I'm trying to predict what bindings (soft/stiff) I'll want down the road so that I can just buy them now. I heard that softer bindings are more forgiving, and stiffer bindings are more responsive.
Don't worry about it - the most important factors for bindings fit with your boot and comfort (these are normally related). Aspects like flex/responsiveness, weight, dampening, canting, etc. are all way
secondary and not worth thinking about this stage.
Until you have got more than 50-100 days on the mountain, the old mantra about gear selection applies:
- Buy boots that fit. This is the single most important factor in improving your boarding and enjoying riding. Do not worry about brand (as long as it is one of the major brands it will be fine), stiffness, tech, reviews, etc. - just get something that fits.
- Get (buy/borrow/rent) a board that is approximately correct for your weight+ height (and maybe foot size) and intended riding style (if you know) - for most people a soft-medium flex all-mountain will do the trick. Do not worry about brand, stiffness, tech, reviews, etc.
- Get bindings that fit your boots and are comfortable. Did I mention: Do not worry about brand, stiffness, tech, reviews, etc.
- Then ride as much as you can/enjoy. Maybe take lessons. Any day of riding (heck every single run) will make more of a difference to your riding and progression than any gear choice.
Also what are high-back bindings?
See ThunderChucky's post.
As a newer rider who's still learning I'm not sure which one of these I'd prefer. Does my decision depend on what kind of BOOTS i get?
Only to the extent that the bindings should fit your boots and not cause any pressure points.
Are these the 2011/2012's?
Does not matter.