For friends and family, Jaelin Kauf’s moguls competitions are reason to reunite

Ben Ramsey
The Park Record
(Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst |

It’s hard to miss Jaelin Kauf’s fans. Scan the crowd for a giant cardboard “J” or “C” on a stick, and you’ll find a friend or family member of the star skier at its base.

At Wednesday’s and Thursday’s FIS Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort, there was a dense stand of “J’s” poking out of a group of about 30 or 40 fans.

“My parents are here, my brother is here, and I think like half of Teton Valley (Idaho) came up to watch this event,” Kauf said after winning the second day’s mogul competition. “There’s one from New York, and (people have come from) all over the country to support and watch me and it’s absolutely incredible.”

Skyler Kauf, her brother, said her events have become something like reunions for family and friends.

“People come from Colorado, Utah, Teton Valley, and regardless of how Jaelin’s doing, it’s a lot of fun because you see people you don’t see except at this event – family and friends,” he said. “So that’s what makes it special. And obviously when Jaelin wins, it’s a lot more fun.”

Jeff Thomas, a family friend, said those reunions allow the participants to relax and let their enthusiasm show.

“You can yell louder, then she can hear it when she’s coming down,” he said. “We’ve been to a number of gatherings throughout the year. You come up here and people say, ‘Oh hey, how’s it going?’ It feels like a family reunion even though you aren’t all related.”

Because Kauf reached the podium both nights, her sprawling entourage flooded into the finish area, where they congratulated her and celebrated with a chorus of cheers for their country.

Her father, Scott Kauf, said he started the tradition of making the “J” signs that have spread throughout their group. Some are simple “J”s, while others have Curious George monkeys accompanying the letter. The iconic monkey is something of a family emblem, a tradition that began when her mother, Patti, bought Scott a large stuffed George when they were both on the Pro Mogul Tour. The couple then gave their son and daughter stuffed Georges when they started competing in moguls.

Some signs, have the letters “JC” on them, for Jaelin Charlotte Kauf’s initials — Charlotte was one of her grandmothers’ names. Other signs are plastered with photos of Kauf, including some of her at Deer Valley.

“She loves this event,” Scott said. “I know she loves coming to Deer Valley because we can be here. I went to an event in Finland, the first World Cup of the year, but obviously, for everybody to go to events like that, it’s tough. Coming here is home turf for Jaelin. She gets a lot of support from the community, family and friends.”

Competitions at Deer Valley Resort are also special to Jaelin and her parents because that’s where the Alta, Wyoming, native got her start.

“This feels like home,” Scott said. “This is the first mogul run she skied. She was like 7 years old. If you look on the back of one of these signs, you can see a picture of her here. That was when she was tiny like that. (Her success is) not an overnight deal, she’s worked at it for a long time.”

Kauf said about 15 of her family and friends will travel to Pyeongchang, South Korea, to see her compete in next month’s Winter Games, where hopefully her hard work will pay off again.