Snowboarder Elena Hight is ready to explore life outside the halfpipe

Elena Hight looks on during X Games Aspen 2018.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Famed big mountain snowboarding icon Jeremy Jones is known for his backcountry escapades. Last spring, he took to the John Muir Wilderness in California for his latest film, Teton Gravity Research’s “Ode to Muir,” and wanted to bring along someone outside the norm.

So he asked Olympic halfpipe snowboarder Elena Hight, who lives in nearby Tahoe, to come along for the ride. Turns out, that experience ended up being somewhat life-changing for the former X Games champion.

“I’ve always really loved all aspects of snowboarding, but really getting into the backcountry and learning more about the big mountains has always intrigued me,” Hight said in a recent interview with The Aspen Times. “That really sparked the transition and solidified the fact that I really want to pursue this side of snowboarding and challenge myself in a new way.”

This might have been the final nail in the coffin for Hight’s exit from the halfpipe world. Currently 29, Hight has spent the better part of 15 years competing in the pipe. She’s won multiple X Games medals, including her breakthrough gold in 2017. She competed in both the 2006 and 2010 Olympics and is a former Burton U.S. Open champion.

Much like icon Kelly Clark, who recently announced her retirement from the sport and took one final ride down the X Games superpipe before Saturday’s contest at Buttermilk, Hight is moving on. She opted out of X Games this year in favor of a trip to Japan with TGR, where she is to be featured in an upcoming film.

Hight is hardly retiring from snowboarding, but her halfpipe days are likely going to be replaced with backcountry expeditions and a lot of more freeriding.

“The ‘Ode to Muir’ was definitely the first big expedition I’ve ever done. It really was eye opening. It was a couple of days in when I realized just how much I was learning and how really at peace and connected I felt being out in the mountains,” Hight said. “Obviously, Jeremy Jones is the godfather of this stuff, so I was learning from the best person I could possibly learn from and really felt like it was the place that I was supposed to be.”

In “Ode to Muir,” Hight certainly seemed out of her element compared to Jones. She wasn’t completely comfortable with the splitboard and camping in the cold and snow didn’t seem to bring her much joy. But by the end of the film she seemed to have gone through a transition that has remained well beyond the final credits.

“Coming up in the competition scene was really a dream come true and being able to contribute to women’s snowboarding and push the limits where I could and challenge myself was all I ever hoped to do,” Hight said. “I feel like everything is falling into place for me and I’m really excited for this next chapter of filming and stepping into the backcountry. I think it’s going to be a real fun next couple of years.”