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California Questionnaire: Kelly Clark

Mammoth Mountain set up this snowboarder to have a mammoth career—which includes five Olympic games

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As the first female snowboarder to compete in five Olympics, Kelly Clark arrives in PyeongChang, South Korea, with nothing to prove. Three Olympic medals and seven golds at the Winter X Games—all part of her 70-plus wins throughout her 17-year career—make Clark one of the most decorated snowboarders in history. This is how you get your mug on cereal boxes, folks. The Team Kellogg’s athlete is defying gravity on Corn Flakes and Special K Red Berries right now.

If Clark wins her second Olympic gold in the halfpipe this February (her first was in 2002), the 34-year-old from Mammoth Lakes may become the oldest female snowboarder from any country to accomplish this feat. But first, she needs to beat the other medal-favorite and fellow Californian, Chloe Kim, who’s literally half her age.

“She’s been my role model for so long, and she’s definitely a crazy badass,” says Kim, 17, who grew up training on the same mountain as Clark. “I remember when I met her in Mammoth. I was eight and, literally, freaking out that I was standing behind her,” she recalls. “I’ve learned a lot from her. She has helped me so much throughout my career.”

Uplifting her teammates and recruiting more young talent via the Kelly Clark Foundation may ultimately be Clark’s legacy—so far, the eight-year-old nonprofit has awarded more than $125,000 in grants and scholarships. But in the meantime, she’s got this victory lap to complete. Whether she scores gold or not, she’s happy to return home to the Golden State, where she’s already looking forward to summer.

Where do you live? I lived in Mammoth Lakes for 12 years. Now I’ve lived in Folsom for three.

Why there? Originally, I moved to California to snowboard. Mammoth Mountain is one of the best mountains that I’ve ever been to—and I have been to a lot of mountains all around the world. I picked Mammoth to call home. Snowy or sunny, it’s great if you enjoy winter in the mountains.

What is your greatest California love? Mammoth, by far, is my favorite destination in California. It has the reputation for its winter activities, but I actually enjoy it just as much, or more, in the summer. Hiking into the Lakes Basin—specifically Crystal and Skelton Lake trails—is one of my favorite things to do.

What is the biggest misperception about Californians? A lot of people assume that if you are from California, you live in a city, like L.A. or San Francisco. But I find that California has some of the best outdoors [this planet] has to offer. I love the mountains, but taking trips to the coast is just amazing. From the redwoods to Yosemite to the rugged ocean—the adventures are endless.

What is the stereotype that most holds true? I am from the East Coast (Newport, R.I.), [so I can tell you] the stereotype is that Californians are relaxed and easygoing—and it’s definitely true. When I lived in Mammoth, we had something called “Mammoth time,” which meant it was culturally acceptable to be five to 15 minutes late. The East Coaster in me could not handle this. I was always waiting around for people to show up, and no one seemed to mind. 

What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Napa Valley. They have great vineyards and wine-tasting experiences, and amazing restaurants to back it up. I would recommend going to smaller vineyards, so you can get a more authentic experience. The smaller family-owned vineyards tend to have tours that get you out in the fields. Some even have caves to check out, too! I like to stay in Yountville, then head north from there. Most of the hotels have nice spas, if you are looking to really spoil yourself. The restaurants in St. Helena are extraordinary. Afterward, you can hit up the hot springs in Calistoga to end your trip. Also, I like to bring my road bike and get out for some hilly climbs every morning to earn my meals at the great restaurants.

Time for a road trip—where are you going? A California road trip has to be down Highway 1. That road has endless scenic value. With a little planning, you can get camping spots up and down the coast, and enjoy sleeping with the sound of the waves and, hopefully, squeeze in some fun surfing. Starting from my home in Folsom, I could be in Santa Cruz in just a few hours. The next day, I’d head south and stop to let my pup run on the epic dog beach in Carmel, then jump back in the car and head to Big Sur for a few days because it’s so beautiful. Heading south again, I’d camp in Morro Bay or El Capitan, just 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. I’d then head to my favorite camp spot in SoCal in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. This is not backcountry camping, by the way. It’s all car camping, so you can load up on supplies, and then pull your car up to your camp spot.

Best California songs? Maybe “Hotel California” [by the Eagles]...it’s a classic.

How would your California dream day unfold? I travel so much, so I would actually stay home and have a fun-filled day in the Sacramento area. I never thought of Sacramento as a destination, but after living there a few years, I have realized what a hidden treasure it is. From my house in Folsom, there’s 45 miles of paved biking trails. I would start the day with a 30-mile ride down the American River Bike Trail, then head out on my boat on Folsom Lake for some wake surfing. I’d end the day with a great dinner in old downtown Folsom at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating. Living there, sometimes I feel like I am on vacation. There is so much to do outside, I love it.

How do you define California style? I guess I would say it’s relaxed, yet relevant. Californians seem to be casual with whatever’s trending.

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