For Steamboat snowboarder, Olympic Gold isn’t a pipe dream

Taylor Gold pushes the boundaries of snowboarding, which could earn him a medal in Beijing

Taylor Gold flies high above the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Russia during the qualifying round of the men's half-pipe competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Gold didn’t advance past the semifinals in 2014, but he’s a medal contender in 2022.
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Taylor Gold has spent the last few years attempting, practicing and perfecting a trick that had never been done before.

In a sport as popular as snowboarding, it’s hard to find something that’s uniquely yours. Most new tricks aren’t anything new; they’re just modified or made bigger. Gold did the latter. He’s now the only snowboarder performing a double Michalchuk 1080 in competition.

The trick is technically difficult because Gold not only lands switch (or on his weak side), but because he lands it blind with his back to the base of the halfpipe. Think of a right-handed player batting left-handed and hitting a home run. The double Michalchuk 1080 — plus his grab in the trick — is now considered the “Chuck Taylor.”

“Snowboarding is a creative sport,” Gold said. “There’s so much self-expression, and that’s what drew me to it when I was a kid. It’s fun to be at the level where you can start to kind of make your tricks and your riding your own.”

Then he follows the trick with a switch McTwist, a trick that appears simple, but is hard to make look effortless, especially when approached from a switch landing.

Gold secured his spot in Beijing with a second-place finish at Dew Tour in December. He proceeded to skip big events like X Games and the Laax Open to prioritize his health. He wanted to address a few nagging pains and get some reps on his home pipe in Summit County, where he’s lived and trained for years.

If all goes well, he’ll add another impressive trick to his run as he competes in his second Olympic Games.

Taylor Gold spins through a 1260 during his winning run at the U.S. Grand Prix half-pipe event at Copper Mountain in 2014. He's still on the national team in 2021 and expected to have a great winter.
Joel Reichenberger/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Snowboarding, particularly on a halfpipe, was deeply American in the sport’s early days. American men swept the podium in 2002 and won gold in 2006 and 2010. The women also won gold in 2002 and 2006.

Gold grew up in Steamboat mimicking those top performers every chance he could get.

American women still rule the superpipe, but the men have been led by Japanese riders Ruka Hirano, two-time silver medalist Ayumu Hirano (no relation) and Yuto Totsuko, each of whom have at least one win this winter.

The Japanese athletes favor flips and rotations, which have earned them plenty of hardware.

However, Gold is not copying anyone anymore, and he snowboards with different standards in mind.

“That’s just not something that Taylor has much interest in or sees the value in, necessarily,” said Arielle Gold, Taylor’s sister and an Olympic bronze medalist. “He’s been snowboarding his entire life and values the sport for so much more than just the halfpipe element of it. … His runs are kind of his manifestation of what he believes the direction of the sport should be going.”

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