major, first descents in hard boots. Stephen Koch did the Messner Couloir in hard boots. John Griber rules on everything in hard boots… hell, you should see Fin rip powder in hard boots on a 22cm waisted board :mrgreen:

    Zach

    #582696
    Killclimbz
    1165 Posts

    Hey, I am a softboot guy. I love the comfort, if I have to go to hike mode for awhile I am not bothered by hiking in my boots. I like the feel for dropping off of cliffs, rocks, mushrooms etc. Hard boots definitely have their advantages. Kicking steps, icy steep descents. I can’t fault anyone for using them. I haven’t tried them in awhile, not since the early 90’s. Back then I really hated it, but with improvements in tech etc, they seem to work fairly well for most people I might try to demo them again and see how I feel about it. If I was doing stuff that Griber does, I would almost definitely be in hard boots.

    #582697
    nomad
    288 Posts

    I’m with killclimbz. Soft boots now for most things, maybe hard boots in the future for technical mountaineering adventures.

    Coming from a more loosely defined freeride/freestyle background, I have one question for the hardbooters: have you ever tried riding or landing switch with your setup? With stance angles around

    between 60-65 on the front and 55-60 on the back

    , is such a thing possible?

    I realize that most people on this board aren’t interested in such things, and in truth I don’t do it very often, but there are times when a nice backside 180 into powder makes a run that much more epic. I can’t imagine a hardbooter riding switch in 55 degree pow, let alone dropping a cliff or doing something more intense. Like riding a technical line from a difficult summit, such endeavors are merely another way of pushing one’s capabilities and add another twist to the myriad of styles that is snowboarding.

    #582698
    Zach
    127 Posts

    @nomad wrote:

    I’m with killclimbz. Soft boots now for most things, maybe hard boots in the future for technical mountaineering adventures.

    Coming from a more loosely defined freeride/freestyle background, I have one question for the hardbooters: have you ever tried riding or landing switch with your setup? With stance angles around

    between 60-65 on the front and 55-60 on the back

    , is such a thing possible?

    I realize that most people on this board aren’t interested in such things, and in truth I don’t do it very often, but there are times when a nice backside 180 into powder makes a run that much more epic. I can’t imagine a hardbooter riding switch in 55 degree pow, let alone dropping a cliff or doing something more intense. Like riding a technical line from a difficult summit, such endeavors are merely another way of pushing one’s capabilities and add another twist to the myriad of styles that is snowboarding.

    Riding switch is about the only thing that hard boots don’t work so well for… typically. Though, I’ve certainly seen it done. As for dropping cliffs, I rode with 2 guys last winter that were dropping 30-footers with style. You might see a picture of one, in our board review… though, I can’t promise that it will make the edits. Ask powderjunkie; this dude was way aggressive.

    Like I said, Pete Santanello placed 2nd at the Verbier Extremes, in hard boots.

    #582699
    Killclimbz
    1165 Posts

    That is another thing, I basically ride a duck stance. It’s comfortable for me and allows me to get very low which is handy when you ride through a lot of trees. I am not so sure hardboots would be so great for ducky. Any thoughts on that?

    #582700
    huevon
    124 Posts

    I am a hardbooter by necessity due to the terrain I travel, mostly because I have to climb tricky stuff.

    But to further the analogies, look at bikes. The sickest mountain biking is done on bikes that are precisely designed not to be as stiff and responsive as possible. On the contrary, they are designed to be soft and flexible, leading to increased performance. Nobody downhills on rigid bikes anymore. You try to rip something nasty, you are jolted and bounced out of control because every little bump sends you flying.

    And that is exactly the feeling I get with hardboots. While I have more precise control over the board, and I can hold an edge extremely well on a good surface, when I start trying to check speed or what have you, I find it a lot harder to absorb bumps and such.

    Go try to drive your tight-suspension racecar on some nasty mountain roads…

    The two other problems with hardboot setups are a) the weight–I just don’t feel as nimble with the heavy setup, b) the increased need for a perfect fit–if you stance is not dialed in (which probably requires some shimming) then it make a much bigger difference on a very rigid hardboot setup.

    #582701
    Zach
    127 Posts

    I’ve never seen a hardbooter ride a duck stance…. I can’t imagine it would work. Conversely, soft boots don’t really work above 40 degrees or so… at these angles, you need a stiffer cuff to transfer power to the edges.

