The very first thing you have to decide when you're putting your bindings on the board is which foot is going to be your forward foot (leading foot). If your left foot is forward you have a regular stance and if your right foot is forward you have a goofy (AKA Switch) stance. If you have ever surfed, skated, wake boarded, or done any other type of board sport then I suggest starting with the stance that worked for you in the past. There are people who do almost everything goofy but snowboard regular stance and vice versa but they are few and far between so just go with what you know. If you have never been on a board of any kind and have no idea what stance you are then here is a simple trick to find out. Have a friend sneak up and give you an unexpected shove from behind making sure that your feet are side by side. In theory the foot that you step with first to catch yourself is your leading foot. Try it a few times and if your consistently catching your self with your left foot your probably regular, with your right and your probably goofy. Disclaimer: This method is in no way scientific and is not fool proof. Another (non scientific) method of determining your stance is to lay the board down with the nose facing away from you, walk up to it and just step onto it as if you were stepping into the imaginary bindings. The idea being that your first impression is usually the best and you will be naturally inclined to step onto the board in the stance that you are most comfortable with. If none of these methods work just set it up regular since that is the most common stance, and once you start learning it should become clear what stance you are.
When you're going down into the really deep stuff, your goal is to keep the nose of your board above the snow. One way to do this is to lean way back and put all your weight on your back leg but if your going through pow for more than one run you will get fatigued quickly and the fun will be over. That is where SET BACK comes in. By mounting your bindings towards the back of the board your weight will already be on the tail, lifting your nose out of the snow with minimal effort on your part so you can concentrate on getting the best lines and spraying your buddies. Boards come with centered stances and pre set back stances depending on the style of board. A centered stance board means that it is the same distance from the binding inserts to the nose and tail of the board. A setback stance board means that it is a longer distance from the nose of the board to the front inserts than from the tail to the rear inserts. Typically Freestyle or park boards come with centered stances and Freeride or all mountain boards come with a set back. If this is your first board start with your bindings centered on the board and adjust them to your riding style as you progress. If you do decide you want to set back your stance, move slowly. You will only need a few inches of adjustment at the most, so keep in mind that small changes can have a big impact on the way the board feels and rides.
Now that you know which direction you will be facing on the board, and if set back is your thing, its time to figure out how far apart to mount your bindings. The typical ski/board shop answer to stance width is to have your feet even with your shoulders. This is a fine starting point but it puts you into a STANDING postition where you are more inclined to stand up straight and lock your knees. This will cause you to twist at the hip to turn, decrease your balance and ability to absorb impact, as well as raise your center of gravity.
You do not want to be simply "standing" on the board, you want to be riding the board and to do this you will need to be in a RIDING position. Stand on your new board like you were about to go down the hill. Put your feet inline with your shoulders and then slide them just past the edge of your shoulders so that it is more comfortable to have a SLIGHT bend in your knee than to be straight legged. Now measure your stance from the center of each binding with a tape measure so you can make specific adjustments and have accurate set ups in the future. This stance will help you initiate turns with your shoulders and upper body rather than with your hips as well as give you a lower center of gravity. As you progress you will find that certain stances work better for specific types of riding. For example Alpine riders who race and carve like to have very close stances while jib and freestyle riders prefer very wide stances for stability and control in the air. There is really no hard science for determining your stance width so start with what feels comfortable and make adjustments as you go along. This Height-Width table should help you get started.
|Height (in feet)||Width (in inches)|
|5'2" to 5'4"||18-19"|
|5'5" to 5'8"||19-20"|
|5'9" to 6'||20-21"|
So now that you have your bindings where you want them on the board it's time to adjust the angle of the binding. It's important to get the appropriate angles for your body because if your bindings are not properly angled you will put unnecessary and often painful strain on your calves and knees resulting in shorter, less fun days and ultimately blown knees. The way to adjust the angle of your binding is in the mounting disk in the center of your binding. Along the edge of where the disk fits into the binding you will see dash marks with a number every fifth mark. These dash marks are your angles. They start at zero and move in increments of 3. Set the disk with the indicator arrows pointing to the angle you want and mount the whole thing onto your board. Make sure you measure your width and set back so you are mounting them in the correct place.
Different styles of snowboarding use different stance set ups. Many "alpine" or slalom snowboarders prefer both feet angled towards the front of the board, while progressive and freestyle snowboarders prefer a "duck" stance, where your feet are angled away from each other. When your adjusting your angles, make sure that you leave enough room between the edges of your board and the edges of your bindings so your toe or heel doesn't drag in the snow when you try and turn. A common set up for beginners is right around 0 degrees on the back foot and +15 degrees or less on the front foot. We don't recommend going past -21 degrees on your back foot because it puts a lot of strain on your knees to have such drastic angles but its all about comfort and what works for one person may not work for you. There is no one correct way to set up a snowboard so do plenty of experimenting and tweaking as you progress. Small changes can have a large impact on the way a board feels and responds.
So now that your have your bindings mounted where you want them on the board its time to adjust the bindings themselves. Adjusting the angle of the high back or "Forward Lean", will have a large impact not only on the way the board performs but on your body posture. Angling your high back forward will force your knees to bend giving you a lower center of gravity and more aggressive stance which is great for half pipe and big mountain riding because it provides better leverage and control for powering through turns. The draw back is it makes it harder to catch yourself or make corrections when you're buttering a box or going through a rail because it restricts your leg movement. Many urban and rail oriented riders prefer to have their high backs pushed as far back as they can go often removing the adjusting mechanism entirely, while some big jump enthusiasts like to crank up the forward lean for edge control in the landings and take off. As with everything else, it's ALL personal preference and you will have to do some experimenting and tinkering to figure out what works best for you.
All right, your all set up and ready for your first day on the hill. As you progress and figure out what styles of snowboarding you like best, consider playing around with your edges. Sharpening or "Tuning" your edges will give you edge hold on the steep sheets of ice way up on the mountain. De-tuning your edges will make sure you don't break your face jibbing through any rails ( I learned that one the hard way!) Getting a perfectly dialed in set up takes experience so keep playing and experimenting with your set up and most of all HAVE FUN!
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