Mountain Grown Media’s newest film, “Our Family,” features household names like Waite, Dayberry, Johnson, and Shepard. But there is a new one in the mix: Meghan Kelly. The only female telemarker in the movie, she holds her own as she shreds alongside the guys. This is her story.
Born and raised in Detroit’s suburbia, Kelly grew up skiing Mt. Brighton. Built on a landfill by developers in the 1960’s, it offers 230 feet of vertical rise over 130 acres. It might not sound like much but it built a community that allowed Kelly to start skiing at age 11 when she joined the middle school ski club. “I was used to being good at sports so I tried to keep up with the ‘good skiers’ right away. That allowed me to progress pretty quickly,” she recalled. Throughout middle school and high school, soccer was her number one sport. She accepted a scholarship at Cornell University in New York to play soccer and study engineering. Once her four years of college were up, Kelly moved to Denver for an internship and to play on a professional team. But in a place like Denver, skiing was everywhere. She retired from soccer and started spending more time in the outdoors. “In a roundabout way while living in Denver, I discovered Lake Tahoe which had mountains, skiing, and a clear blue lake.” Her decision to continue west was easy once she had secured an engineering job working on stream restoration and water quality projects.
In 2006 Kelly moved to Tahoe, California. That same winter she bought her first telemark setup; used, because there’s no better way to start. “I had no idea how to ski powder when I moved out west,” she said. After a season figuring out her new gear on groomers, she fully committed to telemark the winter of 2007. Eleven-year-old Kelly’s drive to progress in the sport of skiing was still alive. “One of the reasons I chose telemark is because it looked hard. I love trying hard things and mastering them. I looked at each day as practice and a chance to get better. Once the telemark turn clicks, there is nothing like it,” said Kelly. “I can’t stop now!”
Tahoe buzzes with good skiers. While in many ski towns the culture seems to be dominated by alpiners, Tahoe through Kelly’s eyes reveals more telemarkers at first glance. She skis with around six telemarkers every time she gets out, which she loves. “Telemark skiing is holding strong in the Sierra even though we have some of the most challenging snow to telemark on; variable, wind affected snow and of course, Sierra cement.” Her posse doesn’t discriminate however, snowboarders and alpiners are welcome, too. “We all have so much to learn from each other. A wise person once told me, ‘it’s not how good you are at skiing, it’s how good you are to ski with.’”
Her can-do attitude meshes well with Bevan Waite and Ty Dayberry. When the three started to ski together, Kelly was intimidated. Add in the camera and she says her confidence started to shrink, until Waite and Dayberry began to cheer her on. “Those guys make you feel like you are right where you’re supposed to be.” Kelly was impressed by their skiing abilities and how driven they are to progress in the sport. “It’s infectious. They are so confident going into no fall zones. I had lost that confidence in myself from some close calls, but skiing with them it’s slowly coming back.” The film for her is a way of including everyone in the ski community. Each segment of the film tells a different story and she hopes at least one of those stories will resonate with the viewers. Regarding her segment, her story, she hopes that people will be “inspired to keep pursuing their passion no matter how little time they seem to have!”
In 2015 Kelly became the mother of triplets. “I’ve been called an overachiever most of my life and it turns out I’m an overachiever in bearing children too,” she laughed. When her boys were almost one year old, the overachiever in her took control and she set “lofty” goals for herself. “I wanted to ski four new California fourteeners. I had already skied two of them before becoming a mom.” As the season went on, she slowly realized a year of sleep deprivation, the physical toll of carrying triplets, and her new priorities as a parent weren’t going to allow her to achieve the goals she had committed to. Instead of skiing four new fourteeners, she settled for two. “I now set goals that keep me mentally and physically happy and allow me to be a present mother of three four year old boys!” This season her goal is to “ski a few lines that scare me and land a backflip on skis for the first time since 2014.” Talk about a bada** tele-mom.
Tying her passion into her water quality work, Kelly was able to be part of a team of six women who organized a skiing and sailing trip from Iceland to Greenland. The grant funded trip was titled ‘Shifting Ice and Changing Tides’ and was 30 days long. “We spent the trip skiing first descents and collecting data for scientists.” She was the only telemark skier.
