Steamboat Springs Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that Matt Ladley is just 21 years old.
The Steamboat Springs snowboarder has been one of the next big things in snowboarding for the past seven years.
But now, Ladley enters his third X Games in Aspen with a trick set he thinks could land him on the podium.
“I’m feeling confident, and I’m stoked in my riding,” Ladley said Wednesday. “Really, I’m riding better than I ever have.”
Ladley will lead a contingent of Steamboat snowboarders into the X Games, which are set to begin Thursday and run through Sunday.
Ladley will be joined by Benji Farrow in the men’s snowboard super-pipe. Maddy Schaffrick will compete in the women’s snowboard super-pipe, and Arielle Gold, who is fresh off a World Championship win, is the women’s first alternate.
Men’s snowboard super-pipe elimination begins at 7 p.m. Thursday. The finals are at 7 p.m. Sunday. The women’s snowboard super-pipe final is at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“This is the biggest (event) of the year,” Ladley said. “The X Games has the most buzz around it. It’s the biggest crowd. As far as people that don’t really follow snowboarding, this is when they pay attention.”
It’s been a tough start to the year for Ladley. He didn’t qualify for the finals in a Dew Tour event or a recent Grand Prix event in Copper Mountain.
Still, he said he’s excited about the way he is riding.
Two years ago, Ladley finished eighth, and he was fifth last year. With a stock run set for Thursday’s qualification, Ladley said he’s eyeing Sunday’s finals.
His run Thursday will consist of a backside 540, frontside 1260, back 900, front 1080, cab 720 and a front double 1080.
Depending on whether he makes Sunday’s finals, Ladley said, he probably will increase the degree of difficulty in his runs.
“Last year, I kind of was a little hesitant with them,” he said. “There were some I didn’t have at the time. This year, I looked the demons in the eye and am doing it.”
For Schaffrick, the year has been about returning from injury. She finished eighth at last year’s X Games but was riding on a balky knee.
This year, she has returned to form, including a third-place finish at the Dew Tour in December.
Farrow will be competing in his first American X Games.
“There are a little bit of contest nerves, but it’s mostly exciting,” Farrow said. “I think I can make finals if I can land the run I’ve been working on the last couple of weeks.”
For all three snowboarders, the podium is achievable. Stomping runs will be the hard part.
“The podium would mean a lot,” Ladley said. “It’s always been a goal and dream of mine.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com