Elyse Saugstad

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Moment, Alyeska Resort, Scott, Hestra, Flylow, Backcountry.com, Arcade Belts, Kask, ABS

Elyse SaugstadUpon meeting Elyse Saugstad nearly a year ago, a flurry of adjectives flooded my mind – strong, beautiful, giving, devoted, smart & healing – just to name a few.

As a professional skier Elyse is married to Cody Townsend another pro skier with whom she spends winters skiing those big gnarly lines most of us only dream of, and summers surfing and fly fishing.   The outdoors is both her playground and teacher, and has on occasion dealt hard felt lessons.

In 2012 Elyse was a survivor of the deadly Tunnel Creek avalanche at Stevens Pass Resort in Washington – an avalanche that claimed the lives of 3 of her friends.  It is clear when Elyse tells her story that she is still healing from the experience of that day – but as one of the mentally strongest women I have ever met, she has used her experience to take a proactive role in helping other women become aware of avalanche safety and awareness.   Elyse plays a vital role in the non-profit organization SAFE AS (Skiers Advocating and Fostering Education for Avalanche and Snow Safety), and it’s clear that the women in this group are devoted to each other as friends and ski partners, as well as their amazing organization and furthering their important mission.

TGR Co-Lab Edit Elyse Saugstad

An image of Elyse Suagstad during the filming of her TGR Co-Lab Edit

In addition to everything Elyse is a certifiable babe!  She is beautiful inside and out, smart as hell, and is confident and accomplished on the slopes, in the surf, or fishing rivers!  Her willingness to give to others from an experience that was so devastating is inspirational and one of the many reasons we were so excited to cover her.

Elyse Saugstad British Colombia

Elyse Saugstad skiing in British Colombia

Here is more from Elyse:

SBM: How long have you been skiing and surfing?

Elyse:  I’ve been skiing since I was about 3. I started surfing when I was 26.

SBM:  Were either of these activities a family affair?

Elyse: I grew up in Girdwood, Alaska, a quaint little ski town, and luckily for me skiing was my family’s pastime.  Not sure my parents have ever tried surfing.

Elyse Saugstad Surfer

Elyse has a deep love of the ocean.

 

SBM: You spend your winters skiing and your summers surfing, what other sports/hobbies do you have?

Elyse:  I live in the mountains so I do a lot of mountain-oriented sports like mountain biking, fly fishing, yoga and hiking. Unfortunately I do not get to surf as much as I like, but my husband is from Santa Cruz and we try to spend as much time as possible down there in the off-season combined with taking surf trips to places with warm water and fewer crowds.

SBM:  You recently returned from Mexico for an all-girls surf trip.  What is the major difference between being out in the mountains or on the water with the girls versus with the guys?

Elyse:  There is generally less bravado involved when you’re with all females. Girls verbally cheer each other on and make it obvious that they support each other. Not that guys don’t like to have fun and can be pretty stoked on skiing and surfing rad things with you, but girls are generally more vocal and outwardly jovial about the whole experience.

SBM: Do you prefer a day out with the girls, with the guys, or does it matter?

Elyse: It doesn’t necessarily matter to me with gender.  It’s about being with a group of people that you trust, enjoy spending time with and are on the same page with (like risk-taking). Sometimes for me that means I’m the only girl skiing with a group of dudes because our risk taking tolerance and what we’re seeking to ski and ride is at the same level. Ultimately my favorite partner in the world to do fun activities with is my husband, Cody Townsend. But sometimes it doesn’t get any better than having an all-ladies crew to get really silly with!

SBM:  You are an integral part of the SAFE AS non-profit organization along with Sherry McConkey, Lel Tone, Ingrid Backstrom, Jackie Passo and Michelle Parker.  This is one badass group of ladies!  What is it like to be part of an organization that is home to some of the most well-known females in skiing?

Elyse:  I am over the moon to be a part of something with a group of women that I admire and respect.  We’re all great friends and support each other. It’s really nice that we created something that allows us to all work together and hang out, which can be otherwise difficult because we all have different things going on throughout the winter that we don’t necessarily see each other that much.

The SAFE AS crew

The SAFE AS crew!

SBM: In 2012 you survived the deadly Tunnel Creek avalanche near Stevens Pass Resort which led eventually to your role in SAFE AS.  What was the biggest lesson you learned through that event that you would share with females who ventures in to the side or back country.

Elyse:  Oh gosh there are so many things that I take away with me and learned from that day I will not be able to touch on all of it. One major thing that I took away from that day is that I put my trust into others instead of having my brain turned on and really thought about what we were skiing. I didn’t check the avalanche report that morning, but my buddy did and I relied on his interpretation. I didn’t know the terrain very well as I was an out-of-towner and didn’t question the judgment call by the local friends in the group who are trustworthy, educated back country skiers who had collectively skied in this zone hundreds of times. We were also skiing terrain that was mellow enough that I felt like I could ski it blindfolded and backwards, I wasn’t on edge enough. As one can see with just these few examples, I let my own guard down that day and put my trust into others more than I should have. The outcome may still have been the same had I done things differently on a personal level, but trying to emphasize to other women to be educated enough so that you can rely on yourself and confidently speak up when necessary is very, very important.

SBM:  How did the Tunnel Creek Avalanche ultimately change or affect your life?

Elyse:  100% being caught in that avalanche changed my life.  We lost three great friends who were not only wonderful people but also positive contributors to our ski communities, such a tragic loss. In that regard certain things that I have done, like take an active role in speaking publicly about the incident for SAFE AS as well as other back country educational events; I hope to make a difference in other people’s awareness of snow safety. The avalanche was a terrible, negative experience and I am trying my hardest to turn it into something positive- something JJ, Rudolph, and Jonny would all be proud of.

