So I was obsessed with researching bindings and was primarily focused on getting the Strata, but then I saw the 5 pack Force binding and it caught my eye.
I decided to buy both the red 2022 Union Strata and the 2021 limited edition “5 pack” Union Force binding.
Union Force snowboard binding review (vs. the Strata)
This is a review of the Union Force snowboard binding compared to the Strata. This is actually a limited edition “5 pack” model from 2021.
2022 Union Strata snowboard binding review
This is a review of the 2022 Union Strata snowboard binding. I rode this binding first.
The 2022 model did not appear to be any different from the 2021. The only visible difference I could see was that the word “Strata” was not on the highback.
The 2020 Strata has a different ankle strap.
The Strata highback comes in 2 different styles: one with holes and one team highback.
The one I got in the video above is the team highback.
What did I think?
I tried the Strata first. And it was definitely different feeling at first and a bit painful underfoot at first. Perhaps it was the minidisk or whatever. It did feel more loose.
The footbed is wider and there was some extra space between my boot and the interior sides of the front part of the binding.
The Force was tighter fitting.
The Strata feels a little lower to the board and little more flexy. The Force feels a little more stiff underfoot (standard baseplate?) and responsive.
It’s a little more powerful and aggressive feeling to me.
The Strata looser. More casual. More barefoot feeling.
What I didn’t like
One of the toe straps on the Force (despite being the same on the Strata) would slip off occasionally and had a funny sort of warp to it. A random imperfection.
They are painted bindings and that stuff chips and scratches off easily. But perhaps most bindings are like that.
The extra space in the Strata (the footbed is wide).
The Strata’s a little less adjustable. There is no adjustable toe ramp and the heel area is less adjustable. The Force is more adjustable.
If you like lots of forward lean then the Strata has less cause you can only adjust it so far (3 settings I believe), but it’s more of a “freestyle” focused binding as they say so many may not want much.
And the Strata forward lean adjustment isn’t as easy to adjust but most people don’t fiddle with that much so it doesn’t really matter.
The Force is more of an all mountain binding. But whatever binding you get you can ride it anywhere, don’t feel too limited by the labels.
I suspect the Strata would feel better for jibs, but I personally don’t jib much.
As far as shock absorption goes I think they are both good. The Force has a thicker softer area underfoot. The Strata’s isn’t as high and the material is more rubbery.
Both bindings are available with holy highbacks;-) if you like them – I don’t.
According to one of the Union reps I was emailing the highbacks with holes are a “tad bit softer”.
The Strata highback doesn’t really have any padding whereas the Force has a lot.
The Strata is a bit more minimalist. I like the asym shape though.
Other snowboard bindings I was thinking about
Other bindings I was considering/comparing were several Salomon shadow fit bindings and the Bent Metal Transfer. In the end I went with these two. Salomon’s kind of looked cool, I was tempted to try out their shadow fit, but being a ski company kind of turned me off a little;-).
The Bent Metals are cool. I like Mervin’s stuff (currently ride a Lib board), but I went with the Union’s. Maybe they felt a little heavier to me or liked the design of Union’s better.
Older bindings I had were old Burton Missions. I’ve had a few Burton bindings and wanted to try something new.
Who gets the most snow in the Northeast? If you are looking for a new snowboarding mountain to call home or some good places to go snowboarding/skiing in New England then this is for you.
The biggest mountains or ski areas in the Northeast lie in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The tallest mountains in the Northeast lie in New Hampshire (Mt. Washington), but is that where the most snow is?
Yeah, possibly due to its’ higher elevation, but there is no ski area up there and areas to the west tend to get more snow so they say.
Who gets the most snow in New England?
This is kind of general but interesting. The most snow (annual snowfall average) unfortunately in New England is in a portion of New York known for its’ lake effect snow but there aren’t any tall ski areas there. Big NY ski areas like Whiteface and Gore are to the east.
Then in VT you have Jay towards the top leftish, Stowe and Smugglers. Then going south you have Sugarbush, Killington, etc.
Then the deepest places in NH are in the very north, around Mt. Washington, Wildcat, Cannon, Bretton Woods and Loon ski area.
The deepest snows there are maybe 200″ a year in Wildcat and the rest being closer to 160″ like Cannon was where I worked.
Cannon has a similar or higher elevation than some places in VT but it’s icy as hell.
Highest snowfall in Vermont and the Northeast so they say:
Jay Peak (350+)
Smugglers notch (300+)
I was skeptical and dug a little deeper and found city snowfall totals. They did kind of vary depending on the site, but I did find usa.com and New York gets the most snow. But like I said there are no big ski mountains in those areas that you will see below.
Well, it’s further north and colder so when it might be raining in other places it could be snowing at Jay.
But I can’t imagine much more snow because of that.
Yet, another thing is that to the west of Jay there are fewer mountains to absorb the moisture that hits Jay. It seems like many of the storms come from the west.
And that could explain more snow and why NH and Maine get less.
Do they get as much as they say?
