Caite Zeliff

Age: 24

Hometown: North Conway, NH

Occupation: Ski Instructor/Coach

Caite Zeliff smiles for the camera in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. PHOTO: Wade McKoy

After winning her first competition at the New Zealand Freeki Open in 2015, Caite Zeliff quit skiing for University of New Hampshire's Division I race team and moved to Jackson Hole. Last winter, when 25 skiers and riders gathered above Corbet's Couloir—one of North America's most famous lines—to go full send for the title of King and Queen of Corbet's, the former ski racer stomped her first-ever attempt and took home the crown.

How I got here:

It's nice coming from a ski racing background because it's so intense compared to big mountain skiing, which is way more free-flowing. I really like jumping off of big cliffs and that's where I want to keep heading.

Early ski memories:

When I was 11, I signed up for a race—I had never raced before—and I ended up winning. The local newspaper interviewed me and I genuinely thought I was famous. At the time, it was the biggest highlight of my life.

First job:

Washing dishes at my dad's breakfast spot, I got paid in pickles.

Inspired by:

I was really lucky to fall into a group of people who are old-school Jackson Hole Air Force legends. I like people who do cool stuff off the radar.

Mantra:

Hold It Wide Open (HIWO), which is a motorcycle reference to going "full throttle." To me, it means getting after it and not holding back, which applies to everything in life. Everything I do is to the nth degree and I like it that way.

On my to-do list:

Summit and ski the Grand Teton.

Role models: 

Angel Collinson and Shane McConkey are two of them for sure.

Spirit animal:

Lucy Ledger (Jeff Ledger's 8-year-old daughter.) She is such a badass little grom. She does what she wants. I just love it. There's something special about the spirit of a child; they're always doing what they want and having a blast.

High school persona: 

I was pretty wild. I went to a private school and was moved into the headmaster's house because I needed a shorter leash. To give you an idea, I liked fluorescent colors and thrift shopping…

Piece of advice I’d give my 15-year-old self:

Don't be so hard on yourself. I was so intense and so hardcore. I wish I could tell myself to take a deep breath, to love yourself, and to be proud of yourself a little more.

What I wanted to be when I was 10: 

Gold medal winning Olympian/ski racer or an astronaut. I thought both would be pretty cool.

Pump up song: 

Last season it was "HUMBLE." by Kendrick Lamar.

Proudest moment: 

Winning Kings and Queens of Corbet's, for sure. It was the most amazing experience and the coolest thing I've ever done, hands down. It felt like the entire community of Jackson was there, which was so cool. There are sometimes so many egos in competing and in ski towns, but this event didn't feel like that at all. All of the athletes were just pushing their limits and that was super great to see. We were all so fired up.

One thing I can’t live without: 

A Buff. I really hate having my neck get cold.

Living the dream or hustling: 

I'm having an absolute blast. I do what I love. I work really long days and definitely hustle, but I love it. I think the dream is a little funny; I 100 percent couldn't be happier, even though I don't have a car and have horrible credit.

This story originally appeared in the September 2018 (47.1) issue of POWDER. To have 6 issues of The Skier’s Magazine delivered right to your door, in print, subscribe here.