In most towns, aspiring to compete in the Olympics makes you a dreamer with a one-in-a-million shot. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., those odds drop to about 1 in 152. In fact, the 12,000-person community has produced 79 Olympians -- 17 in 2010 alone. Its next representative? Arielle Gold. "Arielle is among the very best in the world for her age group," U.S. snowboarding coach Spencer Tamblyn says. "She is leading the way for a growing group of young girls that will put lots of pressure on the veterans and well-seasoned pros."
Gold has already started applying that pressure. After winning the 2012 halfpipe title at the FIS Snowboarding Junior World Championship and two silvers in the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, Gold finished the 2012 season with two fourth-place finishes in major professional events -- the Grand Prix stop in Mammoth, Calif., and the Burton U.S. Open . "It definitely motivated me," Gold says. "It just helped me realize I'm getting closer and closer to the podium, and as long as I keep working hard, hopefully I'll get there." For this Steamboat native, the odds look pretty good. -- Derek Taylor
Dean Wilson is a new man -- or at least a man with two new shoulders. And that makes him an even bigger threat than he was in April, when he went down after colliding with rival Eli Tomac at the Supercross Lites West Region, separating his right shoulder. "It was really heartbreaking for me," Wilson says. "I worked my whole life to get that No. 1 plate. My shoulder just popped out, and I knew then I couldn't race the whole season with the way it was." Wilson decided to have surgery and figured while he was at it, he'd fix his left shoulder, which he'd injured in 2011. He's healthy now and as fired up as ever for the new season. In 2013, he will make his much-anticipated AMA Motocross debut on a 450, but first Wilson has some unfinished business. "It's really important for me to win a Supercross Lites championship," he says. "That's something I've always wanted. I haven't achieved it yet, and I have one last year to make it happen." -- Derek Taylor
In only his third competitive season, Mark McMorris is already considered the rider to beat in big air and slopestyle, where he's as talented on rails as he is in the air. In 2011, McMorris took silver in slopestyle at his first Winter X Games and then returned a year later with gold-medal performances in slopestyle and big air. In the latter, he became the first snowboarder to land a triple cork in a contest , a trick he had pioneered a year earlier. McMorris is currently one of three riders in the world who can land triples consistently and on command. He could also be the first to land one in a slopestyle run. Because of that, he is one of the top contenders for Olympic gold when snowboard slopestyle makes its debut at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, setting up an exciting season of competition between the Canadian kid and a certain redheaded superstar. -- Alyssa Roenigk
Luan Oliveira once said that parks in his native Brazil were sketchy. But maybe the 22-year-old should give the uneven terrain and unpredictable weather some credit. Armed with uncanny board control and a seemingly endless arsenal of NBDs, Oliveira's style earned him cred when he became the first two-time Tampa Am champion in 2008 and 2009 before hitting the pro circuit with a silver medal in the 2011 X Games . His tricks have also established him as a video darling, which helped catch the attention of the Nike SB Team. He joined Paul Rodriguez and the other Nike boys just days before besting Ryan Decenzo for the $100,000 win at the Maloof Money Cup in South Africa in September. After that performance, Oliveira convinced his Nike SB teammates to take a training trip to Brazil. Sketchy runs are apparently how one gets it done these days. -- Sarah Turcotte
When Chad Kerley nabbed a silver in street at this year's Summer X, only one guy was really surprised: gold holder Garrett Reynolds, who thought Kerley got robbed. Others watching the event, like BMX pro Brian Kachinsky, agreed with Reynolds' reaction. "Some people definitely thought he might have edged Garrett—who is the best in our sport—so that's saying something."
Since barely missing the competition as an alternate in 2011, Kerley has become a fixture on the international scene. He may have placed second in L.A., but the 2012 Asia Games gold medalist made quite an impression. "He has a lot of San Diego influences," Kachinsky says. "I see the consistency of Reynolds, the pop of Ty Morrow and the potential to really become a legend like Gary Young." Nike and Vitamin Water have already nabbed him for deals, and his videos attract hundreds of thousands of views. "Chad films everything," Kachinsky says. "He's giving fans access to his development. They're connecting with him. It just takes one time watching him, and you just know he's special." -- Sarah Turcotte