Elena Hight, Foodie In Flight
Don't be fooled by snowboarder Elena Hight's 5-foot-1, 115-pound frame. She loves food. And more than that, the 24-year-old two-time Olympian can cook. She's been wielding kitchen tools since age 17, three years after the Hawaii-born halfpipe star started traveling the world as a member of the U.S. snowboarding team.
"Eating all of these different cuisines while on the road inspired me to start experimenting with re-creating what I ate," said the five-time X Games medalist, who will be competing again this week in Aspen. "I learned to cook through trial and error. There have been lots of disasters."
Like a particularly bad batch of vegan cookies that left a nasty taste in her little brother's mouth. Now, he always asks if her cookies are "vegan" before he tries them.
Her culinary curiosity soon proved to come in handy, especially as Hight grew more and more conscious of her diet, like most elite-level athletes.
"When you're traveling, you sometimes have very limited healthy-meal options, so you have to be flexible," she said. "It's ideal to stay somewhere that has a kitchen so I can cook rather than eat out all the time."
Hight has a penchant for vegetarian, vegan and raw foods, though she still eats lean meats. Being able to prepare her own meals allows her to have more control over food quality, too.
"I try to eat organic, free-range and locally grown whenever I can. It definitely helps my mind as well as my body, knowing what's in my food," she said.
Hight called the act of cooking "meditative." She also feels physically better when she stays away from gluten and dairy.
To decide what to make, Hight often looks to social media, like Pinterest and Twitter, as well as food blogs and magazines. But occasionally, she whips up her own concoctions.
The foodie has been sharing her healthy recipes once a month with Boarding for Breast Cancer as part of the nonprofit's "Tasty Tuesdays" series. She also enjoys partnering with teammates, including Gretchen Bleiler, Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, to plan a feast.
"When the team stays in a condo or rented house, we like to do big family-dinner nights. Maybe I'll make the main dish and someone else will make the sides. We don't do this every night, but at least once a week.
"It's really fun to cook and then sit down around the dinner table. It creates a sense of community." Best part: The men, like Benji Farrow and Louie Vito, usually wash the dishes.