DOVER -- Another year for Winter Olympics means another that Kelly Clark will attempt to make the U.S. Snowboard Team.
"I think experience goes a long way. I've learned a lot on my last three Olympic teams," she said. "If I've learned one thing that stands out, it is that if you don't have it by the time you get to the Olympics, you're not going to get it. It's all about preparation."
This year's Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia from Feb. 8 to 23.
Clark's first days on a snowboard were at Mount Snow in West Dover. She had been a student at Mount Snow Academy. Since then, her home mountain has changed but she still talks about where it all began.
Today, Clark is one of the top female snowboarders competing in halfpipe competitions around the world. She has been preparing herself as the games are two months away, saying the journey for her began four years ago at the end of the last Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, Canada.
Last February, athletes attended a test event in Russia at the venue where the 2014 Winter Olympics would be held. There, Clark was able to check out where the halfpipe would be and what it would look like.
It was her first time in that country, so she also started becoming familiar with the different food and culture.
"I find it's nice to get a chance to get used to your surroundings and get used to it before a big event like the Olympics," said Clark.
Currently, she is training at Copper Mountain in Colorado where some of the season's first halfpipes are built around Thanksgiving.
The first qualifying event for the Olympics will be held in Breckenridge. Clark told the Reformer that there will be five of those events between now and January.
"They take your top two best finishes," she said. "I could find out the earliest Christmas or Jan. 19 if I made the team. They'll name it in Mammoth Lakes (in California) where the final Olympics qualifier will be held."
That event is only two weeks away from when the opening ceremonies kick off in Russia.
When asked if Clark was nervous at the qualifying events, she said she never gets too caught up and stays focused on the tasks at hand.
"It's really about one contest, one ride, trick," she added. "I'm not thinking too far forward about plans. But you have to be invested. I still stay focused on the games."
For six days a week, Clark hits the snow then hits the gym later on. She spends approximately two to three hours on the mountain at a time. Physical therapy and recovery are also big parts of her weekly regimen.
Some days Clark will work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m..
"It's pretty packed full," she said. "Sometimes I get done at night and wonder where my day went."
But that type of commitment has paid off.
Clark told the Reformer that she's riding at a higher level than she has ever ridden at this time of the year.
"I had a lot of potential," she said. "But I wasn't as prepared as I am now. For me, I didn't want to have to land the run of my life just to make the Olympic team."
Most of the time, Clark has very little time for much else besides riding the halfpipe. But on Dec. 4, there had been about three feet of snow so she was able to ride different terrain and test product for her sponsor Burton Snowboards.
"For the most part, we're conserving our energy, making sure our legs are fresh for practicing and making sure we get done what we have to get done," said Clark. "We may only have seven days on the hill before we have to qualify."
As far as getting her bag of tricks back before those events, Clark said it's happening day by day. She has two more to get down before the Winter Dew Tour Championships, being held in Breckenridge from Dec. 12 to 15.
Those tricks are her spins, which include the 900 and 1080 degree ones.
Clark has been training with the likes of Elena Hight, Scotty Lago, Gretchen Bleiler and Louie Vito, all of whom competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"We're all here training," said Clark. "We had a Thanksgiving dinner. It's pretty much an on the road family."
When not on snow, she enjoys promoting her nonprofit charity, Kelly Clark Foundation. With the expensive costs of snowboarding and winter sports, its purpose is to assist children who might not ever receive the opportunity to hit the slopes if it weren't for the funding.
Throughout the past four years, the foundation has given out $65,000 towards getting more kids out on the snow. That roughly equals assistance for 100 children. Clark said the charity allows her to pool efforts that will outlast her career as a professional snowboarder.
There will be an announcement regarding another round of scholarships being made available soon.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.