IDK, maybe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they inflate their totals.
This last season they claimed around 300″ of snow but only had a base of like 18-48″ or so?
Cannon where I worked this last season only claimed like 130″ for the season and for a while their base total was similar. I went to Jay in the early season December and they had a little bit more snow then.
A few months later I went to Smuggs and Stowe and there wasn’t a significant difference.
I’ve done most of my riding out west and areas that claimed they got similar amounts of snow usually had deeper bases.
But you got to ask where are they measuring this snow?
Is it in the sun or shade?
Is it on a groomed trail?
Did they blow snow on that trail? If so how much?
A visible place where everyone could see would be best.
Should yo you get a size bigger than your normal street shoes?
Usually people size down if anything.
Why? Because you definitely don’t want any play.
But it depends on you.
Do you want a “comfort” fit, a “normal” fit or a “performance fit”?
A “comfort fit” might be for the person who snowboards twice a year or maybe 3 times if they are lucky. A “normal fit” is kinda like what we do at Cannon in the rental dept.
Normally we tell people if your toes touch the front it’s okay.
Then kick your heel back, lace up or buckle up your boot then bend your knees and flex and if your toes come back a bit then your probably good.
You don’t want your foot to move around in the boot.
Now a “performance fit” isn’t for someone renting gear.
Rented boots are usually all packed out so they aren’t going to feel like a new boot.
One of the things we do in rentals is we size their foot using a Brannock device. Those are one of the things you might have used before in the shoe store.
You might be surprised what your foot actually measures.
Here I am measuring my left foot.
Ever use one of those?
This is a good place to start.
Forget your current shoe size and start with one of these.
It measures my left foot at 27.5 which translates to a 9.5 US mens and my right at about 27 which is a 9.
So that’s a good place to start, but keep in mind all boots don’t necessarily follow that.
My old boots were 9.5 Burtons then I recently got a size 9 in Thirtytwo boots which felt very tight when I first tried them.
I was questioning if they were too small, but after heat molding and 2 days I decided they were two big because my foot got loose in the boot.
DON’T GET HUNG UP ON A NUMBER (a certain size).
People come into rentals to get boots often saying, “I wear a size ___ (fill in the blank)”.
That’s their street shoe size. Some have it in their head that they are a certain size and their ski boots should be the same.
Sometimes they are and often they aren’t.
But we pretty much always start with the Brannock scale.
Here’s a little story…
Recently I had pretty much narrowed my choice of new boots online down to a 9.5 TM 3 Thirtytwo boot.
I thought 9.5 because my old Burton’s were a 9.5 and my larger foot measures 9.5 and I almost bought them online, but I decided to go back to this shop to try them on.
The 9.5’s felt like sort of comfy, but I could tell they were going to pack out and be too roomy. So I tried the 9 on and I felt pretty tight in those and after about 10 minutes I got some pain in one pinky toe.
I couldn’t imagine going any smaller.
It didn’t even cross my mind. Hesitantly I went back the next day, bought them and did heat molding. I put a little soft foam toe cap over my toes, stood and sat in them for 10 minutes+.
It was actually a little painful.
After the heat molding I took the caps off and put my foot back in and noticed they were a little more spacious although it felt like the foot bed on one foot was bunched up in the toes.
I sort of shrugged it off and figured it would fix itself.
Later I read the sign below in the boot box, examined the messed up insole and figured it was either defective or damaged from heat molding.
At the end of my first day riding in them I noticed one of my feet (actually the longer one) was sliding a little bit.
Then I did one more day noticed further play in the boot then I decided I would sell them because the boot was only going to break in more.
Depends on what you are going for. And it’s hard to see and no one wants to feel pain, but will that boot feel the same after you use it 2, 5, 10 or 20 days later?
No, it won’t.
Because it’s going to break in and pack out.
More comfort now might be more pain later (and less control) when your foot is sliding around in the boot. But it depends what you are going for. If you are someone who just rides less than ten days a year then yeah, maybe you want to stay away from pain.
It’s kinda like buying athletic shoes but different.
Have you ever played B-ball or soccer and needed some sneakers or cleats? You don’t want to play with your foot moving around in those right?
If your foot is sliding around in the boot or sneaker then your game is going to be off and that’s the same with boarding, but sneakers and snowboard boots are different in that a snowboard boot contains a lot more soft material.
That will pack out.
To some extent.
How much will a snowboard boot pack out?
Well, that probably depends a bit on the construction of the boot and liner and you.
…at least 15 hours of wear before they break in and pack out to half a size bigger.
Is pain and “curled” toes a bad sign?
Most every place you look will say “yes” but is that necessarily so?
In the rental shop this is usually a bad sign and we will give people larger boots if their toes are curled.
But what’s different about rental boots and the people who rent them?
A rental boot is usually a packed out boot.
They’re not new boots and these people are just going for a day. Most of them are newcomers and don’t want to be uncomfortable at all.
They want a comfort fit or…
If they are a little more experienced then they are probably going to want a normal fit.
