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Steamboat Magazine

Riding High

01/27/2017 03:19PM ● By Dan Greeson

Matt Ladley celebrates his gold medal win at the 2016 X Games in halfpipe. Photo by Ned Cremins.

By Julie McNally

Four Steamboat Springs athletes have medals on their minds as they look forward to the Aspen Snowmass X Games Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 26-29. Nik Baden, Matt Ladley, Taylor Gold and Arielle Gold are part of an elite group of 200 athletes who hope to compete for a place on the podium. Steamboat Magazine sat down with the Steamboat locals and their coach, Spencer Tamblyn, ahead of the coveted contest.

Spencer Tamblyn – U.S. Snowboarding Freestyle National Development Coach

Where do you stay during winter? 

Wherever my travel bags are. Summit County, Aspen, Mammoth, California, Park City, Utah, Europe, China, Korea, Earth. Really, anywhere someone wants to hold a snowboard contest. Sometimes I am home in Steamboat Springs.

On average, how many days do you snowboard in a year? 

Two hundred days, plus.

Go big or go technical? Which gets you the highest score? 

Style, amplitude and execution.

When you are on the road, what do you miss most about Steamboat? 

Everything – the valley, the mountain, the people, the snow and sleeping in.

Do you train at Bald Eagle Lake in the offseason? Is water a good place to learn new tricks, or is it like landing on concrete? 

I have coached there for several summers. It is valuable, but trampolines are better. Water works pretty well on skis, but it is a hard landing on a snowboard, so we try and look for snow-to-airbag opportunities for that kind of work. 

What are some of the biggest challenges of being a coach?

Helping the athlete to find their pure motivation – being a cushion between their perceived expectations and the potential they have. 

Nik Baden – Snowboard Slopestyle

Who is your snowboarding hero?

Alek Oestreng right now. He has done his own thing but he has won contests and is always doing cutting-edge tricks.

Who are your favorite co-competitors?

Everyone. I like meeting new people at the contests and riding with my buddies like Brandon Davis and Kyle Mack. 

Do your parents watch you compete?

My parents watch me compete all the time when I am at competitions close to home. They sometimes travel to contests, but they are at the close ones whenever they happen.

What’s the latest in snowboard fashion?

Ditch the jacket, throw on a spiffy shirt or jersey, then add a stylish headpiece.

Do you train at Bald Eagle Lake in the offseason? 

I don’t train in the water much, but I like to jump some cliffs here and there just for fun.

Who is the coach who has had the most influence on your career?

Luke Kessler and Bill Enos have influenced me the most. They have helped me to love snowboarding, and everything they told me was constructive. They helped me with everything and now we are good friends.

Matt Ladley – Snowboard SuperPipe

Go big or go technical? Which gets you the highest score?

Well the ideal thing would be the combination of both. I would choose going big any day. It’s where I like to really push myself; I have fun up there.

Where do you stay during winter?

Excellent question (laughing). Who knows, I kind of have a home base in Denver because it makes the Denver International Airport trips a lot easier but I still have a home in Steamboat Springs, which is where I go when I have the choice. Otherwise I’m pretty much on the road.

Who is your snowboarding hero? 

Man, that’s hard. There are the big ones that I was fortunate enough to meet at a young age like Terje Haakanson and Jake Blauvelt. But really, it’s the guys I ride with everyday that constantly remind me why I’m here in the first place.

Do your parents watch you compete?

All the time. My parents have been there every single step of the way and supported my decisions in such a way that I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without them. 

If you had one day in Steamboat, free of all responsibilities, what would you do?

I assume it snowed two feet – wake up, harass the boys at Powder Tools and pick up my board, rip the mountain until it’s tracked out and then see how many times I can get my snowmobile stuck in the backcountry. Then dinner at home with family and friends and a couple drinks downtown to finish it off. 

On average, how many days do you snowboard in a year?

I can’t say I’ve ever counted. But let’s say besides traveling, I’m riding a lot November through May, some in June, and usually a month down to New Zealand in the early fall. 

Arielle Gold – Snowboard Halfpipe

Who is your most fun co-competitor?

It’s hard to pick just one, because they all bring so many unique qualities to the crew, and are so much fun to be around.

You are a student at University of Colorado Boulder – how do you fit everything in, especially during winter?

Being a student athlete has been challenging, to say the least, but having grown up doing it throughout high school, it’s something that I’ve become accustomed to at this point.

Do your parents watch you compete?

Both of my parents come to my snowboard contests, but they don’t both watch. My dad will usually pace and yell while he watches Taylor’s and my runs, whereas my mom likes to cover her eyes, or stand in the port-a-potty and plug her ears.

Who was your favorite summer Olympian at the Rio Games?

It’s a tough decision, but definitely between Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Usain Bolt. I know, I’m basic.

What can you say about Danny Davis, the ‘old man’ of snowboarding?

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with Danny, but I can tell you that he is hilarious and a great guy to be around. His snowboarding style has definitely become iconic in the industry, and he’s inspired a whole new generation of athletes to replicate it – which some would say rivals even Shaun White’s legacy.

Who will be the next Steamboat snowboarder to emerge onto the X Games scene? 

There are tons of up-and-comers from Steamboat, but one of the most prominent thus far has been Savannah Atkins. Keep an eye out for her climbing the ladder.

Taylor Gold – Snowboard Halfpipe

What songs do you listen to while you train?

I am a big fan of classic rock. I listen to artists like Led Zeppelin a lot. If I’m trying to bring my energy level up, I listen to something heavier, like Metallica or Black Sabbath.

What’s the latest in snowboard fashion? 

Riding in bibs (overalls) and fishing hats has become pretty popular. 

Go big or go technical? Which gets you the highest score?

I think these days you need both to do well, and creativity goes a long way. From a judging perspective, amplitude gets scored above everything else.

Who was your favorite summer Olympian at the Rio Games? 

I don’t have a favorite athlete, but my favorite event is gymnastics, by far. The whole USA women’s gymnastics team was incredible.

When you are on the road what do you miss about Steamboat? 

To go snowboarding without the pressure of a contest, riding deep powder on Nelson’s and North St. Pats. The deepest pow days I’ve ever been in are in Steamboat. When the snow is blowing over my shoulders, it’s like a dream. 

It seems like every year, the bar is raised at the X Games, with competitors trying new and evermore difficult tricks. What’s in store for 2017?

I think you’ll see more creativity across the field, with each rider doing more to differentiate themselves from each other. It’ll be really exciting to watch this season.