Elena Hight: Edge of the Earth

 Elena talks about pushing her own limits, risk tolerance, and a few of the highlights that didn't make the final cut of HBO's Edge of the Earth. 

Words + Photos: Elena Hight

Last season, I was lucky enough to team up with TGR, Griffin Post and Jeremy Jones for the creation of what became the film Edge of the Earth. The adventure behind the riding is really what got showcased during this film, which I love because that is what draws me to splitboarding; the challenge it takes to find good snow, technical lines, or just go somewhere you have never explored. For those who have not seen Edge of the Earth, the premise behind the series is two main questions:  What pushes certain people to seek out the farthest out places on Earth to push the limits in their respective sports? Is the risk worth the reward?


To me the answers to these questions seem simple. What pushes me to seek out these adventures? I feel the most alive and present when I am in these wild places. The challenges that I face in the mountains make me a better human and help me grow. Pushing my own perceived boundaries is where I find freedom. I often find parts of these journeys are uncomfortable and filled with fear, exhaustion, and uncertainty. But, when it all works out, and you stand on those peaks, ride those lines, wake up in your tent surrounded by nothing but stars and snow, those moments greatly outweigh the hard stuff. Plus, I truly think I have short-term memory loss so that helps block out those hard things I need to forget 😊. I believe that anyone even slightly invested in splitboarding can relate to how I feel here. You don’t have to be in some far-out Alaskan mountain range to push your own limits, find lessons in the mountains, and feel filled up by the experience.

Is the risk worth the reward? Now this question is always on a sliding scale and is hard to quantify. I feel that I have a pretty medium risk tolerance in the mountains. Meaning I like to push it, but safety is always a concern for me and I would rather turn around and take a “defeat” or a “no” from the mountains if there are signs telling me to do so. With that being said, of course, there is always inherent risk. However, I truly believe that this risk is far outweighed by the reward of feeling alive, and living and pursuing a passion.


The film uses our entire adventure to help one ponder these questions in your own way, by bringing the viewer into our 'sufferfests’, successful moments, and tense moments along the way. Many of my favorite moments from this trip are highlighted in the film. Waking up in my tent buried in snow, the climb up Mt. Bertha, and the first turns off the summit. But a few of my favorite moments from a month committed to this project weren’t captured for the film, for example:


On our walk into basecamp, we were on a long hall push. We were touring in what I can easily say is the hardest snow I have ever walked in. It had been snowing for days and was this warm gluey, muddy-feeling snow. Knee to thigh deep, it was like trudging through thick mud, for hours and hours and hours… The push was so tough that we started keeping time, it was everyone’s goal to be able to break trail for 15 minutes. If you could make it to 15 minutes in front you were crushing it. Then you would stop, plop down on our bag, and take a break while you watched the entire crew pass you by and pick up the rear in our little group treadmill. The best part of this scenario is that when you would catch up and pass the trail breaker, everyone was playing different types of music on their phone in their pockets…. Hearing the crew's “crush it” music was a highlight for me. Gangster rap, death metal, Rock and Roll, anything to get through those 15 minutes!!

Another highlight was just enjoying the days after accomplishing our goal of riding our objective. We were recovering from a few big days, a huge physical effort, and just lounging at camp. We built a no-board banked slalom and jump run perfectly shaped with our splitboards (splitboards are the best way to groom out banks and jumps 😊). Played games, built snow forts, and sipped on whiskey. Nowhere to be, and nothing to do except just enjoy.

The final highlight, that isn’t in the film that I will share is our boat ride back to civilization. We had time to just lay on the deck of the boat, take in the experience, laugh, and reminisce on the trip. Jeremy calls this type of re-entry back into the modern world a “soft landing”. It can be jarring to come back into the modern world after disconnecting like this. Soft landings are mandatory for a happy transition and are most memorable if shared with a good crew.

As with any big adventure I came home from this one with sore legs, many smiles, and many lessons to grow from. I value these challenges as they really are the gifts that keep on giving. I hope to continue to seek out these adventures for many years to come and am so grateful to have a splitboard be the vessel in which I find these wild places with.


If you want to check out the film it is now streaming on HBO MAX.

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Elena Hight is a Spark Team Rider, former Olympian, Natural Selection winner, prolific splitboarder, and all-around awesome person. Follow Elena on Instagram to keep up with her globe-trotting adventures.

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