Chloe Kim doesn’t skip a beat, continues reign in X Games Aspen superpipe |

Chloe Kim doesn’t skip a beat, continues reign in X Games Aspen superpipe

After break to work on school, Chloe Kim’s return to Buttermilk brings familiar result

Chloe Kim, left, and Haruna Matsumoto hold up their medals from the women’s superpipe finals at the 2021 X Games Aspen at Buttermilk on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The world has changed a lot since Chloe Kim last competed at X Games Aspen in 2019. Her domination in the halfpipe has not.

The California superstar returned to Buttermilk Ski Area on Saturday night to win her fifth gold medal in the sport’s most iconic event and sixth gold overall, picking up right where she left off two years ago.

“I kind of forgot how gnarly it was. We were in Laax for a week and then we came straight here and I don’t know, it was pretty wild, and I forgot this is what our normal season is like,” Kim said. “I can’t believe I was able to win today. I can’t believe I was able to pull something off. I’ve just gone into the season with no pressure on myself, just trying to get back into the swing of things.”

Chloe Kim, left, and Haruna Matsumoto congratulate each other after both medaling in the women’s snowboard superpipe finals at X Games Aspen on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Kim received her eight X Games medal. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Kim sat out the entire 2019-20 competition season to focus on her first year at Princeton. Her 22-month layoff ended when she competed last week at the Laax Open, which she won, and followed that up with another win a week later in Aspen.

Despite falling on her first run, she bounced right back and delivered strong second and third runs to take charge in a contest she has come to dominate over the years.

Only 20, Kim now has eight X Games medals, seven from Aspen and another gold from Oslo in 2016. She’s now won the Aspen contest in 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

“Having someone like Chloe since the time I was 6 is amazing,” said runner-up Maddie Mastro, who also is 20. “That’s what you can only hope for, is to have someone in your discipline and sport that is pushing you and wanting you to get better.”

Mastro, who has solidified herself as the world’s best female halfpipe snowboarder behind Kim in recent years, finished second Saturday after a clean first run to win only her second career X Games medal, following a bronze she won in 2018. She did her best to land her signature double crippler in competition for the first time, but didn’t quite put it down.

Mastro and Kim both grew up riding in Mammoth and their careers have long been linked.

Chloe Kim competes in the women’s superpipe finals during the 2021 X Games Aspen at Buttermilk on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

“She has the sickest double crippler,” Kim said of Mastro, “and she has some solid back nines, so it’s really awesome to see how much she is progressing women’s snowboarding. It really inspires me to do that, as well.”

Kim came to Aspen amid rumors she was going to uncork some wild, new tricks, but fate had other plans. She said she had to make an ER visit a few days ago after an allergic reaction closed her throat, and she said she also popped a rib or two out of place on a fall in her first run Saturday.

“It wasn’t really strategy. I honestly kind of struggled in practice the past few days,” Kim said of taking it easy this year in Aspen. “I didn’t want to hurt myself at this contest, even though I would have loved to have tried a couple new tricks out there. But we might have a couple more events in the near future, so I’m trying to stay safe and be smart.”

Athletes competing in the women’s snowboard superpipe final line up at the top of the 2021 X Games course at Buttermilk before the start on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Behind Kim and Mastro, Japan’s Haruna Matsumoto took bronze. Last year’s champion, Spain’s Queralt Castellet, finished off the podium.

For Mastro, it wasn’t quite the satisfying gold she’s long sought, but it was a first X Games silver, a significant milestone for her still growing career.

“I wasn’t able to put the run I had in mind. I just wasn’t able to put those puzzle pieces together,” Mastro said. “X Games and I have had our battles. I’ve definitely been going through a lot of learning and growing the past few years with my snowboarding and making all these puzzle pieces fit together. It’s definitely been a challenge, but I’m so happy I was able to land something tonight and get this.”