Elena Hight talks about Hight Hopes and her controversial ESPN spread

Elena Hight Vanessa Andrieux 1
Photo: Vanessa Andrieux

Elena Hight has been in the snowboarding game for over a decade now and somehow still found the time to not only be the first girl to do a double cork in a half pipe comp or have her own web series “Hight Hopes”, but to also get an associate business degree and do a much talked about photo spread for ESPN. We sat down with her for a quick chat at the Volcom Team Meeting in Kitzsteinhorn to hear what she has to say about her busy season.

You’ve had your own web series “Hight Hopes” leading up to the Olympics, but ended up not making it. How was going through this in front of everyone’s eyes?

When Snowboarder approached me about the series, I knew the only way I wanted to do it was if I could really show what I was putting into the Olympics. I feel like a lot of snowboarders, because there are so many other aspects to it, have been playing down the Olympics, saying: “Yeah, I kind of want to go there, but there are all these other things”

I feel like no one was really putting it out there and standing by it, that, yes, this is something I really want to do. It puts you in a very vulnerable place to share that with people, but I think that it’s very powerful as well. What I want to do in women’s snowboarding is empower other girls and show them the real side of what we get to do.

You have really pushed the sport for women but when you did the ESPN body issue, there was a lot of talk about sexism in snowboarding. What’s your perspective on this?

There is a double standard with men and women in every industry. In snowboarding for women, sex is used as a selling point more than it is for men. I think that ESPN does an amazing job highlighting athletic bodies for what they are and making it an empowering rather than a condescending platform, that is just selling sex.

Growing up in the culture we have today, there is an idealism of what the perfect girl body is and part of me wanting to do that was to show that I’m by no means the ideal girl. I had body issue images, but I feel that I’m finally coming to a space where I’m happy with myself as I am. If I could just empower one girl to believe that, no matter how you are, you should love and accept yourself, then that was worth it.

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Elena being the pipe beast that she is.. Photo: Vanessa Andrieux

You’re the athlete who decided to do this yourself, which is not quite comparable to randomly placing girls at comps to hang out there half-naked.

Yeah, like why are they there? Our sport is so young and driven by males and this rebel outcast image, that degrading women is a big part of. But besides that, it’s cool to be in snowboarding right now because girl snowboarders have truly fought their way to earn their spot in the sport. There’s finally this level of respect with them and everyone’s really pushing themselves and the sport. It’s a cool time.

You have laid down some pretty sick tricks in the past, like your double backside rodeo in half pipe at the 2013 X Games. What tricks do you want to fire out next season?

I would love to do my double rodeos on jumps. Taking it down a notch, I want to do McTwists in the half pipe. That has always been one of the tricks in the half pipe that I have never been able to learn but would just love to do. It looks so much fun and it’s such a hard trick, so that’s one of my goals for next year.

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Photo: Vanessa Andrieux
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