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In a touching tribute to one of the best snowboaders ever, Jake Burton Carpenter presented the annual Tranny Award to Craig Kelly at this year’s 12th Annual TransWorld Snowboarding Industry Conference (dubbed the Wilderness Survival Camp and sponsored by Northern Boarder, Red Bull, Zumiez, and the Alyeska Prince Resort) held in Alyeska, Alaska.

The Annual Tranny Award is presented to someone in the snowboard industry for a lifetime achievement in the sport. Past recipients include Snurfer inventor Sherman Poppen; Jake Burton Carpenter; Tom Sims; Terry Kidwell; Avalanche Snowboards founders Chris and Bev Sanders; Mervin Manufacturing (Lib Tech and Gnu Snowboards) founders Mike Olson and Pete Saari; Winterstick founder Dimitrije Milovich; Canadian pioneer Ken Achenbach; and European pioneer Regis Rolland.

But this night belonged to Craig Kelly. After a short slide show featuring extraordinary photos of Kelly ripping deep powder, Jake Burton took the stage and talked about Kelly for a few minutes to the packed crowd of almost 200 conference attendees and acknowledged the influence Kelly had on both Burton Snowboards and the sport itself. “When I started listening to Craig, my company took off,” said Burton. “When the rest of the industry did, the sport also took off.”

Kelly set the bar for everyone else in the sport’s early years. He was a four-time World Champion during an era that required both halfpipe and racing performance. With his background as a national-level BMX racer from Mt. Vernon, Washington, Kelly’s riding style was gleaned from his early years at Mt. Baker riding with the Mount Baker Hard Core (MBHC) posse. Dropping out of college just short of an honors degree in biochemistry from the University of Washington, he opted instead to become the most visible snowboarder in the world throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s.

After proving himself on the competitive level, Kelly began to concentrate on filming with Greg Stump, Warren Miller, Adventurescope, and others. Today, Kelly is still one of the most respected riders ever, and he remains elusive, at large, and on the road constantly.

“Craig knows the soul of the sport more than anyone else,” said Burton. “Thanks for making me keep listening.”

Then Kelly took the stage and thanked everyone for the award. He also commented that earlier that day was the first time in almost four years that he had ridden with Jake and he was stoked to get on the snow with him again. It didn’t hurt that they were heliboarding.

“I took about a year and a half off from it and I came to the realization of how much I love snowboarding,” said Kelly. “It feels good to be back.” He also said he’s gotten back into guiding, and is now working at Baldface Lodge in British Columbia.

After thanking his girlfriend Sabina and daughter Olivia, Kelly left the stage to a standing ovation. Then longtime pro rider and now Volcom Team Manager Billy Anderson rushed the stage to tell several stories about how Kelly had been a great influence on his snowboard life and career, even though he never knew Craig personally. It was a touching end to the evening.

Earlier in the night several other awards were also presented, including naming the King Of The Industry contest winner. The contest was hosted by Northern Boarder Owner Jay Liska and consisted of each competitor taking one run from the top of the resort to the bottom. Liska simply followed and graded each of the riders. To make things more interesting, each of the competitors threw a $25 entrance fee into a hat with a winner-take-all award.

He might have an unfair advantage being a former pro snowboarder and now working as an assistant editor for TransWorld Snowboarding, but Cody Dresser was stoked to win andd walk away with the cash. “This is the only contest I’ve ever won in my whole life,” he said. But the competition was fierce, and he edged out Nitro’s Tim Weisser, Flow’s Mike Paulino, and Quiksilver’s Brian Craighill, who finish second, third, and fourth respectively.

Click here for an Alaska heli Quicktime video clip. .

Click here for an Alaska Quicktime slide show. .