Elyse Saugstad on move to Moment Skis, the Olympics, SAFE AS clinics, more

Comments by Donny O'Neill/

On November 18, it was announced that Elyse Saugstad would be signing with Sparks, Nevada based Moment Skis. Saugstad is consistently regarded as one of the best female big-mountain skiers in the world, and she joins a team that includes skiers like KC Deane, Logan Imlach, Josh Bibby, and Carston Oliver, just to name a few. We talked to Saugstad regarding her move to Moment, thoughts on the Olympics, the women’s specific avalanche clinic SAFE AS, and more.

Q&A:

Hey, Elyse, What’re you up to right now?

Working away at getting everything dialed for the SAFE AS Clinics I’m organizing and putting on with my fellow pro skier buds Jackie Paaso, Michelle Parker, and Ingrid Backstrom. The first one is December 5th at Snowbird.

Have you been skiing at all yet this season?

No, not much snow in Tahoe yet, but it is only November. Some years start off early and some don’t kick off until mid-December. I wouldn’t mind it so much if I didn’t know that so many other places in North America are up and running. Thanks social media…

Congratulations on signing with Moment Skis. What spurred the switch to Moment?

I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of the Moment family! There are several reasons why it made sense to switch to Moment. First off, I was looking to work with a company that would be excited about all the positive things I have going on as an athlete and as an ambassador to our sport. I strive for both my sponsors and I to be mutually stoked on what we’re both bringing to the table and collaborating on. Another reason is that I would like to be more involved in the process of designing and developing women’s specific skis and Moment is just as fired up about having me involved. At the last company I was with I wasn’t invited to the development meetings, I was told it was a guys only sort of thing. Another bonus to joining Moment is that they continually have some of the coolest graphics out there.

Do you know a lot of the other athletes on Moment’s team?

I do. I regularly ski and hang out with Cinnamon [KC Deane] and took a ski trip to Idaho with [Josh] Bibby a few years ago. There are other rad folks on the team, like Carston Oliver, that I haven’t actually had the chance to ski with yet, but hopefully now I’ll have a chance to.

How much development will you have with the women’s line of Moment Skis?

Hopefully a lot. From the get-go all the discussions with Casey [Hakansson], the founder of Moment, have included my involvement with the women’s line. One benefit to working with an indie ski company that makes its skis right here in the US is that developing prototypes and testing products can be done immediately. I compare Moment to being a swift boat that can navigate its waters and change course as needed, versus the a huge aircraft carrier that is hard to maneuver and gets stuck on its path, good or bad.

Is there an Elyse Saugstad pro model on the horizon?

That I cannot say. I hope to help create some kick ass skis and if that warrants my name being attached to them then that’s a bonus! Got to have a good product first and foremost.

Have you got anything lined up yet for the coming season?

The first half of December I’ll be on a tour for our SAFE AS clinics. I plan to film for the all-female movie, Pretty Faces. Besides that I’ll go wherever the snow flies with my sled in tow and be open to any opportunities that may come my way. That’s how it is every winter; make it up as you go!

Is there anyone that you’d really like to ski with this season? Or in the future?

Rachael Burks. We always talk about it but nothing has worked out in the past. She’s such an amazing person and skier. Plus, if I have the chance to ski more with Ingrid, Michelle, Jackie, and any other ripping chicks, and there’s plenty of them, I’m stoked. I rarely have the chance to ski with other women.

This season is a big one for the sport, with the introduction of slopestyle and halfpipe skiing in the Winter Olympics. What effect do you think that’ll have on athletes that generally stick to filming rather than competing?

This winter it seems that there is less money being devoted to film athletes and film projects from companies that are supporting athletes that have a chance to be in the Olympics. I think it’s a tad silly for a lot of the companies to be chasing the Olympic athletes because, at the end of the day, park skis are a very small niche of skis sold compared to the overall picture of freeskis sold. There is the argument that it’s branding for a company, and I get that it’s hard to quantify branding versus direct sales, but I think the limelight of the Olympics helps the individual athlete more than it does the company most of the time. For example, can you say what skis Lindsey Vonn or Julia Mancuso is skiing on? I think most people don’t know the answer, but they know who those women are and their once every-four-years exploits. When it’s all said and done, the people will still be buying skis that the film skiers promote because that’s the type of skier that is relatable. Not to be misconstrued, I am very supportive of freeskiing being in the Olympics and think it’s a great stage to showcase what people can do in our sport. I will be glued to the TV just like everyone else, rooting on my fellow ski friends with their chance at glory. I just think there is an interesting conversation to be had about how companies are using their funds in relation to the Olympics.

Saugstad gives Tedx talk titled When Passion and Fear Collide.

You recently gave a TEDx talk about “fear and its positive role in goal achievement,” how was that?

I was really excited and honored to have the opportunity, but of course it was also a nerve wracking experience! TED talks are a big deal in the world of presentations, and even though I don’t mind speaking in front of people I had to bring my game up considerably to make it polished and talk for 15 minutes plus with no notes. To top it off I started my talk off with a fairly emotional subject, the Stevens Pass avalanche, which still gets me sometimes when I talk about it. I never know when the emotions that are associated with it are going to strike, it’s really crazy. In the end I think it went well, I didn’t forget my talk except for maybe a line or two and the audience seemed very intrigued.

Can you talk a bit about SAFE AS, the women’s-specific avalanche clinic you’ve co-founded?

Last year, late summer I was having coffee with the likes of Michelle, Jackie, Ingrid, and Sherry McConkey and the topic of the Manaslu avalanche came up as it had just happened. That spurred a different sort of conversation about how we could get involved with avalanche awareness, especially with women at an introductory level as we saw it as a gap that could be filled in snow safety education. We ended up creating SAFE AS, a one day introductory clinic of avalanche and snow safety with companion rescue training. As our gear continues to progress and stepping into the side and backcountry continues, we feel the need to get women involved who may think an Avy 1 class is not suited for them. The clinic, even though it is serious by nature, is really fun as we tailor it for women by starting our day off with yoga led by Sherry; Lel Tone leads the training as she is a total badass lead patrol for Squaw, heli-guide for Chugach Powder Guides, and AIARE instructor, and we have an aprés party at the end of the day with a glass of wine, lots of high fives and smiles. We’ll be at Snowbird December 5th, Squaw December 8th & 9th, Crystal Mountain December 14th and Stevens Pass December 15th.

Final thought?

I’m so ready for winter!