This weeks WayBack Wednesday is going to the
one and only Craig Kelly!
Home Mountain: Mt. Baker, WA
“He is the perfect example of doing what you’ve gotta do ’til you can do what you want to do!”
In the eighties, Craig Kelly didn’t just help snowboarding grow; he helped it grow up. Before Craig, being a snowboard pro was a part-time job. Kelly took the initiative to train more than the competition and market himself in a manner that made him highly sought after for endorsements. With this newfound acclaim and fame came never-before-seen professional responsibilities. This, in turn, led to a “careful what you wish for” scenario, where Craig found himself in the middle of a highly-publicized legal battle between the Hatfields and McCoys of snowboarding, Sims and Burton. The dispute was over which brand Craig was legally obligated to represent. A landmark court decision forced Kelly to ride for one year void of any company’s logos. When Craig emerged from his court-imposed sponsorship exile, his compensation came in the form of the Burton Mystery Air, a giant leap forward in board design. Utilizing a specialized flex profile, quadratic sidecut, and more user-friendly stance options, the Mystery Air made every rider who rode one better for it. The added control accelerated resort acceptance, and gave Craig another level of connection to his growing fan base.
On the Mystery Air, Craig took home countless World Cup, World Championship, and US Open titles. Kelly also spearheaded snowboarding’s biopic movement with Adventurescope’s The Smooth Groove in 1989, a full seven years before Subjekt Haakonsen! Craig continued his foray into film by appearing in Snow Shredders, Chill, Board with the World, Scream of Consciousness, Fear of a Flat Planet, and numerous other high-profile projects. By the time snowboarding hit the mainstream, Craig was hitting the backcountry full-time far from the media spotlight, opting to earn his turns by hiking peaks instead of hawking products, helping found Island Lake Lodge in the process. As the new millennium emerged, Craig was actively seeking out another backcountry refuge with perfect terrain and an ideal snowpack—a place where he could share his ideals with a select clientele. He found this utopia in Nelson, BC’s Baldface Lodge.
It was while working towards guide certification that Craig was taken from snowboarding in an avalanche. To most people who find harmony while descending a slope sideways, this was the day the music died. No other person in the history of snowboarding has meant as much to as many people as Craig Kelly.
We at Cutting Edge salute Craig Kelly for everything that he did for our industry.