SBM:  What changes (if any) did you make to your own routine upon returning to the back country?

Elyse:   I got a little more methodical and really lost that rush, rush, rush out into the back country hunger. I am able to say no when I think the terrain choice is poor for avalanche conditions. It’s not easy when you’re generally the only female with a group of guys and have to prove you belong, but I’ve learned with experience and age that if you are able to communicate in the right way it won’t make you look like a scaredy-cat but rather a reliable ski partner.

SBM:  Why do you continue to ski and push your own limits after having had such a close call?

Elyse:  The positives that I take from skiing far outweigh the negatives, even when it was a close call. I learned from that day and was humbled, but to throw in the towel would not only be letting myself down but the friends we lost that day. They would be SO BUMMED if I or anyone else in our group gave up skiing. On a personal note I also am aware of the risks that I take and do my best job to mitigate and manage those risks so that I will not put myself in that position again.

SBM:  What does skiing, surfing and your other sports give back to you as a person?

Elyse:  So many things! Humility- lots of it! Being connected with nature- I think is really important in life and help grounds you as a person. Complete clarity of my mind- if I feel overwhelmed or have a lot going on in my mind the second I get in a good workout things don’t seem as overbearing. Happiness- because skiing and other sports are so much fun!!! A way to connect and share life changing experiences with other people- I do not subscribe to the selfish mantra, “No friends on a powder day.” A powder day would not be half as much fun without doing it with friends and having people to share the amazing experience with! Last but not least an ability to sleep at night- seriously, a few days without activity and my sleeping habits become affected.

SBM:  Do the lessons or principals from skiing crossover in to other sports that you do and how?

Salmon Fishing Alaska Elyse Saugstad

Elyse salmon fishing in Alaska

 

 

Elyse:  Yes, and vice-versa. From skiing one of the biggest things that I employ in other sports is mental toughness and the ability to discern rational and irrational fear, therein allowing me to improve and progress.

SBM:  You delivered a very powerful Ted Talk in San Francisco on fear.  What role does fear play in your life these days?

Elyse:  In the wintertime due to skiing I have a much stronger relationship with fear, but it’s manageable. Fear provides a great mental test and adds an extra layer of fun to skiing- being able to figure out what is a rational fear versus an irrational fear and using it to your advantage rather than letting it overcome you.

SBM:  In a marriage with two extreme athletes, how does fear or concerns for each other’s well-being play out?

Elyse:  Just like any marriage a solid foundation for our relationship requires that we trust each other immensely, even though it may be applied a little differently than the average couple. We support each other to the nth degree and we have a fondness for each other because we have a passion for achieving things that some may not think are possible. There are things and sports we haven’t taken up in life even though they look like so much fun, like base-jumping; because we feel we already have enough risk in our lives that we don’t need to compound it. Humility and the ability to say no are very important to us.

Pretty Faces Alaska Elyse Saugstad Skiing

Elyse skiing in Alaska while filming for Pretty Faces.

 

SBM:  Do you discuss risk ahead of time?

Elyse:  When we go out to ski together, yes.  It goes along with back country safety protocol.   Otherwise I think there is an inherent trust between the two of us and we don’t spend a lot of time talking about the ‘what ifs.’

SBM:  Besides a love of the snow you have a deep love of water and surfing, what is it about the ocean that you love so much?

Elyse:  Being in the ocean is another way to connect with nature that feels so natural, uplifting, and at times healing. Surfing is really challenging and I love that factor.  I also love doing a sport that requires so little gear and necessitates a bikini. Plus, my feet thank me for taking a break from those retched ski boots.

SBM:  When you picture your life 15 years from now, what will you be doing?

Elyse:  I’ll most likely be doing the same activities but probably with not as aggressively. Most likely kids will have come into the picture and hopefully they’ll be intrigued to share the same passions for adventure and travel as Cody and I do.

SBM:  If you could offer one piece of advice to the younger female generations what would it be?

Elyse:  Don’t sell yourself short. There may be an easier way to reach success but if it means compromising your integrity then stick to your guns and persevere. You’ll ultimately feel more proud of your accomplishments when you’re older.
What motivates you on a daily basis?

I love being active, using my mind and feeling like I’m able to accomplish things. Life is awesome and exciting and full of adventure, and I hope to make the most of it! So much to do in so little time…

For more on Elyse!

Click to view her on TEDx

Click to view her TGR Co-Lab for which she won the 14th Annual Powder Awards “Best Female Performance” category.

You can view Elyse ripping lines in the upcoming Pretty Faces ski movie.. COMING SOON!

Pretty Faces Elyse Saugstad

Another shot of Elyse skiing during the filming of Pretty Faces.

 

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About Misty Broesicke

Our Chief Executive Bunny, Misty Broesicke grew up in Orange County, California and made her way to Idaho at 27 years old.  At twenty-nine she learned to snowboard and it quickly developed into a love and passion.  
With a background in rock climbing Misty has combined her passion for both sports as she develops her skills in backcountry snowboarding and mountaineering.   

She has three children,  two “fur” babies and resides with them, and her boyfriend in Boise, Idaho. She is passionate about raising her family to love and take care of the amazing planet we live on while at the same time enjoying the beauty of it by getting outside as often as possible.  

Misty started Snow Bunny Magazine as way to further her own love of outdoor lifestyle sports, while at the same time building up other women and youth through them. 

She is surrounded by an amazing team of women, and that she believes is her greatest strength.