When she hears ‘telemark skiing is dead,’ Kelly has the perfect response. “The exodus of telemark skiers is done and we’re hitting our homeostasis. We’re not dead, we’re sustainable.” Not only does Kelly approach telemark skiing with an amazing attitude and drive to push herself, but she oozes happiness while she skis. She says Waite and Dayberry’s confidence is infectious within the sport, but so is her joy. “I’ve seen people return to or start to telemark because they say I make it look fun.” And isn’t that really what it’s all about?
Kelly’s set-up: Boots: Scarpa TX Pro
Bindings: 22 Designs Outlaw X
Skis: Rossignol Super 7’s or Soul 7’s, plus many more. (“I’m going to set up a race ski this year for sure!”)
Feature photo: Kelly at Heavenly Mountain, taken by Anthony Cupaiuolo of First Tracks Productions.
Thank you for highlighting Kelly! Yay! With few teleskiers out there, being a woman who freeheels is even more rare. I grew up north of Ithaca NY and ski raced and played soccer through my childhood and into college. I attribute those activities (as well as plenty of playing in the woods) to solid and intuitive tele technique. I now live in northern VT and switched to tele about 20 years ago as a way to access the forest and hidden glades. I love the art of teleskiing and won’t ever go back to locking my heel down. It’s been fun watching and supporting the resurgence of teleskiing. Long live teleskiing and women and mothers who carve the most beautiful turns.
Inspiring! Loved Our Family as well
Love all these comments and stories – Dostie, I had no idea you were from the mitten also! Hope to run into you deep in the Sierra again, which I think I may have back in 2011 on the SHR.
I started to ski the first year I moved to Pocatello, Idaho in 1981 from Bethlehem, Pa. I had just completed a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail the year before and wanted to live somewhere with great outdoor recreational opportunities out my back door. So I moved to Idaho.
I had never really skied before, and at the age of 27 I was x-country skiing the back mountain trails around Pocatello. Then about 3 years later I saw a few locals “telemarking” down some slopes off the side of a trail and said, wow I want to do that. So I started to learn.
Three years later I was skiing down Pebble Creek Ski area in low cut leather boots on double camber skinny Karhu XCD GT’s skis (the very first model). I gradually progressed through the years with better equipment and boots until Scarpa came out with plastic boots. I bought a pair of T-3’s and for a while they almost ruined my love for skiing telemark. They weren’t nearly as comfortable as my leather doubles or as warm as my leather doubles. But I could see how they might be better if I could get used to them.
But I kept at it, and today I still use a pair of Merrill double leather boots with a Garmont Excursion liner for most of my x-country skiing and turning, And I still use my T-3’s (with a Garmont liner) at Pebble Creek Ski Area and on the backside of Pebble with a pair of Atomic RT 80’s or a pair of Atomic TM 22’s.
I also had taken the time to learn to parallel turn with my heel free in my leathers or my T-3’s. Although I haven’t mastered that turn for powder yet, I can use it on the groomers proficiently. This helps me when I come back from the backside and must ski down Pebble Creek Ski Area with tired and burned thighs and knees from hiking and banging out teles in the powder on the other side of Bonneville Peak. Being able to do one or the other when the conditions call for it has been a goal of mine for some time now.
So I guess, I am not a tele purist, but I am still a free heel purist none the less and will probably will remain so for the rest of my skiing days.
Hey all! I’m turning 77 in 5 days and plan on getting on my tele’s real soon. I started telemarking about 20 years ago when my mountain buddies all went that way. Once I tried it I was hooked! There’s not a better way to feel one with the snow. Telemark skiing extended my excitement for skiing more than I could imagine. It was such a thrill to turn on my TV to UTube tonight to find your film! Great scenery. Great turns! Meghan Kelly: your form us terrific! Your comments are right on! Telemarking to those don’t do it think it is a cult or a passing fancy. To those who do it know that there is no better way to ski. It is here to stay! Powder Magazine and others have to cater to their corporate sponsors so writing about telemark skiing, skiers, or equipment just doesn’t fit their financial goals. There is no more beautiful ski turn than a telemark turn!! Hope to see you out there!
Can’t wait to see this!!
My first turns burned were at Mt. Brighton too.