As ski racing shifts into summer training mode, and athletes head around the globe in search of snow, it’s darned refreshing to see how one of the world’s best SL skiers puts together a high level/low budget training program. Robby Kelley’s custom made Redneck Racing summer schedule is heavy on hard work and creativity and extremely light on the Dijon.
As part of the Cochran Clan—the Patron Saints of grass roots development, maximizing resources and DIY training—Kelley is in his third year of independent training through Redneck Racing. Ranked 39th in the world in SL, Kelley is the third ranked American slalom skier and a top prospect for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang. Ever since turning down his US Ski Team nomination in 2015-16, however, he has been committed to pursuing the ski racing dream entirely on his own program.
THE SPRING TOUR
Kelley’s 2017-18 season officially started with an extended spring training tour in his home state of VT. The Tour kicked off April 15 on home turf, the 350 vertical-foot “Cochran’s Glacier.”
Kelley kept it going with a May 21 camping/SL trip up Mt Mansfield with cousin (and current US Ski Team athlete) Ryan Cochran-Siegle and former Redneck teammate Andrew McNealus. The 30-gate slalom that danced along a knife-edge then plunged down Nosedive made Kitzbuhel and Wengen look like an Autobahn.
From there, Kelley headed a bit further south and took full advantage of Killington’s regular season, and the free lift tickets on Closing Day, June 1. The lifts ceased spinning, but a snowpatch endured, so Kelley and fellow Redneck Tucker Marshall returned on June 4. Arriving before sunrise, they hiked their gates and salt up the mountain, and set an 18-gate slalom—unfinishable by mere mortals—down the gritty, salted moguls of Superstar.
With gusto and some serious retraction skills, Kelley and Marshall made ten runs by 10 am. By the time an employee with the unmistakable look of imminent buzz-kill made his way to the bottom of their course, they were done. Winter 2017—featuring skiing, conditions and terrain worthy of the hardiest Vermonter—was over.
I caught up with Robby to recap the Spring Tour and find out what’s in store for summer.
I have to say, that training looked hairy, and probably really good for your skiing. How tough was it?
“Stowe was scary. It was the steeper of the two, and it had been a month since I had trained SL. But once I got into it I could work on the things I had been working on all year. Killington was less extreme. From the beginning I was able to think about being clean at the top of the turn. The hardest part in Killington was that my boots were mush.”
How much dryland training did you get out of the deal?
“Stowe was tough. We camped the night before, 1.3 miles up the hill. First we had to bring up all our camping stuff, and then all the ski stuff and the gates. After all that, I forgot the remote for the drone so I had to make a third trip. The next day we did eight full-length runs and then some sections for filming. Then we had to get all the stuff down. My legs basically failed on the way down.”
In late April you advertised your services on facebook: coaching experience and World Cup pace in exchange for summer training. How did that campaign go and where are you headed this summer?
“Great. I was already heading to France in June with Stowe and MMSC (Mt. Mansfield Ski Club), and several offers for later in the summer came from that post. The one that works out best is training with a British group in Norway. In August I’ll head to Australia or New Zealand. I have not figured that out yet.”
We hear a lot about pace, and needing to be with faster skiers to get better. As one of the best SL skiers in the world, how do you get pace?
“During the winter I’m training the US Ski Team on the World Cup, and I race in summer to see where I am. Otherwise, I guess, I’m paceless.”
Your drone footage of snow/grass skiing last spring was impressive. It inspired some copy cat adventures too. Who has the drone?
“Tucker and I both have drones. It’s crazy how well you can slide on grass, as long as its steep enough. Last year’s video on Liftline at Stowe got a lot of response and it was fun.”
Did you get a lot of donations after posting this year’s footage?
“We didn’t get new donations, but we got a lot of new followers, so that should help when we are trying to raise money this year.”
What are some ways you make it work going it alone as you have chosen to do?
“I’ve gotten pretty good at the art of traveling as cheap as possible over the last couple years. I always get the smallest rental car*, never bring a duffle bag and carry my clothes around in a tied off rain jacket. I think the best story from the last couple years is when Tim (Robby’s brother and Redneck alum) had too big of a carry-on in the Auckland airport and resorted to putting on his GS suit, helmet and was about to put his boots on before they finally let him go through security.”
*even if that means driving a convertible sports car in Slovenia midwinter.
Why do you prefer the Redneck Way, vs. the advantages and ease of being on the US Ski Team?
“I was with the US Ski Team three years and have done it on my own three years. I like this better. I have more freedom for sure, and I spend less money. I like being in VT as much as possible, and setting up my own camps. For now, I don’t see myself going back to the USST.”
I’ve seen some descriptions of the Redneck Racing ideals. The term “scrappy” comes up a lot. How do you define a Redneck?
“My definition of a Redneck would be an independent free thinker who doesn’t let anyone tell them what they are or are not capable of, or something along those lines. I definitely like the word scrappy too.”
You’re doing this as an independent, but you’re quick to say that you’re not doing this alone. Can you explain?
“Everyone has been very supportive of me since I’ve been racing for Redneck Racing, even the US Ski Team. They’ve been very helpful and supportive during the World Cup season and invited me to be with them each of the first three years of Redneck Racing. This was the first year I wasn’t asked and I assume it’s because they know I like being independent.”
Follow Robby and Redneck Racing on Facebook, Instagram, at snooprobbyrobby and wherever else you see fast, scrappy skiers dressed in flannel and driving cheap rental cars. And if you believe in the Redneck spirit, by all means share the love!