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May 15, 2024 by Megan Michelson
Photograph Nic Alegre Courtesy Elyse Saugstad

Meet an Athlete: Elyse Saugstad


Home Base / Tahoe City, California

Activities / Skiing, Backcountry Skiing

Why Elyse:

One of the most decorated big-mountain skiers of her generation, Elyse Saugstad, who grew up ski racing in her native Alaska, got her start by winning the overall title of the Freeride World Tour in 2008—she’s still the only American woman to do so. Since then, she’s produced and starred in her own award-winning ski segments, as well as appeared in movies from the likes of Teton Gravity Research and Matchstick Productions, earning her many Best Female Performance titles. 

Elyse also co-founded and runs SAFE AS, an avalanche and backcountry safety clinic with stops around the U.S. and recently produced her first feature film, “Here, Hold My Kid,” a comedy co-starring fellow pro Jackie Paaso about life as ripping pro skiers while raising young sons. “People ski for an escape, to have fun, and to connect with friends,” Saugstad says. “For this movie, we wanted to create something that people could relate to and bond over. There’s a lot of seriousness in skiing, so it’s nice to offer something more light-hearted and relatable.”

Elyse was the first woman I saw consistently hitting massive cliffs. Her hard charging attitude pushed me as a skier to go bigger and to ski faster. I admire the way she blew down doors to get into ski films. Elyse let the industry know that we belong. All of us

Michelle Parker Pro Skier

Specialized Skills:

In addition to her athletic prowess on skis, Elyse is a skilled storyteller and public speaker—she’s presented a TEDx talk in the past. As both a backcountry educator through her SAFE AS clinics and a longtime professional in the sport of skiing, she’s one of the most well respected ambassadors of her sport.

Elyse is one of skiing's greatest ambassadors. Photo Tal Roberts Courtesy Elyse Saugstad.

What's Next:

So, does she plan on producing more feature films? If the right project comes along, yes. “We learned so much from making Here, Hold My Kid,” she says. “I hope we can continue to showcase athletes who are also parents.”

Elyse and three others walking in a parking lot with skis on their shoulders and gear on
A scene from "Here, Hold My Kid." Photo Courtesy Elyse Saugstad.