Enjoying the ride

Elena Hight is aiming for her third Olympic team this February. Courtesy Elena Hight

When I was 6 years old my family moved from the island of Kauai in Hawaii to the mountains of Lake Tahoe in California. With my dad’s enthusiasm for all board sports, he didn’t wait a minute to drag our entire family up to the hill. Snowboarding was one of the first things that we took up as a family, and once I was on a board I never looked back.

I quickly learned to appreciate the freedom of being outdoors, and I spent the majority of my childhood at the mountain with my family and my snowboard team. My fondest memories of that time all have to do with snowboarding. Looking back, I realize now that not all kids are as lucky as I was -- to grow up outdoors.

As I transitioned into my teens, snowboarding became my priority. I entered my first pro contest when I was 13 and officially became a pro at 14. With this transition, I started home-schooling to accommodate all the travel I was doing for training and competing during the winter season. Rather than spending my high school career in science class, going to dances and participating in team sports, I would spend my mornings on the mountain and my afternoons in the gym. On plane rides I’d be catching up on my schoolwork.

Being on the road made me grow up much faster than most kids. I was by far the youngest in the group I was traveling with, so I quickly learned how to handle myself. I was afraid that if I didn’t I’d be considered a pain and sent home. Since I was now traveling with some of the same riders I had looked up to my entire childhood, I was always trying to emulate their determination, hard work and perseverance, and those lessons have helped me grow into the person I am today.

I’m now 24, and heading into what will be my third Olympics. There’s no other stage like the Games, and with that comes a lot of pressures and media, and extra stress that isn’t there for a normal snowboard contest. I have learned so much after attending the past two Olympics in Turin and Vancouver, and am pulling from those experiences to be as prepared as possible for Sochi.

Preparing for this season has been a balancing act of time spent on snow, in the gym, and juggling media and PR obligations. I believe that getting ready for a competitive winter season is all about finding the right balance -- you want to have a good amount of time on snow, and a good amount of time to focus on strength training and conditioning, and still have time to balance all the attention our sport is getting because of the Olympics.

I am now back in the halfpipe, getting ready for the first contest of the season -- an Olympic qualifier -- on Dec. 12 in Breckenridge, Colo. It feels good to finally be starting the journey that I have been thinking about and preparing for, for so long.

This journey is also something I am excited to be sharing with my fans. I am documenting my season in a series called “Hight Hopes” in Snowboarder’s video magazine, and it also lives on my YouTube channel (YouTube.com/ElenaHight). Many people have perceptions of what it means to be a professional snowboarder, but few can truly relate to the constant travel, commitments and pressures that go on behind the scenes. I’m documenting my process to open up and let everyone in on the good, bad and ugly of what it takes to make it to the Olympics.

With the first chapter of my web series out, and the first contest of the season in plain sight, I am just trying to stay focused on the now. I’m enjoying every moment as it comes and using every day as a stepping-stone to get me closer to my goal of coming home with a medal from Sochi. I can feel the Olympics just around the corner.