I have been happily using Flow bindings since I first bought my own snowboarding equipment in about 1997. I always used to recommend them to people on the basis that they were so easy to use and comfortable and that these advantages made it worth persevering with the odd reliability issue.
Lately though I have suspected that my bindings were limiting my performance and I began to wonder if I should try straps again.
I noticed two striking differences with straps.
1. Absolutely no heel lift. This had always been an issue with my Flows, as the way the strap pulls down on the instep, holding your foot against the base plate, is just never going to be as positive as having a strap over your ankle pulling your heel in to the highback. Its like the difference between wearing shoes and boots.
2. Weight. I had not appreciated how heavy my old Flows (FL39) had been, despite being made of carbon fibre. The new Tomcats have an aluminium base and minimal design making the board feel much lighter in the air and taking the effort out of ollies (easier to carry too).
The straps are a pain to put on though and I don't buy any of that crap about strapping in being a ritual. its a P in the A but I'll be doing it from now on.
I had heard of Teleboards before but never actually seen one in action until last weekend at Hafjell in Norway. I saw a guy whiz past me and, thinking he was riding a Skwal, I took off in pursuit to have a chat (being a bit of a Skwal fan myself).
As I followed I could see that his heels were lifting and I realised he was riding a Teleboard! I was immediately enthused like a bird spotter (some might say trainspotter) catching a glimpse of a rare and exotic species and quickly caught up with him.
He introduced himself as Bjørn Oskar Venås Røbergrider, a demo rider for the Norwegian distributor, telebord.no. We had quite a chat and he told me he felt it was more like skiing than riding but admitted that he was from a skiing background. To me it looked like a superb carving tool that I would love to try. Unfortunately, demos seem to be few and far between.
Poor old Flow, their bindings have always been a cool and innovative product but they still can't seem to put them together very well and now I see they are having to recall 2004's MK03, MK04, MK05 & MK110 models.
I was totally wowed when I got my first pair in 1996 and other riders used to stop me and ask about them on the slopes. They lasted for years until they got stolen. Naturally, I replaced them with new Flows. They broke the same day! After the same thing happened again and again the distributor agreed to replace them with a top of the range carbon fibre model which, surprisingly, is still holding out.
This seems to be a bit of a growth area, I mentioned Original Snowboard Art recently, additionally Sikko Snowboards offer similar custom skins and Burton have introduced their Series 13 programme that allows you to choose from a range of topsheet designs on a number of their boards, providing that you live in the US (possibly available in Canada too).
I also just noticed that Salomon are running their second annual board design contest with a prize of €2,000 for the winner, closing date is 31 January. If you can cope with the ghastly Flash interface the competition site is here. Via Josh Rubin.
This neat new web site, Original Snowboard Art, sells arty top sheets for $70. The site offers about four hundred designs by nearly a hundred different artists supplied as an apparently easy to stick on "TopSkin".
They also encourage new artists to offer designs on the site for a 10% royalty, so if you are a dab hand with Illustrator you could even design your own.
Here are some online shopping ideas for Christmas gifts for the snowboarder in your life. I have carefully searched the web to find the best products at the best prices and sorted them from bargain basement stocking fillers to top of the range boys' toys.
Interesting article about the early rivalry between Burton and Sims and their differing strategies for business growth.
This useful article from PisteHors summarises the possible equipment choices for accessing the backcountry including snow shoes, approach skis and split boards.
To maintain a board in optimum riding condition one should ideally apply hot wax to the base and sharpen the edges after every three days or so of riding with a full base grind maybe every ten to fifteen days.
Although a base grind will necessitate checking the board in to a service centre, waxing and edging can easily be done at home or, preferably, as a therapeutic aprés ski activity in the basement of a cosy holiday chalet. That is just what I did the other day and I took some pictures to serve as an illustrated "how to".
I love my Flow bindings and have persevered through many breakage / replacement / upgrade cycles to keep using them.
One downside that persisted, however, was the fact that, due to having only a single foot strap, it was always difficult to adjust them to fit comfortably while working properly. In particular, I found that if I tightened them up enough to avoid heel lift the pressure on my instep was unbearable. The following tip really helped to get a better fit.
How does anyone choose a snowboard? The choice is bewildering and, to the uninitiated, the only differentiating features are often the graphics. No surprise then that questions along the lines of "I am 5'11" tall, weigh 170 lbs and have blue eyes. What board should I buy?" are among the most frequently asked on snowboard fora the Web over.
I was in Decathlon in Surrey Quays at the weekend. They have their winter sports stock in: a limited selection of boards and boots, plenty of clothing at reasonable prices and some bargain padded shorts for £13.99 which are also available from their online store. I am going to get some of these as presents for freinds and family who are still new to snowboarding.
This article was originally published on Snowserve in May 2000.
This article was originally published on Snowserve in February 2000.
Having seen the odd Skwal over the last year or two I had become increasingly keen to try one.
For anyone unfamiliar with a Skwal it could be described as the ultimate evolution of the alpine carving board with stance angles of almost 90/90. Invented in 1992 by Frenchman, Thias Balmain, and manufactured exclusively by his company, Thias, it looks a like a single ski with a radical sidecut and two bindings.
A week in Courchevel seemed the perfect opportunity. So, I persuaded my friend Cass, an expert skier, to try Skwaling with me.