Up then down, Gold ready to move on
January 29, 2017
Aspen — Saturday's X Games women's snowboard superpipe finals had Steamboat Springs rider Arielle Gold feeling positively mixed up after her runs.
They weren't great, or by her standards, even good. She finished sixth out of the eight competitors, unable to claim a clean run on either of her two attempts.
She was much better only a week prior, however, flying to second place at the Laax Open in Switzerland.
"I’m in the middle," Gold said Saturday, assessing her hot-and-cold competitions. "Switzerland was amazing. That mountain in Laax is probably my favorite halfpipe ever. It seems like it's always been good to me, and I always look forward to going back there."
Gold won at the Laax Open a year ago. This year, she finished second, behind Chloe Kim, who didn't compete there in 2016. The two women's scores there this year were closer than they were in any of last season's top competitions. Kim won at 90.50, and Gold was in at 86.50.
That momentum didn't follow Gold back home, however, where she was one of many riders and skiers to struggle in the X Games Aspen halfpipe. Competitors said the pipe was usually icy and fast.
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Those conditions helped lead to Steamboat rider Matt Ladley breaking nearly every snowboard he owned in training. He ended up winning a silver medal in the men's snowboard superpipe contest on an older, shorter board.
Elena Hight, who went on to win Saturday's women's superpipe event, scaled back her run to compensate.
She came to Aspen hoping to lay out back-to-back 900s, but opted not to when it came time to compete.
"I didn't put my run together until my first run in finals," she said. "Everyone was struggling in their own ways. There's nothing wrong with the halfpipe. It was really great, but the cold temps and icy walls were causing trouble."
The lights covering half the pipe went off just before Gold's first run, forcing a 30-minute delay. When she did go, she looked rusty, reaching to the snow to steady herself after attempting a 900 on her first hit.
She went with an easier trick to start her second run and did make it deeper in the pipe, but the end result was the same, with her reaching down to steady herself, basically assuring she'd be off the podium.
She came away with a sixth-place finish, the worst she's had in five X Games Aspen starts.
"I struggled a lot with the pipe," she said. "It's pretty easy to see when you think about the level of riding at past contests as opposed to the level of riding (Saturday). A lot of that can be attributed to the conditions of the pipe. A lot of it is also that they gave us two runs this year instead of three. And that's huge. I got second place at the Laax Open. I fell my first two runs and landed my third."
The two results left her feeling very "in the middle" to start her season.
Plenty of events remain to change that, starting this week with a U.S. Grand Prix in Mammoth Mountain, California. The men and women's halfpipe qualification begins Thursday, and the finals are set for Saturday.