SALT LAKE CITY – When the check came for the party of eight at a fancy Park City steakhouse this week, it went right to Arielle Gold.
Never mind that she’s just 16 and a junior in high school.
Gold was celebrating the biggest victory of her young snowboarding career – a bronze as an X Games rookie – and gladly paid.
Now the girl with the perfect name is looking for more success at the U.S. Grand Prix at Park City Mountain Resort’s superpipe.
Gold and Olympic champion Kelly Clark were the top women qualifiers, while superstar Shaun White and Louie Vito are among the 12 men moving on to today’s finals.
“This whole season has been amazing,” said Gold, who grew up in Steamboat Springs, Colo., but trains in Breckenridge. “I just wanted to come out and land the best runs I could in contests. I’ve been doing that and it’s working really well for me.”
To say it’s happened pretty quickly is an understatement.
Two weeks ago, Gold made the last-minute decision to compete in the FIS Snowboard World Championships in Quebec.
The reigning Junior World Champion walked away with gold, becoming the youngest American and second-youngest athlete to do so.
“The weather wasn’t great, so it was about putting down a run that was smooth,” she said.
She threw in a frontside 540, backside 540, frontside 720 and cab 720.
“It didn’t feel very smooth, but apparently it looked better than it felt,” she said.
Last week, Gold wasn’t even scheduled to participate in the X Games but earned a spot when Aspen local Gretchen Bleiler withdrew from the eight-woman field.
Gold, who had been allowed to practice initially as the first alternate, made good again.
“When I landed the run and got third, it was amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t describe the feeling that I had. Other than the Olympics, the X Games are the biggest contest in snowboarding. Getting to compete was amazing to me. Getting bronze was huge.”
Needless to say Gold made the right career move after thinking as a youngster her future might be in summer sports – equestrian or soccer.
She grew up around horses, and still has two – named Spunky and Bugs.
They provide a nice change of pace from the hazards of riding big air.
“It’s nice to have something relaxing to do in my spare time,” she said.
It sure beats homework for online schooling – another fact of life when one is 16 and traveling the world. The easygoing Gold isn’t complaining.