8.16 - Why do ski areas make snowboarders wear a leash?

(Following compliments of Dave Schutz, NSP Eastern Snowboard Advisor, d-schutz@pipeline.com)

Safety leashes are straps which are fastened between your front leg and the front binding or the deck of a snowboard. They are intended to prevent the catastrophic consequences that could result from a runaway snowboard. (A six pound snowboard hurtling down a slope at 30 miles per hour can be very dangerous)

However, because snowboard bindings don't have a safety-release capability like those on Alpine skis, their use is often considered an arbitrary holdover from skiing. Yet in reality that isn't the case.

A safety leash is intended to prevent a "runaway" during the short but critical time period when the snowboarder is buckling or unbuckling their bindings. This is a time when both the board and its user can be in an awkward and unstable position. One slip at this moment and the board can head down the slope alone, wreaking havoc in its path, and potentially destroying your $500 board.

The correct technique for buckling into a snowboard has the safety leash being fastened BEFORE any attempt is made to step into, let alone buckle the binding. Likewise the leash should be the LAST item unfastened after both feet are removed from the their bindings. This minimizes the chances of a runaway.

A snowboard leash is designed to be fastened around, or just below, the knee, NOT around the ankle as was once done with skis. This is so that you can remove your feet from the bindings and walk 25 to 100 yards back up a half-pipe or a snowboard park. With the leash fastened around the knee there is sufficient length to permit easy walking. Should you slip on an icy surface while walking, the leash will keep the board with you.

Dave Schutz
NSP Eastern Snowboard Advisor

Editor's note: Having been boarding since the early days I've seen a significant evolution in binding design. Early bindings were not 100 percent reliable, sometimes releasing or breaking. In these cases the leash was important to have. Note that even telemark skis have safety leashes and this gear is generally not releasable. Of course one thing this all leads to is an attempt by the ski resorts to limit their liability by making you responsible for your board. Personal responsibility, now there's a novel concept.