Cardboard Bobby hits slopes at Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colorado Bobby Kelly had a fabulous ski vacation in Steamboat Springs last week. He rode the gondola at the Steamboat Ski Area, tried out some new tricks in the terrain park, climbed aboard a snowmobile, and drank aprs-ski beers with his wifes family.Hes had a blast, and he doesnt even know it yet, Bobbys wife, Niki Kelly, said Friday.Capt. Bobby Kelly, an Apache helicopter pilot for the Army, has been deployed in Iraq since summer. He is not due to return to Germany, where he and Niki have been stationed for almost three years, until November 2009.Bobby introduced Niki to the ski slopes in Europe, and skiing during the holidays has become a Christmas tradition for the couple.To cheer her up for the holidays, Nikis family flew her to Steamboat Springs for a ski vacation. And they brought along a life-sized cardboard cutout of her husband so he wouldnt miss out on the fun.They know how important it is for me to do something honoring him this Christmas, instead of staying home and moping, Niki said. When its something wed do together, it makes me feel close to him. And it makes me laugh, which is what I think people need in times like this.Cardboard Bobby really a promotional cutout of a character from the movie Twilight with Bobbys head attached to it quickly became part of the familys activities.They actually include him in their conversations. Its getting kind of weird, Nikis aunt, Tammy Loux, said with a laugh Friday.His travels in Steamboat have been extensively documented and photographed, and Niki plans to surprise her husband with an album of their pseudo-Christmas vacation together. He was particularly jealous of the 20-inch powder day his wife got to ski Tuesday.He has a spidey sense when its snowing. He wakes up and is like fresh tracks! Niki said.Because Bobby works a night shift, he slept through his units Christmas meal and had a hot dog for dinner instead, Niki said.Theyre trying to be festive, wear the Santa hats, Niki said. But on Christmas Day, its just really somber, because everybody wants to be home with their families.Cardboard Bobby sat next to Niki at Bear River Bar & Grill on Friday, dressed up for aprs ski Fat Tire pints and nachos with a red and blue scarf.Jeni Gamble, the niece of Louxs partner, described Bobby as an out-of-control ski junkie.He wouldve loved this trip. The whole time, we wouldve been eating his dust, Jeni said.In the photograph they chose for his cutouts face, Bobby has a busted lip and a snow burn on his face from wiping out while skiing with Niki in Austria.Nikis family flew Cardboard Bobby from Florida to Philadelphia, where they attended a wedding, and then brought him to Colorado, concealing him from her the whole time. A week of winter weather has not been entirely kind to Cardboard Bobby, who has endured a few duct tape touch-ups. On Friday, his legs were cut off so he could fit on the chairlifts.Hes a local celebrity at this point, Jeni said.Despite a few odd looks from passersby, vacationers and locals have been interested to hear the story behind Cardboard Bobby, and theyve been very receptive to his nontraditional ski vacation, Niki said.Theyll see us carrying him around, and ask questions. Theyre so supportive, Loux said.So many people do recognize that he would be here, but hes in Iraq. Its a huge sacrifice on so many levels, Jeni said.Strangers helped out, too, from the bus driver who loaned Bobby his cowboy hat, to the kids at the Steamboat Ski Area who helped terrain park novices Niki and her aunt with Bobby on Friday.They werent phased. They were like, Oh, naturally, she wants to go off this jump with this cardboard cutout, Loux said.