Contest to Build a Cool, Safe Snowboard Uncovers Four Innovative Designs -- Now, Which One Is Best?

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Voting and critiquing opens to public in final weeks of Chris Zider Snowboarding Binding Design Challenge. The goal? Create an inexpensive, unobtrusive, yet reliable system that releases when a boarder is in trouble

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We're trying to save some lives, and hoping snowboarding companies and manufacturers will pick up on these ideas and help the inventors commercialize them.

A $20,000 quest to build a binding that will free a snowboarder upended into deep powder has produced four exciting, lightweight and inexpensive designs that promote snowboarding safety without diminishing snowboarding fun.

The winning design will be selected July 31 after the public, snowboarders and inventors have had a chance to view and critique all of the entries at the challenge’s Facebook page.

Creators of the Chris Zider Snowboard Design Challenge include family members of a snowboarder who was killed in a 1992 spill. They hope to call the industry’s attention to these efforts to make a fun sport less likely to be a fatal one.
“We're trying to save some lives, and hoping snowboarding companies and manufacturers will pick up on these ideas and help the inventors commercialize them,” said Bob Zider, whose son, Chris, fell into a tree well and suffocated. “We need input from engineers and boarders. The key criteria are technically solid design, and a device young, deep-powder boarders would buy (at less than $100).”

Here are the four entries deemed by judges to meet the technical criteria while also infusing snowboarding safety with some degree of cool:

  •     Scott Nisbet, inspired by CarShield technology that assesses when a car has been in an accident, used sensors for his device. It doesn’t require any change in boots or bindings, and recognizes when the boarder is upside down or in danger, sending a signal to automatically unlock the boot from the board.
  •     Brad Brinson, a Santa Cruz snowboarder motivated by his own tree well scare, created a “pyro mechanism” device that, simply put, explodes to break the connection between boot and binding. The boarder activates the device with a remote, carried in a pocket or on a belt.
  •     Thomas Trudel, a propulsion hardware engineer and action sports enthusiast who lives in Santa Cruz, looked complaints about current safety devices in the eye. His answer: a standard looking strap that contains a hydraulic timer that releases the board when the boarder is upside down for 30 to 60 seconds (time depending on the boarder’s setting). Trudel’s technology allows for hassle-free snow removal.
  •     Adam Weisberg, a snowboarding enthusiast from Corvallis, Oregon, looked at skis for his inspiration for a hands-free in-and-out connection for snowboarder and board. Weisberg’s foot-activated release operates with a lever the boarder self-activates to unlock his front foot by using his back foot.

Bob Zider, himself an inventor of medical devices and golf equipment who is credited as the mind behind Flexon, is pleased with the creativity and diversity of the designs. “Unlike with skis, snowboard bindings are typically fixed to the board rigidly, and releasing from them requires being able to bend down and release the buckles.

“There have been many efforts to introduce releasable bindings to the industry, but all have failed to receive acceptance, and other than using a lanyard, none to our knowledge has been able to address the tree well problem of nothing being able to reach the boots to release, or provide added time for rescue of an unconscious boarder.”

Detailed specs and drawings for all four designs, as well as those of the three runners-up, are online at http://chrisziderscholarship.org/design-challenge/ through July 31. The winning designer will receive $10,000; second-place prize is $6,000 and third-place prize is $4,000. For more information or to arrange interviews with the contestants or sponsors, please email Susan Fornoff.

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Susan Fornoff

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