This year, “When you see my name on NBC, my hometown will be Mammoth,” Clark said. “I’ve lived here for over ten years, so I think that qualifies me to claim Mammoth as my hometown. And it really is home. I obviously moved here for the mountain, but I fell in love with the town and with the community.”
Clark moved to Mammoth at age 18, at a time when the U.S. team spent most of its time training at Mammoth Mountain. “I thought, if I was going to be on the road most of the time, maybe I could be home some of the time and I should move to Mammoth,”Clark said.
That was the winter of 2001/2002.
Clark continued to ride for Mt. Snow in Vermont until she became a part of the Mammoth Unbound Team three years ago. When asked why she made the switch, Clark explained, “It’s part of growing up. From some point you move from being in your family’s house and identifying with your parent’s roots to really making your own roots.”
The rest of Kelly’s family still lives on the East Coast. “I’m kinda like the black sheep of the family,” Clark said. “I don’t ski and I don’t own a restaurant. So if I wasn’t snowboarding, I might ski,” she said laughing, “and I might run a restaurant.”
Kelly is the first U.S. snowboarder, male or female, to be on four consecutive U.S. Olympic halfpipe teams. “I’ve essentially grown up through the Olympics. Every four years I can look and see how I’ve grown as a person and as an athlete,” Clark said.
She won gold in Salt Lake in 2002, placed fourth in Torino in 2006, and won the bronze medal in Vancouver, 2010.
“When I planned my life out at 14, as you do,” Clark said, laughing, “I thought Salt Lake: maybe, I’ll get some experience. Torino: that’d be the one that I win and the peak of my career. That’s why it was such a heartbreak for me when I got fourth. And maybe I could squeak out another one and go to Vancouver.
“Some of the things I’ve learned is that the Olympics aren’t a destination, nor are they something that should define you. I’ve learned there’s a difference between being prepared and having potential. And I think at some of the other Olympics I’ve gone to, I’ve had a lot of potential but I haven’t actually been prepared.”
Clark began preparing for the Sochi games four years ago, after the Vancouver Olympics. “My average summer week, I was spending 22 hours a week at the [Snowcreek] gym,” Clark said. That doesn’t include the time she spent road biking and running stairs at the Westin. “I didn’t think I’d be at the height of my career at 30 years old, but I am,” she said.
When she’s not working out, Clark spends her time wake-surfing at Crowley Lake and working in her yard in Mammoth. “It’s a really hard task because here in Mammoth we don’t really have yards. We kind of have dust patches,” she said. Working on her yard is therapeutic for Clark. It “makes me feel like a normal person. I come home and get to cut my grass and pick up pinecones.
“My neighbors call me the worker: ‘Ah the worker is outside,’ they tell me,” Clark said. “I’ve never been really good at resting in a traditional sense. I’m always working, I’m always going, I’m always doing. It’s hard for me to sit still.”
Clark’s successful professional career can be attributed to this work ethic, as well as her love of the sport. “It’s like I’m five years old,” she said. “I go snowboarding and nothing else matters and I have so much fun. I think I have more fun snowboarding today than I ever have. To be honest, I think if I ever lost that, I wouldn’t still be doing this.
“My whole thing with snowboarding is that most people don’t get to do something that they truly love in life, let alone get to do it for a living,” she added. “I’ve invested my whole life into my sport that I love. It’s what I’m wholeheartedly in.”
Clark competes in the women’s Olympic snowboard halfpipe event on Wednesday, February 12.