Elyse Saugstad

Athletes
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This woman wouldn’t call herself brave, but all of her friends would. The pro skier from Girdwood, Alaska, has had to be brave in order to build herself up as a freerider back when freeriding was barely even a thing. Elyse is also calculated, focused, and determined, and because of those things—combined with a deep love for sending it—she has enjoyed a decorated career as a professional skier with the awards and film credits to prove it. Her journey hasn’t been a simple one, and she will be the first to tell you that it was anything but easy.

Elyse grew up in the small resort town of Girdwood and made her first turns at Alyeska Resort, Alaska’s largest ski area. Her dad was a full-fledged ski bum and Elyse remembers being pulled out of school on cold, snowy mornings for over-the-head powder days. She also remembers the first time her parents told her she could ski on the mountain without them—she was seven years old. “All of the sudden I had this whole day to myself and it was the first time I experienced the true freedom of skiing.”

«Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been a doer. I would do well against the boys, and I never thought I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl.»

Elyse

By the time high school graduation rolled around she was burnt out on racing. She started college at The University of New Mexico with distant goals of becoming a lawyer. The result? She missed it too much. She transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno, and that’s where she discovered freeriding and found a new passion for skiing.

After college, Elyse moved to Squaw Valley, California. “That’s where it all took off,” she says. “I wasn’t planning on being a pro skier, but then I realized I could hang.”

Elyse won the Freeride World Tour overall one year later in 2008. She won first place at individual stops in 2009, and was voted the tour’s best female line of the year that year as well. She’s been nominated for Powder Video Awards’ “Best Female Performance” every year since 2012, and she won the award in 2013 when her season edit went viral. She also won the “Best Female Performance” at the International Freesports Films Festival (IF3) in 2019.

When I asked Elyse what her biggest battles have been, she told me point blank that it was being a female. 

“I had a very low glass ceiling,” she says. “The sponsors in the ski industry just didn’t see the same value in women, and you didn’t get the same opportunities. Yet the demographic of women in the sport has constantly been growing.”

She’d try to get into ski movies, but had no success. “Big ski film companies just weren’t taking that many women,” she says. “So I would find really small film companies that would work with me. I just found a lot of different ways to get a camera on me to get the exposure I needed.”

Elyse is at a point now where she doesn’t have so many barriers anymore; she can do what she wants. She has kickass sponsors, produces her own edits, goes on expeditions, teaches clinics to women who want to backcountry ski, and does a lot of public speaking.  She has jumped enough hurdles and worked hard to get to a point where she is no longer as limited. 

Now, she can just focus on what’s ahead, which she hopes, is a lot of heli skiing. 

Elyse has now been in the Orage family for more than 5 years and we truly enjoy working with her. She takes part in product development and therefore contributed to the making of an award winning jacket such as the Horizon Jacket.