Two-time Olympic medalist Kelly Clark, the Vermont native who took home a gold for halfpipe at the age of 18, scored four golds at the Winter X Games and nine World Cup podiums among other feats in her storied career, returns to Breckenridge to defend her Dew Tour title. Here, Clark speaks about her season and the state of women's snowboarding today:
How does women's halfpipe riding now compare to a couple years ago?
Snowboarding is a great sport because it's always progressing and you have to progress with it. The tricks are getting more technical and the runs are getting more complex, so it is fun to be a part of it.
What are some of the coolest tricks women are doing now?
Elena Hight landed a double backside rodeo last year in the pipe and that was impressive. Torah Bright has a good switch back 7 and I always like Kaitlyn Farrington's alley-oop 5. Those are some of my favorites.
Amplitude seems to be what sets people - and you - apart. Would you agree?
Yes, amplitude is a big part of it. A lot of the girls can do similar tricks but it comes down to who can execute them with more amplitude.
Where is the average amplitude for women in the halfpipe right now?
Every halfpipe is different but the top women are doing between 7- and 10-foot airs.
And your amplitude?
I try to keep it over 10 feet. I don't always but if I can stay above the 10-foot mark I'm pretty happy.
What's the highest you've gotten?
There is a height meter at X Games that measures how high and I was between the 15 to 20-foot range.
How does that compare to the guys?
That is about average for the men as far as amplitude goes, but you have people like Shaun White who is doing a 25-foot 'back sider' - and that is the top tier for the men.
Can you tell us anything about your plans for the Dew Tour?
This time of year a lot of people are starting to get back into pipe riding, as it is our first event of the season. I try not to compare myself to where I finished last year but where I was at this time last year. I'm feeling strong and confident and hoping to pull out some of my bigger tricks.
Where have you been training?
I started the season in Mammoth. We've had over 115 inches this season already and it was nice to start off with a few pow days. I spent a few days riding the pipe in Copper and started Dew Tour practice (Dec. 10) in Breckenridge.
What's the season outlook?
This year I will be doing the Grand Prix tour, a few of the Burton Open events and both the X Games in Aspen and the European X Games. Those are the events I'm looking to do well at. Perhaps the event I'm looking forward to the most is our test event in Sochi.
I understand you come from a family of skiers. Do you still ski?
My whole family skis. I'm kind of the odd man out and I am the only one who started snowboarding. My dad had me on skis at the age of 2 and I started snowboarding at the age of 7. I haven't skied in a very long time.
It seems like you have a supportive family. Would you like to comment on that?
My dad told me when I was little I could be anything I want to be. It took a little while for him to get comfortable with the idea of me being a professional snowboarder, but he eventually came around.
Anything you'd like to add?
My family has always been supportive and has sacrificed a lot for me to pursue my dreams. I started the Kelly Clark foundation so other kids would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams in snowboarding. I started my foundation to make sure that the snowboarding industry was a better place because I was a part of it. It's fun to pour my efforts in something that is going to have a bigger impact than me just being a successful competitor.