Steamboat Olympian Arielle Gold announces retirement from snowboarding
After a decadelong illustrious snowboarding career, Steamboat Springs Olympic snowboarder Arielle Gold announced her retirement on Tuesday.
Gold hasn’t competed since March 2019 due to prolonged symptoms of a concussion. She’s been focusing on school and self-love throughout the past year and a half, hardly even touching a board. That didn’t make the decision to retire from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team any easier though.
She said the decision came after years of consideration.
“It has been incredibly difficult to come to terms with moving on from a career that has played such a substantial role in my life,” Gold said. “But the decision to retire ultimately came down to prioritizing my physical health and emotional well-being. Competing in professional half-pipe snowboarding was gratifying beyond words, but it also had begun to take a substantial toll on my physical and emotional health, and I believe that my passion for snowboarding will only intensify as I shift into retirement.”
U.S. Ski and Snowboard published the announcement this morning, making her choice all the more real. She texted her father, Ken Gold, when her decision was revealed to the world.
“Seeing this announcement hurts me physically,” she typed to him.
Gold’s greatest hits
Arielle has been on the U.S. Snowboard Pro Halfpipe Team for nine years and was on the rookie team for two previously. She is a two-time Olympian and FIS halfpipe world champion and has three X Game medals to her name.
In 2013, at age 16, she won gold in halfpipe at the FIS Snowboarding World Championships. That was the beginning of a beautiful year for Gold. She won bronze at her first Winter X Games, coming in as an alternate to fill in for the injured Gretchen Bleiler. She won a bronze in the superpipe at Aspen. She went on to win the Burton European Open in Laax, Switzerland, and won the bronze at X Games Europe.
The next year, at 17, she was the youngest member of the halfpipe team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. She was a strong contender for the podium, but she couldn’t compete after separating her shoulder during a practice run.
Through 2015 and 2016, she earned a few more top finishes in major events, like the U.S. Open in Vail, and picked up a pair of X Games medals in Aspen and Norway.
Her career almost stopped there. Ahead of the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, she considered calling it quits, especially after persisting shoulder injuries. She talked the idea over with her family, who supported her, but her father counseled her to really think about it.
“I just don’t want you to look back and say, ‘I regret not taking another shot at it,’” he said. “But if you’re going to do it, you’ve got to drop everything else.”
He didn’t want her to not have a true Olympic experience, especially after 2014, and he hoped she would give everything she had and not halfway commit to the sport.
Arielle decided to stick it out, landing a spot on the Olympic team. She came in as an underdog, but earned bronze.
“Months before the PyeongChang games, I made the decision to pursue another Olympics, and that I would do everything in my power to earn that opportunity,” she said. “I began working with a sports psychologist multiple times a week, gradually shifting my perspective towards snowboarding and allowing me to enjoy it more than I had in years. While the prospect of earning a medal was once unfathomable, perhaps the most gratifying part of the 2018 Olympic Games was that I genuinely enjoyed every moment of the process.”
Before the third run, the run of her life, she stood at the top of the halfpipe and called her brother, Taylor Gold. Taylor had been injured and was just getting out of surgery. Arielle asked what she should do, and Taylor said she had no choice but to give everything she had. So she did.
“That bond between them is incredibly unique, and (I enjoyed) being able to watch their relationship blossom over the years from battling enemies when they were little kids,” Ken said. “That moment was a statement about the whole thing. In that moment, the one person she wanted to talk to was him.”
Her next career, the last year
The craziest part of Arielle’s career is snowboarding isn’t even her biggest passion
She’s always had a love for animals, particularly horses, and wanted to become a veterinarian. She recently completed her undergraduate degree at CU Boulder and is in the process of applying to schools to get her degree in veterinary medicine. She’s also working full time at a veterinary emergency room to get some experience.
In her retirement announcement, Arielle said she’s known she’s wanted to be a vet long before she wanted to be a snowboarder. It’s always been her first love.
Now, she’ll be able to focus solely on that goal, which made the decision to step away from snowboarding a little easier.
Finishing undergrad is just one of the things Arielle has accomplished in the past year. Recovering from her injury and the pandemic gave her time to grow as a person, and as many young 20-somethings do, she “found herself.”
She started going to CrossFit, which helped her love her muscular body shape, something she battled with for years. She used her platform to speak out about body image and self-love through an Instagram post in October 2020.
“Relatability is something I would have benefited a lot from, which made me want to post something,” Arielle said in 2020. “To anybody that follows me or people who follow professional athletes, we’re people, too, and we share a lot of the same insecurities.”
As her life has, her Instagram has shifted from snowboarding highlights and promotional material, to genuine snapshots of her life, a change she credits to her newfound friend group.
“I would have to say that the people who I have met as I’ve transitioned away from snowboarding have likely had the greatest influence in inspiring me to embrace my full self,” Gold said. “I wouldn’t say that these characteristics are necessarily things I was suppressing before, but I absolutely believe that the friends that I have made are simply bringing out the best qualities in me. The group of people that I have found through my college education is an incredibly open-minded, supportive and genuine humans that I have ever met, and in sharing so many new experiences with them, I believe that I have become a more compassionate and open-minded person, and am continuing to learn from them on a daily basis.”
Embracing her full self, she recently posted about her sexuality as well. Arielle didn’t hide her sexuality but didn’t announce it either, never having a formal coming out. She used Pride Month and a trip to Los Angeles as the perfect excuse to do so.
“I have never been defined by my sexuality, but opening myself to the possibilities has taught me to love based on who people are rather than ‘what’ they are,” Arielle wrote in an Instagram post. “And in doing so, I have never felt closer to the woman I was always meant to be.”
The woman she was always meant to be may no longer ride professionally, but at 25, Arielle has time to master a new skill and retire a few times over. Right now, she’s aiming to become a vet, but there’s no ceiling for what’s next.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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