Can Burton Step On’s handle powder?


Quick answer: yes.

I went to as much pow, as much backcountry as you can get in Europe. I did the Vallée Blanche. With Burton Step Ons. Yes.

I wasn’t trying to make a statement. I wasn’t trying to prove to the world that it works and get external validation. It’s just that I transitioned to Step Ons long time ago already and I’m not about to blow more money and go backwards with straps just for one event. Not gonna lie I was 10% worried sure; not because of the distrust with the product but rather it’s just because I haven’t done this before.

So as to not waste our time: let’s just do this in a quick-fire Q&A format:

“Is it difficult to click in and ‘strap’ at the top of your run?”

When we did Vallée Blanche, you hike down to a flat part where everybody settles and re-group. It’s a good spot for snowboarders to strap in. I didn’t encounter any problems. I think I had to click in sitting down during that time. There’s a truly and completely flat part there where it’s easy to click in but it was far from where my group was huddling so I just sat beside my group and clicked in while my skier friends packed up their crampons.

“Are you allowed to use Burton Step Ons at Vallée Blanche?”

Yup. Even saw a using flow bindings too.

“Is it difficult to get two clicks with your Step Ons when your binding’s full of pow/snow?”

Nope. If you haven’t heard this argument before, let me communicate this to you: “If I took a tumble: whether it’s strapped bindings or Step Ons/Flows/Supermatic, I (and most people) as a snowboarder will always dust off the base of my bindings and the bottom of boot before I strap myself in”. It just feels weird even with strapped bindings for me to intentionally leave mounds of snow in between your boot and binding. It also feels like there’s a pebble in your shoe as you ride.

That said, once you dust off the base of your binding and the bottom of your boot (it doesn’t have to be completely clear of snow), it’s definitely easy to still get the two-clicks in pow.

I’ve had this one situation where in that descent I only got one click. I didn’t have any packed snow under my boot. It was just to hard to click in with my heel when I’m on a moderate slope of a run AND I was on my toe edge.

So what I did I just did one click. If I had to do the entire run with one click on powder, I would’ve been fine with it. It’s wouldn’t be my first time and I have no difficulties doing that. I just clicked once and rode off knowing that I’ll be able to dig my heel and do the second click anyways on my next heel turn. And then I easily did just that.

Consider also that I have F2 forward lean on these guys already. If you’re forward lean is much more aggressive though (e.g.: F4 onwards, if that’s even possible), you might have difficulty clicking in with two clicks. That’s not a pow thing. It’s a step on thing. I experimented on the forward leans during my year 1 and I’ve had that difficulty even in groomed runs. So I’m guessing it’ll be more difficult if it’s combination of aggressive forward lean plus pow.

“If you tumble in pow, is it easy to unclick/strap if you have to?”

With my experience and with my set up, yes. You can bet your boi took a tumble a couple of times LOL. I had no problems reaching for my release lever and taking my foot out. I did both by attempting to release my boot while on my bum and also while I was on my tummy. No problem. It’s just become about your mobility and strength (because pow is draining) if you’ll actually be able to bend over and reach it lol.

“If you tumble in pow, is it hard to click back in and ride away?”

For the most part I’d say it’s difficult to click OR even strap in when you tumble on pow. But alright, I know you only care about the Step Ons on this one, so let me break it down:

If you tumble, I’d say from experience it’s hard to strap back in while sitting down. Sure pow is soft but it’s hard to push yourself back up when you’re done clicking in since your hands sink down as you push up. You also don’t have much flat surface and the pow is too loose to roll from sitting down position to going to the push up / toe edge position.

And also ultimately when you’re in a difficult terrain like this, you should be skilled enough to strap in while standing up anyways.

Pressing down to click in

That said, here’s where I had my difficult experience with Step Ons:
If you’re in a half a foot of snow, this is negligible. It’s easy. It’s like groomers. You’re fine.
If you’re down in a 1-3 foot of snow, I found it difficult.

