In memory of Craig who left us way, way to soon. Today marks eight years since the fatal accident at Duran Glacier. Many of us were fortunate to ride and spend time with Craig here in Fernie. There was no finer rider or person.
Craig spent a lot of time at the Pac West ski area (Hyak, WA) in 1985-86. He used to come up on Mondays when the ski area was closed and would set up gates with some of the workers and run them using a snowmobile to get back and forth. The first snowboard contest held at Hyak (85-86 season)…he also won. It was done in conjunction with another founder of the sport, Bob Barci.
He shocked the snowboard industry by walking away from multi-million dollar deals at the height of the snowboard craze to pursue his passion for “freeriding,” at the time an unheard of strategy for a pro snowboarder. It was in the mountains where Craig felt the happiest.
The distinctive fluid manner in which he rode was recognized and acclaimed in the snowboarding community. He was called a “style master” by Snowboard Magazine editor Jon Foster. Kelly also appeared in an enormous number of video and photo shoots. He was known for looking straight at the camera, even in the midst of a difficult aerial manoeuvre. Craig was a Sims Snowboards team rider for a few years early in his career, but spent most of his life riding for Burton Snowboards owned by Jake Burton Carpenter.
The Craig Kelly World Snowboard Camp was created to help kids improve their snowboarding skills. From 1988 to 1992 it was located in Whistler Blackcomb and operated by his former wife Kelly Jo Legaz.
Craig was responsible for the design and development of the following Burton signature models: The Mystery Air, The Craig Kelly Air, The CK Slopestyle, The Cascade, and The Omen. Jake Burton is quoted as saying, “When I started listening to Craig that was when my company became successful and really took off.” He added, “… when the rest of the industry listened to Craig, that was when the sport really took off.”
He took 14 months off to travel from Alaska to Chile with his partner Savina and two friends for adventure, surfing and living. He returned from his journey with his new baby Olivia, as a “souvenir” he said, from his trip.
Craig was an original shareholder of Island Lake Lodge before it became a big money pit. He spent several years in Fernie, owned land, and hung out at the Edge of The World. He did a first decent through the large cave on the Soda Walls.
He died on 20 January 2003 near Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada in an avalanche which trapped 8 people and killed 6 others. Kelly was studying to become a Certified Canadian Mountain Guide with two groups of backcountry adventurers organized by Selkirk Mountain Experience. The ski touring group was properly equipped and prepared for avalanches; the weekly bulletin warned of considerable risk in the area at the time.
Filmmaker Jacques Russo created “Let It Ride” a documentary on Craig Kelly’s life as a tribute to his friend and subject of so many of his films: Smooth Groove, Board with The World, Scream of Consciousness, and Fear of A Flat Planet.