Ski racing is a sport of individual victories. Yet this past year Tim Kelley, 29, and his brother Robby, 25, did what few ski racers since Bode Miller have done successfully: they decided to compete on the international circuit (with two other Vermonters Tucker Marshall and Andrew McNealus) as a home-grown team, the Redneck Racers. And the Rednecks, dressed in their signature camo race suits, sipping their homegrown Slopeside maple syrup, and training on their own at their 350-foot ski hill in Richmond, did just fine, thank you. So well it was hard to choose one brother over the other for this list.
The Kelley brothers grew up at Cochran’s Ski hill where their mom, Lindy Cochran Kelley and other members of the legendary Cochran ski racing dynasty, coached them. Both raced for the University of Vermont (where Tim lead the Catamounts to the NCAA championship win in 2012) and both have been on and off the U.S. Ski Team. But in the 2014/15 season neither made the national team. That didn’t stop them. They went on to scrape together enough money to race in Europe, sleeping on floors, renting the cheapest cars they could and selling t-shirts and bottles of Slopeside Syrup they boiled and bottled to help cover the costs.
And they both raced well enough to regain the respect of the U.S. Ski Team coaches who invited them aboard the C Team for the 2015/16 season. Tim took 23rd in the slalom at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail last February, only two points behind the top American, Ted Ligety. He went on to podium in slalom at the U.S. National Championships at Waterville Valley in March and earned a spot on the World Cup circuit. Robby had six FIS slalom victories in 2015.
But when it came time to join the U.S. Team, Tim said yes. Robby declined, deciding that rather than pay the $20,000 it takes to be a C Team athlete he’d stay a Redneck Racer.
At the start of this season, both are doing better than ever. Robby entered and won the Australian national championships this past summer and on December 2 in Norway, earned his first Europa Cup (a training ground for the World Cup) medal with a third-place finish. Tim finished third and fourth in the first Nor Am Cup races in Jackson Hole in late November.
The brothers will be in good company this winter on the alpine circuit: cousin Ryan Cochran-Siegle is also on the U.S. Team along with seven others who have ties to Vermont.