This is because when it starts to get sizeable and deep, the snow’s loose so you’d have to press down and compact the snow so you can have a stable foundation for your board and for you to stand up on. I think with strapped bindings, you wouldn’t have to pack it up as much since you just hop on your board and then bend down and strap with your hands. Great.

With Step Ons, I think you have to press down and pack the snow a bit more so you get a more stable foundation underneath. This is because for you to click in all three (two toe clicks and then the heel click), EACH of those you have to press down; even at least lightly.

If you do press down and the snow underneath you is unstable, you might just end up falling. It then becomes more tiring (and frustrating) to do a failed attempt and you’re tripping in pow with a partially-clicked in boot.

You can’t go too deep

The problem doesn’t stop there. You’re probably thinking: “that’s easy to solve, just pack it in more and get a more stable snow underneath you”. Well yes, but this can’t always save you.

You see, if you need a stable base, you have to press down more. The more you press down, the more you go deeper in the snow. If you have to press down even more, then you’re going to go even way deeper.

So now if you’re so deep (let’s say 3ft of snow), sure you can “easily” click in now, but firstly, it’s hard to dust off your binding base because there’s no space to throw those snow off of your board! Second, as you move and if it’s deep, the loose snow beside and on top of you just spills down on your board, in the hole you just made!

Last but not the least and after you overcome those two, you’ll be strapped in but you’re in such a deep hole, how are you going to move forward now?

If you’re in a good incline/slope, then I think you’ll manage. But if you’re at the part of your run where there’s just a tiny incline, you’ll have problems.

If you’re in a good incline (like left illustration), then you just have to shimmy a bit and ram through the powder, and then you’re back on top of the surface of the snow.

The slope is mellow

If you’re in a low incline area (like the right illustration), it’ll be hard to get out. You have to shimmy forward a lot and for a while. And the moment you do the first shimmy, the snow’s gonna dump on your board, making your board heavier. It’s veerrryyyy tiring. Trust me, been there.

The cleanest way you could do it if it’s not deep enough and you can Ollie back to the surface, if that’s even possible lol.

You also have to be more careful because as you wiggle forward and snow dumps on top of your board making it heavier, you have to have enough strength to keep that front foot flat or ideally upwards. You don’t want to be torpedo-ing yourself down even more.

“How did you get out of it when this happened to you?”

It was tiring. I had to do what I described. I had to shimmy and wiggle forever and my board was getting heavier each motion and I had to maintain balance allthroughout. My front leg was also very tired because for each shimmy, I had to pull up my front foot so I go up little by little (and you’re carrying all those snow weight). And then if you want to gather forward sliding momentum, you’d wanna do all those back to back, quickly :/

Ps, I didn’t experience this in Vallée Blanche. I actually experienced this in the glades at Blue Mountain.

“Going back, what’s the most difficult/biggest con of using Step Ons on powder?”

Just that one I described in detail above: if you tumble in pow and you’re on loose snow and it’s deep, ouf.

“Any regrets or would you used straps for pow?”

Before I actually ran Vallée Blanche with my Step Ons, I was anticipating that “maybe on this level upwards, I might have to”. I would’ve been ok with that and it would’ve been cool to have a totally separate pow setup.

This wasn’t the first I rode pow though so I had good experiences with Step Ons on pow. I rode it in 10-20cm pow day here at Blue Mountain and I rode the trees one time after several snow days. It was untouched and I tripped and fell and in that glades, it was thigh-deep.

Going back, I rode Vallée Blanche and I was totally fine. I fell several times but I didn’t experience that tiring scenario I’ve described above. The incline is endless there so it’s easy to shimmy out.

It bothered me intensely at first and I was contemplating on buying some ‘vita’s or Cartels but then I realized that: “the problem is not about strapping back in when you tumble in pow. It’s tiring and difficult sure, but it’s doable. The bigger problem if you zoom out is, why was my awareness and skills subpar that I fell in the first place?”

And then ever since that, I totally forgot about the binding situation and just 100% focused in getting better with my pow skills.