Kelly Clark
Wellness — Athletes

Kelly Clark

United States

Mood of Living  /  Dec 17, 2015

Clark finds fulfillment in utilizing her success to help others in the snowboarding community.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and Burton sponsored snowboarder, Kelly Clark, has earned more titles than any other snowboarder worldwide. Despite her fame, she remains friendly and down-to-earth. Clark finds fulfillment in utilizing her success to help others in the snowboarding community. She considers her greatest accomplishment to be the creation of the Kelly Clark Foundation, which allows thousands of young snowboarders to have access to the sport that they love. Using her experience on the slopes, Clark continues to collaborate with Burton to develop and enhance their snowboarding products.

Q&A with Kelly Clark

Kelly Clark in Chile

Kelly Clark in Chile Professional Snowboarder and Founder of the Kelly Clark Foundation

Mood of Living: Where is your hometown?

Kelly Clark: Mammoth Lakes, Calif.

MoL: Current location?

KC: Folsom, Calif.

MoL: When did you start riding?

KC: I started riding in 1990. I always say I started riding before it was cool.

MoL: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

KC: I am 32 now, so I expect I will be retired in 10 years’ time from snowboarding. I hope to have a family and a pup, and still be getting out on the hill enjoying the sport I love.

MoL: What inspired you to become a snowboarder?

KC: Snowboarding is unique because there is room for creativity and self-expression in the midst of a progressive sport. I was in a ski-racing program when I was young, but I wanted to be a snowboarder because I could really be me. I started because it looked fun, and it turned out to be really fun– and that is why I still do it.

MoL: When was the moment you realized you could really do this?

KC: I was differing from College in 2002. Even though I was on the US team and sponsored, I had one year to prove to my parents snowboarding could be a career. I had made the U.S. Olympic team, competing against fellow Americans. It was at the games that year, when I won by 12 points, that I realized on the world stage I had a shot at really making something of myself in snowboarding.

MoL: Where did you learn your skills?

KC: I have always had coaches along with friends that I have learned from. I think that has been one of the keys to my success, remaining teachable. No matter how accomplished you are, you will never be the best.

MoL: As a competitor in such an extreme sport, are you ever afraid? If so, how do you overcome it?

KC: I have never really been wired that way; I do not struggle with fear. It looks like we are risk takers, but we are calculated risk takers. And I also don’t look to my surroundings to make decisions. Those are some practical things that help me not get bound up by fear.

Clark snowboarding at Roca Negra Lodge in the Nevados de Chillan, Chile.
MoL: Where do you look for inspiration? How does it affect your process?

KC: I look to my teammates and some of the guys. People are at all different levels and have different strengths. I pick and choose different aspects of people’s riding styles to implement into my runs.

MoL: You have had many successes in your career. However, you have also experienced disappointments, including a fall in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. How did this drive you to become a better rider?

KC: I learned that there is a big difference between having potential and being prepared. It was one of the hardest things to learn and one of the best lessons. I learned that I don’t want to be at the edge of my ability level in my competition runs. I put it all on the line and hope for the best. I wanted to put in the work and raise my own standard so that my normal was as good or better than everyone’s best. So I took time to work towards goals and prepare for the next Olympics. I wanted to make sure that the sport of snowboarding was better because I was part of it.

MoL: You have had a triumphant career as a snowboarder? What is your greatest achievement beyond the slopes?

KC: I think starting my foundation has been one of my greatest achievements. It is great to build something that will outlast one’s ability to perform.

MoL: Tell us about the Kelly Clark Foundation. What inspired you to start it, and how does it operate?

KC: I wanted to make sure the sport of snowboarding was better because I was part of it. I had accomplished great things in the sport, but I wanted to leave more than just good contest results. I know the sport is expensive and I wanted to break down some of those financial barriers. So I started the KCF with the intent to create opportunity, invest in the next generation and create access to the sport.

  • Clark with fellow Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim

    Clark with fellow Olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim

  • Clark at Nevados de Chillan, Chile

    Clark at Nevados de Chillan, Chile

MoL: What is your favorite hobby?

KC: Woodworking – building furniture.

MoL: Do you like to travel? If so, where?

KC: I get to travel to the mountains all winter long. So when I get to travel without my snowboard bag, I head straight for the beach.

MoL: What's the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?

KC: That I can do and be anything I want to be, said to me by my dad.

MoL: What is something you know now that you wish you knew before?

KC: It took me a while to separate out my identity from my performance. I wish I knew who I was earlier in my career. It would have helped me be more secure in things and not look to prove to people who I was through snowboarding.

MoL: What advice can you give to anyone interested in pursuing a career as a professional athlete?

KC: I would say ‘nothing is impossible.” Dream big, and then surround yourself with people who will support you in that dream.

Clark on the slopes in Mammoth, CA.
Clark on the slopes in Mammoth, CA.
Video by Adam Moran & Dean Blotto Gray
Photography courtesy of Burton Snowboards

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