Steamboat Local Skis Big at Winter X Games02/06/2024 12:02PM ● By Elainna Hemming
Steamboat Springs, CO - Between the DJ set at the Monster Energy tent, seemingly unlimited free immunity shots, and Xfinity claw machines, Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain was jam-packed with entertainment for me and hundreds of other X Game guests on Saturday, Jan. 27th. In between events, cornhole with gloved hands and piping hot cinnamon donuts kept me warm.
Although the free products were exciting, even more rewarding was the spectacular view from the free admissions section. Huge TV screens displayed the footage from the cameramen and drones, which had to keep pace with the swift athletes. Once the athletes breached the top of the closest hill, the audience could shift their gaze to take in real-time action. At night, the lights illuminated the moving bodies and made the athlete's air space and tricks all that more intimidating. Around 5:00 p.m. that night, those lights shone down on Steamboat Springs local Riley Jacobs, starting her descent into the halfpipe for the Women’s Ski Superpipe.
Riley has been training with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club since elementary school, although she wasn’t always solely interested in halfpipe competitions. She originally competed in moguls, but quickly realized that she wasn’t interested in the bumps; it was the time suspended in the air during jumps that exhilarated her. After several years doing slopestyle and terrain park competitions, she finally settled on what she truly liked the most: the halfpipe. Her background in SSWSC has been a direct pipeline for her skiing career. “As an athletic environment, it’s just an awesome program to be around,” Riley says. “The amount of resources that they have has been extremely helpful.”
At the X Games this year, Riley placed 6th with a score of 82.00. Although she treated the games just like she would any other competition, her excitement was palpable. “It’s been a lifelong dream to compete in the X Games, so I was just in shock,” she says. After a series of successful finishes – 4th place in China and 6th place in Copper – her altered training approach has paid off this season. This year, she has been focusing on more specific techniques to hone in on, specifically smoothing out her descent into the halfpipe, as well as perfecting her ski grabs as she’s in the air.
After the World Cup in Mammoth, Riley will be finished with the 2023/2024 winter season. Once she returns to Steamboat, she’s looking forward to training camps and practicing on the resort’s new 22-foot halfpipe. She’s currently competing on the U.S. Rookie team, but has high hopes that next season she will be on the U.S. Pro Team. For this, she needs to be in the top 10 in the world. “There’s always a million things to learn,” she says, “but right now I feel pretty confident that I can get on the team this year.”