Interview with Susanna Kelly – The Girl Who Shreds

Susanna Kelly is a passionate snowboarder. Her friends truly believe that she was born on a mountain – Based on her ability to shred & hike like a pro. Of course, it’s not true. She was born at the “base” of Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska and her plan is to retire to the slopes someday.

For how long have you been snowboarding and what got you addicted?

Snowboarding became an obsession of mine shortly after I started. It was something I was good at and almost everyone enjoys things they excel at. Also, I was the minority being a female snowboarder. That pushed me to succeed probably more than anything else. I liked that I was the minority, I still do. It pushes me to get better and better every time I go.

As I sit here trying to think about how I actually got into snowboarding, I can’t even really recall how it all happened. Growing up in Alaska I just remember that it’s been a part of me for a long time. My dad took my sister and me to go skiing for the first time when we were little, but I didn’t think skiing was cool and protested.

To this day I’ve never been on a pair of downhill skis and I’m rather proud of that. My local home mountain was an hour away from my house, so my parents would put me on a bus every Saturday and off I would go to the mountain to take lessons.

Scheffau, Austria
Riding with the boyfriend at Scheffau, Austria

In my later adult years as I started college and working two jobs I struggled to find time to snowboard. I used to drive up to the mountain after work or school just to get a few hours of night riding in. I would head up during the snowstorm hoping to get snowed into the ski town so I could spend the next day riding.

Now I’m living in Germany and am in heaven. Having the entire Alps at my fingertips has been a dream come true. Now that I don’t have school to worry about I just hop on the next train to Austria and spend the day riding.

Snowboarding is also my escape from reality. It is one of the most freeing and self-fulfilling things I do. I’m not even sure I consider it an extreme sport because, for me, it’s calming. I put on my tunes and go to my happy place and nothing else matters.

Which is your favorite place to shred and why?

I would say the backcountry in the Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska. It’s a pain in the butt to hike out there, but the ride down is worth every second.

Crow Creek Mine in Alaska
Hiking in Crow Creek Mine in Alaska

Do you have a mad crew or you prefer to shred alone?

I think I used to have a crew. It was a group of guys and we would all spend our weekends in Girdwood, Alaska snowboarding together. I loved riding with them, they had the same free spirit I did when it came to riding. I never had to worry about losing anyone or following a set trail.

We just did whatever we wanted and went wherever we wanted, and it just seemed to flow. They were always just a little better than me and that drove me to try new and crazy things. I admit I do miss those days, but I would say I now prefer to go alone. I don’t know anyone with that freestyle of riding anymore. I don’t enjoy stopping every fork and debating which way to go with another person. I just want to go.

Breathtaking Chugach Mountain Range
Breathtaking Chugach Mountain Range

I’m not a huge pre-meditated trick gal. I just hit some jumps spontaneously on the mountain and pull some grabs and twists.

I would like to be better, sure. Part of what holds me back from pulling a Quad Quark 1800 is finding someone to help and encourage me on and off the mountain and in the park. I’m not going to lie, parks are a little intimidating with all the wild kids these days.

Whippersnappers aside, the park doesn’t completely appeal to me. What appeals to me is waist deep pow on the north face side of the mountain. Getting lost in the trees and powder are my favorite and if a jump is there, I’ll hit it.

Any tips for new shredders?

Learning sucks. The hardest part about learning is falling on your butt over and over, while people fly past you, only to get back up again and fall immediately after. Almost everyone is terrible for at least their first year, so it can be discouraging to be bad at something for that long. Just keep with it and one day it will all click for you. Don’t be embarrassed to be the beginner. We all started somewhere and your friends understand, usually.

I think a lot of snowboarders don’t cross train riding switch and regular. If you ever want to successfully pull a simple trick like a 180 you land switch. So, once you master regular, master switch.

Tree Riding in the Alps

Which place is on your bucket list for shredding?

Chile. I’ve been all over Europe and N. America, but have always dreamed of riding in Chile. I am planning a trip to Argentina and Chile next year, so so I’ll bring my board with me! The Andes are calling!
Which is your favorite snowboarding resort and why?

I have a soft spot for my home resort, Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood, Alaska. I know that mountain like the back of my hand and I’ll always claim it as one of my top favorites. I thought it was the best place in the world until I started traveling to snowboard and I realized how small it really was. So, that’s my honorable mention, plus is has the most amazing view!

Alyeska Resort
Alyeska Resort

Back in the states, I would have to say it’s a 3-way tie between Whistler, Mammoth, and Alta for different reasons.

Now that I live in Germany I’ve been exploring the various resorts in the Alps. I’m not sure I’ve found my favorite over here yet, though I just got back from Zell Am See and really enjoyed riding there. Skiing in Europe is so different since almost everyone here skis and the number of moguls are just out of control. I’m still in search of my home mountain with some good off trail riding out here.
Your best and worst boarding experience?

Worst would have to be when I broke my nose. I was attempting a new jump and landed on my face. That was before the days of wearing a helmet. The ski patrol tried to ski me down in the sled, but I was like, “it’s just a nose. I’m fine” I bled the whole way down. When I got to the bottom I had to wait for 4 hours for the bus to leave. During that time my lip swelled up and it got stuck in a plastic soda bottle. I had to ice it to get my lip unstuck. It was the worst.

Best would be the first time I went off the groomed train and found powder. It was like finding the most amazing natural high. I accidentally found it when I flew off a cliff in a snowstorm. I haven’t turned back since.

Stuck in chest deep powder in Alaska
Stuck in chest deep powder in Alaska

What is your usual fitness regime and is fitness a pre-requisite for snowboarding?

Take 2 shots of my traditional snowboard shot, starry night. A starry night is half Goldschläger and half jager. It sounds disgusting I know, and it probably is, but it warms you up and if you are a little bit lolosen the mountain you are more capable of pushing your limits. My best days start with a little liquid warm up.

Oh, was this a serious question? 😉 Yeah, I think fitness is important when it comes to snowboarding. It’s not a necessity for the more casual riding, but if you want to take it seriously and not be incredibly sore after riding, it’s a good thing to incorporate

I’m a soccer player, avid hiker and a cyclist so my legs are in really good shape. I think leg strength is the most important element in snowboarding. If you don’t have strength in your legs you’re going to really struggle. Core and flexibility are important for jumps, so yoga and Pilates can help improve in those areas.

Backcountry hiking can be one of the most strenuous things, so if you’re not in peak cardio shape, you’ll just hate every second of the climb or struggle to get out of a powder trap.  Lastly, you want to maintain a good weight to strength ration. Lean muscle, not too bulky not too thin

Do you have brand loyalty?

I think everything I own is a different brand. I’m pretty into my RIDE compact all-mountain women’s board. Actually, I’m obsessed with it. That is the one brand I’m pretty loyal too. I have my eye on the Hellcat as my next board. My bindings are Burton Stiletto, my boots are K2 and my jacket is 686. It’s a hodgepodge of brands, but they somehow the set up works really well for me.

Riding @ Schmitten in Sell Am See, Austria
Riding at Schmitten in Sell Am See, Austria

What type of music do you listen to while riding?

My snowboarding playlist has a lot of liquid drum and bass on it. It’s perfect for gliding through powder. I take the liquid out and leave the drum and bass in for more intense runs.

I also really dig long songs with a good build up, like Opus from Eric Prydz or Strobe from Deadmau5.

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