words: Mary Walsh
photos: Aaron Blatt
On Saturday night, January 24, 2015, all eyes were once again turned to the 22-foot superpipe at the base of Aspen’s Buttermilk peak in anticipation of eight snowboarders and twenty-four runs that would decide the podium in women’s halfpipe at X Games Aspen.
The field consisted of the top transition talent in women’s snowboarding. Chinese rider, Cai Xuetong, returning to Aspen for the second time; Spain’s Queralt Castellet; eleven-time X Games competitor Elena Hight; two-time bronze medalist Arielle Gold; Torah Bright, owner of two golds and two silvers in the Aspen event; Chloe Kim, 2014 silver medalist; X Games veteran and owner of six medals Hannah Teter; and victor for the past four years in the iconic Winter X event, Kelly Clark.
From the very start of the night, the three women who had qualified in the top spots produced scores that would keep them in the upper echelon. Torah Bright’s first run, full of lofty hits that included a McTwist, air to fakie, cab seven, frontside five and an alley-oope frontside three was scored a 78.33.
When Chloe Kim dropped in for the first time, she admitted her legs were shaking, though her riding didn’t show apprehension once she rode up the first wall and erupted into the air. During practice, Chloe had hit the deck on her final trick on the rider’s left wall and bounced her face off the snow. While she luckily only sustained a few scrapes, she avoided that zone the rest of the night, opting to throw five tricks per run instead of six, which only makes it more impressive that she garnered an 81.66 for a first attempt that sent her almost fourteen feet out of the pipe on her highest air.
Kelly Clark, who had qualified first going into finals, is the definitive ruler of women’s halfpipe. If Kelly were a sports team, she’d be a dynasty. Prior to 2015, she has won four straight gold medals in Aspen and boasts seventy-three career wins overall. She is the winningest snowboarder, male or female, ever. On her first run in the cold January air on Saturday night, Kelly made it clear why she has such a record. An enormous frontside ten, a textbook tuck knee, multiple sevens, and more, all at incredible size that moved her into first place with a 90.00. In doing so, she also broke the height record by going 16’11” out of the pipe.
There was no shortage of talent in the women’s finals rider list. Spain’s Queralt Castellet put down high-rise airs and clean 900’s, but was unable to stick a run that would put her in medal contention. Elena Hight threw one of the most stylish tricks of the night, lofting a alley-oop 360 Japan on her first wall. Arielle Gold produced a heavy selection of nines, sevens, and fives and topped out at an impressive 13’7”, but wasn’t able to string a run together that would put her on the podium.
When it came time for the last three riders to drop—Torah, Chloe, and Kelly—they were each assured a spot on the podium before even strapping in for their final runs. Bright, who sat in third place as she pointed it into the first wall, unfortunately landed on the edge of the deck coming down from a floaty McTwist and would retain her highest score from early in the night and add a bronze medal to her collection.
Chloe Kim, the youngest competitor at only 14 years old was up next and put down a big switch method, cab 900, switch back seven, McTwist and a frontside nine. With Kim’s combination of technicality, style, and amplitude, she was able to edge ahead of Clark with a 92.00.
Oftentimes, Kelly Clark’s final drop in pipe contests is a victory lap and she has used these opportunities to showcase proper methods as well as 1080′s. When Kelly pointed her snowboard into the pipe for the final run of the evening, it was anyone’s guess which woman would stand atop the podium once the dust settled. Starting things off with a untouchably massive 1080 and moving into multiple 720’s and a classic tuck knee, Kelly’s uncanny ability to send it high above the lip would unfortunately cause her to run out of pipe on the last hit and scuff the edge of the deck, scrubbing the final landing of an otherwise strong run, locking her first score as her best, and earning her the silver medal.
In the end, one of the new faces of women’s snowboarding and one of the most experienced pipe riders in the world again shared the podium, alternating the positions they held the year prior. Chloe Kim became the youngest snowboarder to win gold in Aspen, a remarkable feat in itself, further cementing the Mammoth-raised rider as a force in the trenches of transition.
First – Chloe Kim
Second – Kelly Clark
Third – Torah Bright
Read the full Chloe Kim wins gold in X Games Women’s Halfpipe 2015, becomes youngest X Games gold medalist article on Snowboarder Magazine.