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Skiing, A Family Affair: Jaelin & Patti Kauf Prepare for PyeongChang

Patti Kauf has been a friend of the Women’s Sports Foundation for more than two decades ever since her X Games success was celebrated during the Annual Salute to Women in Sport in the 1990s. Her daughter, Jaelin, will compete in PyeongChang in mogul skiing – the same sport her mom excelled in decades earlier. We look forward to having the mother-daughter duo walk in the Grand March for the first time together this Fall, and to celebrating Jaelin’s Olympic journey.

The last few years have been a whirlwind for 21-year-old mogul skier Jaelin Kauf. It was only two years ago that she realized she was capable of competing at the top level of the sport. She walked away with the Rookie of the Year award after her breakout performances on the World Cup tour in 2016 and hasn’t blinked since.

After qualifying for her first Olympic team in late December, Jaelin was elated to call her family and tell them the exciting news. The timing couldn’t be better. Kauf is at the top of her game leading into the Winter Olympics and will be one of eight mogul skiers to represent the United States next month. The mogul pro is heading to Korea with her eyes set on bringing home the gold medal and it is clear she was born ready.

Growing up with professional skiers as parents instilled a deep passion and appreciation for the slopes at a very young age. Fresh off of making the Olympic team roster, Jaelin and her Mom Patti spoke with the Women’s Sports Foundation about Jaelin’s journey to the top and her childhood on the mountains surrounded with her family. “My brother and I grew up in the ski world and joined my mom on the podium at the X Games when I was just three years old. They taught us to love the sport and being out there on the mountain,” shared Jaelin.

My whole life, skiing is what we’ve done as a family. We have always loved being out on the mountain together.

X Games medalist Patti Kauf could not be prouder of her daughter’s progress in the elite ski world and the medals seem to be just icing on the cake for the Kauf family. What is most important to them is enjoying each step of the way. Patti says she wants her daughter to soak up her Olympic journey and be able to “look back at it in twenty years and say ‘wow, that was awesome.’” It’s clear that her love for the sport has been passed down to Jaelin without missing a beat.

One would think Jaelin could feel some pressure skiing in the footsteps of her parents but that simply isn’t something she spends time worrying about. She admits she wasn’t paying much attention to the Olympic qualifications in the news because she didn’t want to put more pressure on herself. So, when her coach told her she qualified for the Olympic team, she was actually a little bit surprised: “I was definitely in awe. I went back to the hotel and Face-timed with my mom. We both pretty much just broke down in tears. It’s definitely crazy that it happened so fast.”

Like mother like daughter, both Patti and Jaelin talk about how effortless it is for the family to ski together. Jaelin explains, “I love how easy it is, we all want to go ski the same slopes and we ski at the same speed, so we don’t have to wait for each other. It’s just fun.” Patti elaborates that her favorite part about skiing is “family, it’s one thing my family always did together and we all do it so easily.

We enjoy being outside and flying around the mountain. It is something we do so effortlessly. It’s probably where we are most at ease.”

However, watching her daughter compete is another story. Patti says she can hardly breathe when Jaelin is racing: “I am literally down on the ground on all fours. I can’t even watch it. When you are an athlete, you are doing something, you are in the gate and have something to focus on and as a parent, you are just standing there.”

Not only has Jaelin been physically training for the upcoming Olympic Games, she has been mentally preparing herself as well. About a year ago, Jaelin went to Korea for a test event and has been visualizing the Olympic course. While she envisions herself coming home with the gold medal, Kauf’s Olympic goals are just as thrilling as the experience itself: “I am actually most excited to just feel the atmosphere and just be there with all the other top winter athletes in the U.S. and share that experience with them.” With her passion, focus and support of her family, there is no doubt she will do just that.

Olympic medalist swimmer Kim Vandenberg is a member of the WSF Digital Contributor Team.