Born on April Fools Day in 1966, Craig Kelly is considered to be the guru of freeriding. A graduate of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington, the professional snowboarder was a force to be reckoned with, as he has been dubbed by the great Terje Håkonsen as the best snowboarder of all time.
Part of the snowboarding group Mount Baker Hard Core back in the 80s, Kelly has always been hooked on riding powder. As a professional snowboarder for 15 years, Kelly had won 4 world championships and 3 US championships, which included his competition wins in 1988, 1991 and 1993 for the Mt. Baker Banked Slalom. But he soon gave up on the competitions when he decided to pursue freeriding, which he felt gave him a deep sense of freedom and independence. At the same time, Kelly continued to work on design and development with Burton, with designs like the Craig Kelly Air, Mystery Air and the CK Slopestyle.
Aside from backcountry riding, he also became an instructor for avalanche awareness courses, and was the forefront of the Burton Snowboards’ Chill Program. For ten years since 1988, Kelly, together with former wife Kelly Jo Legaz, ran a summer snowboard camp in Blackcomb to give back to the sport he came to love; as he taught underprivileged kids how to snowboard, with the non-profit organization together with other sponsors providing goods, lift tickets and instruction. This paved the way for those with raw talent the start-up training they needed, but could not afford the expensive costs that came along with the sport.
On January 20, 2003, at the age of 36, Kelly was killed in an avalanche near Revelstoke in British Columbia, Canada. On that fateful day he was working as a guide for two groups of backcountry adventurers going heli-skiing, when a slide occurred which trapped 8 people and killed 7. Kelly is survived by partner Savina and daughter Olivia.