Elyse Saugstad

A Certain Intensity: Elyse Saugstad Sets the Bar

August 2019, near Thredbo, Australia: The mountains had gotten a thick walloping of snow, creating atypically deep conditions in a country known for its mellow hills. Australia doesn’t even have an official avalanche forecasting authority, but it was dangerous enough to warrant concern. Elyse Saugstad—a professional skier with heaps of backcountry experience—was not at all interested in taking foolish risks, nor keeping quiet about it. 

The morning after the storm, during a routine parking lot beacon check with husband Cody Townsend, they learned that three quarters of the group had no avalanche gear whatsoever. This didn’t go over super well. 

“She just railed into everybody. And for good reason,” Townsend recalls. Elyse said no to going into the backcountry with the crew and made new plans. Sure enough, Elyse and Cody saw multiple slides, burials, and search and rescues that day…

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