A normal fit is how we try to get them and that’s toes touching the front, heels back, and when they squat their toes should come back.
Then there’s the performance fit.
I don’t think anyone comes into rentals looking for a performance fit. That’s for people who ride a lot and are buying a new boot.
A new boot is not a packed out boot.
How that boot feels in the shop when you try it on won’t be how it feels 10 days later.
So it’s tough because a little short term pain now is a better fit later. And if the inside of a boot expands in width and length anywhere from a 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch then just maybe toes curling a little bit isn’t bad.
But don’t get my wrong you could go too small.
So how small is too small?
Do a shell fit
This makes sense when I saw it. So take the liner out of the boot and put your foot inside the shell. Does it make contact with anything when centered in the boot? If so then it’s obviously too small.
Then slide your foot forward till your toes touch and see if you can stick at least a finger behind your heel.
The liner will flatten out to a pretty ridiculous degree, but the shell isn’t going to change much at all. So check your shell fit:
Take the liner out, put your foot in, if your forefoot touches the sides of the shell, you definitely want out. If you push your foot all the way forward so your toes touch the end of the shell, and have less than one finger’s width of space behind your heel, you definitely want out.
If your foot does neither of those things with just the shell, then your liner will most likely pack out enough to accommodate your foot. Most liners will lose just about a whole shoe size worth in space after 5-10 days of riding.
Start with the Brannock scale, but don’t assume that’s set in stone as each company and each boot is going to be a little different in terms of size and fit.
Do a shell fit.
I like to be in the smallest boots I can manage. At first, my toes are definitely curled up a bit. There’s some mods you can make to ease that pressure until the liners pack out, and some mods you can do to speed that process along. It’s important to really seat your heel into the heel pocket by kicking your heel on the ground before you lace the boots up. Maybe settling that heel pocket issue will be as important as making more space in the toe box.
Snowboard boots are made to snowboard in not to walk in. So walking around in them isn’t the best test. A better test is simply mimicking your riding stance.
I think doing a shell fit (above) is one of your best tests for a how a boot will feel in the long run.
Bonus: How to fix a new boot that’s too tight
Do heat molding (maybe wear a toe cap), but make sure the guy takes the footbed (insole) out of the boot 1st or it might deform it.
Wear it: around the house or just snowboard in it and possibly alternate it with an old boot till it breaks in.
Kick your heels into the floor.
Kick your toes into the floor, ouch.
Get a foot bed with less volume (a thinner insole).
Put a foot bed with a higher arch in the liner. A higher arch will pull your toes back more.
Wear a thinner sock or no sock.
Bonus: How to fix an old boot that’s too loose
Put a flat insole or some sort of dense foam in the boot between the shell and liner. Make sure it’s sized right.
Use a thicker insole.
Put some foam behind the tongue of the boot.
Buy a new liner.
Buy a new boot.
What sources say for choosing a ‘ski boot’ size
Of course you are a snowboarder, but how do skiers think when it comes to sizing boots? I took this bit from EVO.com:
Beginner/Intermediate Skiers should generally choose a boot close to their indicated Mondopoint length or slightly longer, even if it feels small. Keep in mind that the liner of the boot will compress after you ski in it a few times, and you’ll generate more space fairly quickly.
Intermediate/Advanced Skiers should also choose a boot close to their indicated size or slightly shorter, but in a stiffer flex. Pay attention to the width of the boot as well, and choose one that offers a snug fit if possible.
Advanced/Expert Skiers normally choose a shell size 1/2 to a full size smaller than their indicated size for a super precise and responsive fit, and a stiff or very stiff flex. Downsizing in ski boots may call for a collaboration with a skilled bootfitter to make the boots comfortable enough for skiing.
Any differences compared to snowboarding?
The sizing above sounds kind of like the different fits mentioned before like: comfort fit, normal fit and performance fit.
It’s like most beginners want a comfort fit because they don’t understand the difference and snowboarding is painful enough to begin with.
An intermediate rider wants a normal fit because they’ve learned.
Your average advanced rider has probably had a number of boots and knows boots break in and they want that glove like fit when it does because they want a performance fit.
Boot stiffness=rider ability???
I’ve heard skiers say that and I think it partially applies for snowboarding.
Beginners do tend to use snowboard boots that are softer and more advanced riders tend to use boots that are stiffer.
Some advanced riders prefer softer boots. For example, lots of guys (some of them professional) who ride a lot of park and do jibbing use softer boots.
They may like the flexibility for tweaking their tricks and setting tricks up at slower speeds.
Yet, then there are even pro riders who do lots of jibbing that wear stiffer boots.
People who ride a lot of steep terrain and like to go super fast also tend to like stiffer boots as they offer more stability, support and control at higher speeds.
And some people ride lots of different terrain and want an all around boot so they look for a medium stiffness boot.
The flex is part preference and not just ability.
ThanXs for reading!
There you go I hope this helps you decide on the right snowboard boot size for you. Let me know how it goes.