Steamboat Olympic snowboarders Taylor and Arielle Gold at home in Breckenridge
March 7, 2015
Just a under a month after his first Dew Tour win, 21-year-old Taylor Gold is back at it in the halfpipe at Breckenridge Ski Resort. While his 18-year-old sister Arielle — an equally accomplished rider with podium finishes at both X Games and Dew Tour — runs laps with four-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark, Taylor sits on top of one of the 22-foot halfpipe's walls thinking about a trick.
After strapping in, he stands up, slides forward a little and eyes the spot he is about to hit on the opposing wall.
"Anything I do here is going to be thoroughly unimpressive," he jokes.
It's a few days before the U.S. Freeskiing and U.S. Snowboarding pro teams start their pre-X Games training camp. Taylor, Arielle, Clark and a handful of other skiers and snowboarders are already in the pipe at Breckenridge getting a jump on training and shaking off rust after a holiday break.
“I always wanted to be a snowboarder. For as long as I can remember, it was like, ‘this is what I’m going to do.’” – Taylor Gold
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Standing near the edge Taylor waits for an opening between riders and skiers coming from the top of the pipe. He drops in, airs out of the pipe with a quick grab and then hikes back up. The small trick is just a portion of what will eventually build into something much larger, more complex.
"I told you it wasn't going to be impressive."
It's just a part of the process. He is working on adding a new variation to the McTwist — a move made famous by Shaun White. It's a trick he plans to add to his run for X Games in Aspen.
Since he was a kid, his approach has always been methodical, some would say to a point of being perfectionist. Any trick starts with visualizing it, taking it apart piece by piece, then putting it together again. One of his and Arielle's former coaches Spencer Tamblyn calls him a "mad scientist" in that regard.
Falling generally isn't a part of the process, since he's spent so much time analyzing the moves and taking the steps to get there. It's muscle memory by the time it gets to competition.
Five more times, Taylor hikes back to the same spot. Each time he drops the trick gets a little bigger, a little more complex.
Each time he consults with friend and fellow X Gamer and Breckenridge resident Brett Esser, asking how it looked and what he should have done.
Arielle on the other hand just goes for it, running pipe laps over and over. She's a different kind of driven, strong willed, ultra-competitive and more apt to just go.
Tamblyn said simply, Arielle wants to be the best and is willing to do everything she has to get there.
As a kid, "she wanted to be as good of a girls' snowboarder as (Taylor) was a guys' snowboarder."
Growing, the two fueled one another, each trying to out do the other.
Arielle was more aggressive than the other girls, which set her apart early. She wanted to go fast and keep up with her older brother and his friends, do the tricks they were doing, when other girls were more tentative.
The two have continued to push one another. Taylor has always encouraged Arielle to ride more like a guy, emphasizing technique and grabs rather than just spinning; he set the course for her to follow.
Then during the 2012-13 season when Arielle started to make podiums before he did, Taylor was that much more motivated to push himself harder.
It paid off with podium appearances of his own last season and both of them earning spots on the U.S. Olympic team that traveled to Sochi Russia last February for the 2014 Winter Games.
Arielle's drive is equally noticeable. After each halfpipe run she listens intently to tips from Kelly Clark, whom Arielle finished behind in both the season opening U.S. Grand Prix at Copper and Dew Tour at Breckenridge.
At 31, Clark is snowboarding's most decorated athlete with three Olympic medals and a handful of X Games and Dew Tour honors. She embraces the mentoring role and is just as eager to see a girl like Arielle push the boundaries of the sport as she is to keep wining herself.
After practicing the Taylor and Arielle meet at the bottom of the pipe. Arielle asks Taylor if he saw any of her runs.
He says no, but they proceed to chat about what she's working on, how her rotations and grabs are going. Taylor's pushed her to ride more like a guy, emphasizing technique and grabs rather than just spinning.
He offers a few more pointers suggestions and they call it a day.
FROM STEAMBOAT TO BRECK
Today, the two Steamboat Springs natives are close friends, U.S. teammates and even roommates.
When it became apparent that they might be on track to make the U.S. team, weekend family trips to Breckenridge as kids for amateur competitions became full winter-long stays to be close to Breck's terrain park and early season competitions.
While still proud of their Steamboat origins, now as young adults, the two rent a place together in Breckenridge and are thinking about buying a condo together. It is only natural. They grew up together, and now they have the same schedule.
"Breckenridge has always kind of been our place of choice for training. It's right in the middle of where we want to be," Arielle said of the decision to become more permanent locals.
They get along now, but it wasn't always that way.