    Like I said, your boot and binding choice has a lot to do with your balance and physiology. If I tried to ride in a duck stance, I would end up on my face a lot.

    Zach

    #582702
    Zach
    127 Posts

    @huevon wrote:

    I am a hardbooter by necessity due to the terrain I travel, mostly because I have to climb tricky stuff.

    But to further the analogies, look at bikes. The sickest mountain biking is done on bikes that are precisely designed not to be as stiff and responsive as possible. On the contrary, they are designed to be soft and flexible, leading to increased performance. Nobody downhills on rigid bikes anymore. You try to rip something nasty, you are jolted and bounced out of control because every little bump sends you flying.

    And that is exactly the feeling I get with hardboots. While I have more precise control over the board, and I can hold an edge extremely well on a good surface, when I start trying to check speed or what have you, I find it a lot harder to absorb bumps and such.

    Go try to drive your tight-suspension racecar on some nasty mountain roads…

    The two other problems with hardboot setups are a) the weight–I just don’t feel as nimble with the heavy setup, b) the increased need for a perfect fit–if you stance is not dialed in (which probably requires some shimming) then it make a much bigger difference on a very rigid hardboot setup.

    Your analogy to mtn biking doesn’t quite work, because the amount of travel possible in your legs is much greater on a board than it is on a bike (distance between your ass and the seat vs. the distance between your ass and your board).

    I had the same opinion, the first time that I tried hard boots. 2 things were happening:
    1. I didn’t know how to set up my bindings.
    2. I was still trying to initiate and control turns, from my ankles.
    Hard boots require that your bindings be canted and lifted to place your knees in an anatomically correct position. Once you acheive the right stance, you naturally begin to initiate and control turns from your hips. Switching to hard boots helped me to breal the habit of relying on my lower legs to be my shocks (frankenstyle.) I was forced to use my entire legs as shock absorbers… the way it should be in har or soft boots.

    BTW – AT boots and plate bindings can generally be lighter than a soft-boot and strap-binding set-up. The only system that truly has a weight advantage is the clicker system that bcr uses. However, you can do better with post-production modifications.

    Zach

    #582703
    TEX
    2486 Posts

    I think it comes from your background. Catjockey said it Himself, he is a skier riding a snowboard with his feet strait. I come from surfing. that brought you skateboarding. That with the combination of ski technoligy brought us to snowboarding. I have to agree with BCR, pipe riding is alot like dropping narrow chutes. You need control and response that allows you to feel loose. All of my power comes from my thighs and ankles. My ankles are very strong froma lot of skateing on ramps, pipe ect. I keep my riding similar. I was thinking about switching to hard plastic boots, but if they dont fel right I will go back to soft boots. I also have another problem to deal with. I patrol and I cant afford two set ups. Now I can say I roam around the hill all day in my soft boots. Picking up the wounded , hauling tobboggans, mending fences you asshole snowboarders tore down ect. Some of our patrollers are skiers and they always have to remove their bots at “bump” for a rest. I can wear my soft boots all day and not get hurting feet. In fact i rang in the new year in my boots in the bar cause my friends would rather drink that ride.

    #582704
    nomad
    288 Posts

    soft boots don’t really work above 40 degrees or so

    Sorry, but that’s just blatantly false. Not to nit pick or anything.

    #582705
    Zach
    127 Posts

    @nomad wrote:

    soft boots don’t really work above 40 degrees or so

    Sorry, but that’s just blatantly false. Not to nit pick or anything.

    Do you ride soft boots with a stance higher than 40 degrees? Many strap bindings don’t even have an adjustability range above 40 degrees. Burtons go to 45, and they are the exception.

    Soft boots are designed to give more stiffness side-to-side than at the front of the cuff, for the exact reason that soft-boot turns are initiated by flexing sideways on the boots. Above a 40 degree stance, your feet become situated such that to pressure the edge of the board, you have to push forward in the boot.

    Zach

    #582706
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    Nomad…you know he’s talking about stance angles right? Not slope angles.

    #582707
    Jon Dahl
    384 Posts

    I guess I’d better give up on dropping cliffs, but I think it has more to do with being 48 than my hardboots 👿 I must be a bit of an oddity, I never skied/skateboarded/water skied etc. etc. before taking up snowboarding. And I started in Airwalks. And ended up in hardboots. And have always felt more comfortable in hardboots on steeper terrain.

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