Noah Elliot poses after winning a gold medal in snowboarding at the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games on March 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Of the many strengths that Paralympic snowboarder Noah Elliott possesses, one of them is certainly the ability to juggle a busy schedule.
Elliott is not only a two-time Paralympic medalist and world champion in Para snowboarding, which in and of itself requires remarkable commitment and dedication, but he’s also the program coordinator for the adaptive program in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a public speaker, father to a 7-year-old daughter and now an ambassador for Wiggle Your Toes, an organization that helps amputees find the life they want with their new normal.
“That’s the hardest one,” said Elliott, 22, when asked how he finds time to do it all. “I’ve had to become good at time management. That’s what it boils down to.”
Elliott admits that this season has been a welcome “mellow” year in terms of the racing schedule. Elliott made his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang in 2018 and won the gold medal in banked slalom and bronze in snowboardcross just one year after joining the national team and three years after having his left leg amputated above the knee. The childhood cancer survivor followed that up with his debut at the 2019 World Para Snowboard World Championships, where he won the world title in snowboardcross, bronze in team snowboardcross and silver in banked slalom.
Because there are no Paralympic Winter Games or world championships this year, Elliott said, team members have enjoyed a bit of a break.
“I’ve done a few competitions and won all the ones I’ve attended so far, so that’s been really good,” he said. “It’s really nice and important to have (a slower year) because as athletes you’re always on the road. When you do get a little time at home you appreciate it. It gets you back to a more normal life pace and then you’re able to get excited for another hard-hitting season.”
Next season promises to be hard-hitting. The 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships will be held next February in Norway, with Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboarding world championships all being contested together for the first time in history.
Elliott left on Sunday to head to Norway for the test event and will be competing in both snowboardcross and banked slalom, which will be a dual event where racers will go against one another on side-by-side courses.
In addition to competing, Elliott plans to use the time there to get the lay of the land and become familiar with all things Norwegian so that it feels less like traveling to a foreign country next year and more like heading to a home away from home.
Elliott is heading into the upcoming test event as the one to beat, but he said that he doesn’t feel any different going into competitions as a Paralympic or world champion than he did before those things happened.
“I still approach every competition the same way, going in lighthearted and ready to roll,” he said. “I have these achievements now and it’s cool to say I have these titles, but they’re just titles that are a part of my past. I’m always working on the now and what can I do to be better tomorrow. It’s just how I approach things. I don’t get caught up in results from previous years and just focus on how I’m doing today. That’s what makes me a good athlete.”
What makes him a good all-around human is his dedication to making sure the next child in a hospital bed fighting cancer or the next amputee knows what’s possible.
When Elliott returned from PyeongChang, he immediately paid a visit to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where he was treated, to show the kids there a real-life example of what life can look like after cancer. His own life changed dramatically after a trip to Steamboat Springs as part of Sunshine Kids program and he experienced the mountains for the first time, and now as program and outreach coordinator for the Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS) he’s making the same thing happen for others.
He became involved with Wiggle Your Toes through his 2018 Paralympic teammate, Mark Mann. Mann serves as adaptive sports director for the nonprofit, and he in turn brought Elliott on to help out with a wake surf camp. They loved how he interacted with the kids and brought him back to do snowboarding camps and skateboarding camps and he’s now an ambassador for the program.
Through his role with the STARS program, he’s bringing a group from Wiggle Your Toes, based in Bloomington, Minnesota, to Steamboat Springs.
“I was talking to Mark and said, ‘These kids are so amazing, man it would be so cool to get them out to the mountain,’” he said. “They come to the clinic in Minnesota and ride on a hill but this will be the first time seeing the mountains and snowboarding on those. So I got a grant, got it funded and they’re coming right when I get back from Norway.”
Now that Elliott is introduced everywhere he goes as a gold medalist and world champion, he said, it makes his achievements seem more real. It also makes him want to go do it all over again and reach even more people.
“It just drives my hunger even more and shows me the opportunities I’m able to give other people just from something I love doing,” he said. “I love to snowboard and compete, and to be able to share that love of the sport and help others. That’s what it’s all about.”