Text Denis Piccolo
Since 1993 Vibram has been collaborating with snowboard brands for the development of boot soles. Over the years there have been many evolutions and performance has made great strides, and now more and more snowboard companies rely on Vibram for the development of dedicated soles. We felt the need to deepen the discussion directly with them.
When and with whom was the first Vibram sole for a snowboard boot developed?
We designed the world’s first snowboard sole in 1993 in collaboration with the Swiss brand Raichle. For that occasion we created Vibram Stelvio, which subsequently paved the way for other important collaborations in this market.
What are the features of Vibram soles for snowboard boots?
Over time, snowboard boots have undergone a huge evolution, they have differentiated into different categories and have become more and more specific depending on the activity. Vibram has always been in step with the times, offering solutions dedicated to every context, such as freeriding, freestyle and all mountain.
For example, some features such as the ability to absorb impacts and sensitivity while surfing are transversal across all categories, while properties such as lightweight or performance on technical terrain are specific to certain segments. Another fundamental aspect is the design of the sole, which must be combined in the best possible way according to the type of rubber used.
Which one of your technologies best suit snowboard boots?
We have a wide range of technologies that adapt to snowboard boots soles, which use different compounds. Softer compounds are used for greater sensitivity or compounds normally designed for mountaineering that emphasize the properties of wear resistance and precision of support on the rocks.
Between the different proposals, the most used compound in the snowboard world at the moment is Vibram IceTrek. This specific formulation guarantees optimal comfort and grip even at low temperatures. Other brands instead, use technologies such as Vibram Arctic Grip. Nitro Snowboard has recently launched its first snow boot with this all rubber technology, which is by far the most advanced in terms of grip on ice, especially when wet. Some brands have instead opted for solutions made of Vibram Ecostep compound, a compound made of 30% recycled rubber that maintains grip performance unchanged.
Which brands are you currently collaborating with?
Vibram has been collaborating for many years with the most important brands in the snowboard world, such as Burton, K2, Nitro, Deeluxe, Nidecker, Northwave and ThirtyTwo. To best support our partners, we have developed exclusive projects together with them, creating customized designs based on the technical and aesthetic needs of each one of them.
How does the creation process develop? How do you go from the project to the realization?
Usually for the development of a new snowboard sole, the inputs are different and can come from: athletes/final consumers, brand partners and the Vibram R&D department.
In fact, many soles were born thanks to the collaboration with our ambassadors, with whom we try to develop innovative solutions and new technologies for the snow world.
The first phase of the creation process starts with the definition of the brief, the target audience, the type of compound to be used and the timing. Our designers begin to develop hand-made drafts and renders on a graphics tablet, then moving on to the creation of the maquette with a 3D printer. Finally, the mold is created, which will allow the soles to be tested in the laboratory, live and in the field, receiving feedback from the athletes.
On which bindings can we see Vibram logo right now?
Talking about bindings, we are particularly excited about the collaboration with Nitro. Together with the brand we have developed a rubber strap applied in the toe area of the binding with the aim of increasing the grip and adherence of the boot with the binding, improving precision and sensitivity during activities.
Future plans in the world of snowboarding?
Research and innovation are keywords for Vibram, in fact we have always studied and continuously developed possible applications for rubber and technologies for the snowboard sector. In all these years it has also been essential to have the possibility to interface directly with the partner brands, together with them we continue to test new types of soles and specific details for the snowboard world, which we will create in the coming seasons.
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