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Snowboard champ killed in avalanche

Posted: Tuesday January 21, 2003 8:29 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 21, 2003 8:29 PM
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- In the snowboarding world, Craig Kelly was a major star, a pioneer who helped build the sport and wound up dominating it.

Kelly, a four-time world champion and three-time U.S. Open champion, was among seven people killed Monday in a massive avalanche near Revelstoke, British Columbia.

"I can't think of a bigger loss to the sport and to all of us personally," Jake Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards of Burlington, Vt., said in a release Tuesday that confirmed Kelly's death.

Kelly, 36, grew up in Mount Vernon, Wash., and lived the past two years in Nelson, B.C.

In an interview with, Kelly once talked about his love of the backcountry.

"There's just a feeling you get from certain things you do in life that just kind of feel pure and independent of what's actually, physically, going on," he said.

"All of a sudden, you have this feeling of clarity. Backcountry snowboarding has really done a lot to boost that feeling in me."

Kelly's death was felt throughout the tightly knit snowboarding community.

"Craig Kelly losing his life would provide the same impact as Wayne Gretzky being killed," Stu Bott, domestic program coordinator for the Canadian Snowboard Federation, said.

Ross Rebagliati, who won an Olympic gold medal for Canada in snowboarding at the 1998 Nagano Games, said he was inspired by Kelly to get into the sport.

"Snowboarding was his reason for living, basically, and for us, too," Rebagliati said.

Kelly was considered an innovator in the sport. He was a professional rider for 15 years and helped Burton develop snowboards and other products.

"He did more to progress modern snowboarding than anybody," said Cec Annett, vice president of Masev Communications. "He was the first guy to make movements into new genres of the sport. He was the first one to focus on half-pipe and freestyle. He was the first guy to really dictate that things were moving into the backcountry."

Annett went heli-boarding with Kelly in Alaska last April. At that time, Kelly was presented with a snowboard lifetime achievement award.

Annett remembers a soft-spoken, spiritual man who loved snowboarding almost as much as he loved his infant daughter.

"Craig Kelly embodied the sole of snowboarding," Annett said. "He rode for himself because of the true love of the sport. He found pleasure in soul riding, going into the backcountry."

In a sport where some of the young riders relish a gangsta image, Kelly practiced Tai Chi and yoga. He once took 18 months to drive from Alaska to Argentina, snowboarding and surfing along the way.

Kelly was survived by his daughter, Olivia, and partner, Savina.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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