"We definitely didn't get along as well as we do now when we were younger," Taylor said in a recent interview at their place. "We used to have intense fights. Back then she used to tag along. It was cool to have her, but it would get heated some times."
Anything, from who sat where on the chairlift to who gets the TV remote, turned into fights.
Their father, Ken, laughs about it about it now. "We didn't think they were going to survive," he said in a phone interview. "Arielle was an instigator. If it was something they could be competing in, it was always an argument."
Now they still have their brother and sister moments as roommates, but both Taylor and Arielle agree it never lasts long.
As for getting into the sport, Ken, a former competitive smiles skier joked, "I wanted them to be skiers. I don't know how this happened."
Growing up in Steamboat Springs, it was never much question of if you will ski or snowboard, it's which one you're going to pick and how far you will take it.
For Taylor, it was an easy choice. At age 7, after watching snowboarding in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, he was hooked.
"I always wanted to be a snowboarder. For as long as I can remember, it was like, 'this is what I'm going to do,'" Taylor said of his choice.
Not much later, Arielle followed suit.
"Once I saw Taylor snowboarding, I was just wanting to follow in his footsteps, I guess," she said looking back.
But for her it started as just something to do in the winter; she simply happened to excel at it.
"She didn't even really care about it and she would win everything," Taylor said of Arielle's days as an amateur. "It was always kind of amazing to me how well she would progress, even not really caring about it."
Then when the podiums started to come, the success drove her to be even better.
"It was around when I was 14 or 15," Arielle recalled sitting in the dining room in her and Taylor's place in Breckenridge. "I had one of the better seasons that I had. I was getting close to getting on the podium and then I kind of realized that if this was something that I wanted to do and be a professional at, then I would have to dedicate a little more time and energy to it."
In 2013, after some awards at the junior level, she earned bronze at her first X Games. It was a moment she said added to her drive, and left her wanting more.
Now as a pro, she's come to a point where second isn't good enough, even if it's second to Kelly Clark.
"It's really cool to be on the podium, but there's a lingering thought about what more I could have done to be on top of the podium," she said.
A BLESSING AND A CURSE
While being successful siblings has had its perks and the two have fed off each other, Taylor still calls it a blessing and a curse.
"We'd like to be seen as ourselves and not as 'Team Gold.' And that's how we're pegged a lot: 'oh it's the Gold siblings…" he said in a slightly mocking tone.
Arielle said it's especially frustrating when one of them does well and the other doesn't.
For Taylor it meant watching his sister succeed in the sport he led her to before he did.
"It's hard. For the first year when she exploded and came on the scene, I was hurt. That was when I had really hurt my heel," he said of her early success. "She was getting all these podiums and I had never podiumed. I started becoming 'Arielle's brother' instead of Taylor and that sucks, being the sibling that's like, 'oh you kind of snowboard too don't ya."
But during last year's Olympic run they both came into their own success. And now both have started this season with two podium appearances. In addition to the Dew Tour, Taylor also topped the podium at the U.S. Grand Prix series opener at Copper Mountain.
Arielle finished second at the Grand Prix and third at Dew Tour. It's a trend they're looking to continue.
Together they've now combined for multiple Dew Tour and X Games podium appearances. And while the Olympics may have been a disappointment — Arielle dislocated her shoulder in training just prior to the opening round and Taylor failed to make the finals — with strong starts to this season, the siblings are still making a case for being the future of snowboarding. And they'll continue to do so, as long as it's still fun.
"There's a reason I compete. It's because I love it," Arielle said. "As long as I'm still passionate about it, I will do it as long as I can."
Taylor echoed the sentiment. "It's just my favorite thing to do. If I was just going to college, I'd still be spending all my money on snowboarding. To be able to get by and snowboard is the ideal situation."
Catching up and closing strong
While X Games may not have gone quite the way Taylor wanted — he finished ninth, one spot out of qualifying for finals — for Arielle it was another solid performance. She took fourth behind 14-year–old snowboarding phenom Chloe Kim and Sochi medalists Kelly Clark (bronze) and Torah Bright (silver).
Kim topped the podium as the youngest X Games medalist in the event's history. Clark and Bright earned second and third respectively.
Both Taylor and Arielle finished the U.S. Grand Prix series strong, each placing second at last week's competition in Park City, Utah.
On Thursday, March 5, both Taylor and Arielle qualified for the finals of the 33rd annual Burton U.S. Open in Vail. Taylor won the event last year with what he described as the best run of his life. Arielle missed the 2014 competition after dislocating her shoulder in Sochi.
Halfpipe finals are scheduled for Saturday, March 7.
Editors note: This story originally ran in the spring edition of Explore Summit magazine and was updated with X Games and Grand Prix results.
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