Anyone who might have been skiing at Grand Targhee Resort last weekend may have had a woman just smoke past you on a double black-diamond mogul section, piston pumping through the bump field with flair and capping it off with a backflip on the last kicker.
She’s not showing off.
She’s just a local.
And a two-time Olympic skier.
Jaelin Kauf took a little time off from training with the U.S. Ski Team to make a few turns with her family at Targhee in Teton County, Wyoming, last week.
The 26-year-old is fresh off the 2023 FIS World Ski Championships in Bakuriani, Georgia, where she earned two silver medals for moguls and dual moguls Feb. 25-26.
It’s the first medal of any kind for U.S. mogul skiers in eight years at worlds.
Kauf, who is ranked top 5 in the world and has been since 2018, now has four career medals in World Championships. They sit in her trophy case alongside a silver medal from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
By the way, as of last year, Kauf has a run named after her (Silver Jae) at Targhee. She skied it last spring with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, who promptly declared April 10 as Jaelin Kauf Day.
Jae Bae Sends Her Love
Moguls is a German word meaning “mounds.” These mounds, or bumps as skiers refer to them, are often created naturally on a ski run by the sharp turning motion of skiers.
Some skiers are better than others navigating these bump fields. A select few are so good at it they compete internationally to see who can ski moguls fastest and with the most style (including trick jumps).
Kauf’s forte is speed and aggression.
She grew up in Alta, Wyoming, skiing at Grand Targhee. Nasty terrain? Bring it on. The worse the weather and conditions, the better this Wyoming girl gets.
Kauf’s parents – Scott and Patti – were competitive freestyle skiers themselves back in the 1980s, but it was older brother Skyler who pushed Jaelin to be the best she can be.
Wherever big brother went, so did Jaelin. They were inseparable. It was keeping up with Sky that stoked Jaelin’s competitive spirit.
“It’s always been the two of us together,” Kauf said. “He helped to raise me into who I am, and he is the reason I started mogul skiing. He still pushes and motivates me every day and every time I stand in the gate.”
Kauf didn’t care for mogul skiing as a kid. Today, she is considered the fastest mogul skier on the Team USA.
“Speed has always been my strength. It is where I’ve always been able to set myself apart from other skiers,” Kauf said. “While that is still true, in the last four years I’ve gotten a lot stronger as a jumper as well.
“I don’t have the highest degree of difficulty tricks, but I have been able to strengthen the jumps I do have.”
Turns count for 60% of a moguls skier’s score. Jumps make up 25% and speed 15%.
At the World Ski Championships last month in Georgia, the course was an easy one for Kauf, who was edged out by France’s Perrine Laffont.
“The course was pretty basic and straightforward. We call those a hero’s course: Everyone can ski it and ski it well,” Kauf said. “I generally prefer courses that are harder and technical and difficult, where I can set myself apart a little more. Deer Valley, for instance, is really steep and really challenging.”
Kauf Eyes Gold And Golden Years
At 26, Kauf is the veteran freestyle skier on the U.S. team. She’s been skiing for her country since she was 18.
Competitive skiing is hard on the body and mogul skiing is brutally tough on an athlete. The tap-out age is about 30.
Still, Kauf says she feels strong and is still hungry.
“The body is still feeling good,” she said. “Right now, I am having so much fun competing, and feel I am just starting to tap into my abilities as a skier and reach a little more of my potential.”
Looking forward, Kauf thinks her best skiing is still ahead of her.
“I will probably ski through the next Olympics, so 2026. At that point I will be 29,” she said. “I was talking about it with my mom earlier.
“In my ideal world, how I see things going, I ski three more World Cup seasons, go to the Olympics and retire at the end of that season.”
To hang up her skis with a gold would be the dream, but Dreamcatcher (her favorite lift at Targhee) was what Kauf had her sights on last weekend when Cowboy State Daily caught up with her.
“My brother and I practically grew up on that lift. I’m actually driving up there this weekend to ski with my family,” Kauf shared.
Breaks during the season (December through mid-March) are rare so Kauf enjoyed the time off for some free skiing – a busman’s holiday of sorts.
Depending on the source, various ski communities like to claim Kauf as one of their own.
Her own Team USA website has her birthplace listed as Vail, Colorado. Others say Alta. Her parents live in Tetonia, Idaho. But every winter, Kauf can be found taking up residence in Utah, where she trains.
We asked her, just to settle the score, where Kauf tells everyone she is from.
“Definitely Wyoming,” she said. “Utah, Colorado and all these communities that want to support me, well, that’s just more places I can help deliver the love.
“But I will always and very proudly claim Wyoming home.”