Kelly VanderBeek, retired Olympian & World Cup Medallist, designed & painted a helmet for Canada’s rising star, Britt Richardson.
Q & A
When did this project take root?
Early August, Britt approached me looking for help to design a custom helmet. She wanted to include mountains and her home of Canmore, AB, but wasn’t sure how to execute that. I ran with her inspiration and came up with a few designs. Thankfully, we both fell in love with my first idea, which is what you see on the helmet today.
Tell me about the design and its inspiration?
The design showcases Canmore’s famous Three Sisters mountains, but with a twist. The tree line stylistically represents Canada’s iconic Maple Leaf and the colours are meant to connect Britt to her Nations colours, and her favourite shade of blue. The road can be a lonely place for athletes. So, having a unique item that connects them to their home, their community, and what they value is a special piece to help create.
Have you ever designed a custom helmet before?
Designed, yes. Created, no. As a racer, I used to design my helmets, so I understand the appeal of it and how it can help connect you with what’s important to you. It’s also a special form of expression when so much of your clothing is about assimilation. I also understand the importance of ensuring your sponsors are well represented within a design. They are how athletes play the bills, and those relationships need to be honoured. I did seek advice from expert friends like artist David Arrigo, to ensure I didn’t compromise the helmet’s integrity while maintaining my artistic vision.
Thoughts on heading into Sölden and the start of a new World Cup Season?
I’m really looking forward to the World Cup opener in Sölden which is coming up soon! The preparation period has gone well and I have good feelings on my skis which I’m really excited to bring into the 2023/34 season.
This off season, where was your focus to help you build on your strong performances? The focus in the off season was to continuously improve my fitness. I spent the majority of the summer in the gym and on my bike. This will allow me to push myself to the next level when I’m on snow.
Custom helmets have a long history in sports, why did you choose to go this route?
My head sponsor, PrairieSky, and I discussed the thought of creating a custom helmet last spring. The idea was to create something that was meaningful to me and it became possible through the support of PrairieSky.
What inspired this collaboration with Kelly and the design itself?
I originally reached out to Kelly because I had seen some of her previous art worked and loved her style. I am so happy we connected and she was willing to be a part of this project.
How does the legacy aspect of having Kelly’s work be ‘with you’ on the hill sit for you emotionally?
For me, it adds a lot of meaning to have had Kelly create my helmet design. Kelly was an inspiration to me when I was younger. I looked up to her when she was on the Canadian Ski Team, so to be able to work with her on this project was very special, and I feel lucky to wear her artwork on the hill with me every day.
Connections to home are obviously important to you, what about those bonds brings you strength?
I choose this design because it allows me to bring a piece of home with me while I am travelling for races. It reminds me of my family who are always my biggest supports. I also believe how I grew up and where I come from has brought me to become the skier I am today, so this design feels special to have with me. Plus, when everyone on your team is wearing the same gear, it’s really nice to have something this unique and personal.