Alexa Hohenberg is the Aussie behind ‘Still Stoked’ a website giving a voice to women in action sports. This is her success story. From heli guide to web entrepreneur.
Australians love Japan. More than anything, they love the light-as-a-feather, dry as a bone (not the jacket), waist deep powder the country has come to be known for. Many of us wait the entire year for the opportunity to seek out 2 weeks of this white magic. And that’s if we’re lucky.
Enter Alexa Hohenberg, founder and editor of Still Stoked, former pro snowboarder, producer, strategist and backcountry guide at Niseko Photography and Guiding, Japan. Not only does Hohenberg get the whole season shredding jpow, she gets summers paddling out in the crystal clear swell of northern beaches Sydney and still gets time to sneak in a little Alaskan heliskiing.
Don’t be fooled though, life in the backcountry is not all face shots and yippees. It can be hard and there will be days when you don’t want to get out of your staff-accomodation-equivalent bed. You have to want it, and if your passion and love for the mountains is strong enough, the bad days will get covered up and forgotten under fields of untracked snow.
Hohenberg’s journey to a successful career in the snow took dedication, fluidity and a series of bottom turns as she moved from the mountains to corporate life and back again. It started with a little 11 year old British born Hohenberg, the only girl on the school ski trip, getting her first taste of snow in the French Alps a few hours drive from home in the UK. Sliding over snow for the first time, Hohenberg found what some people take their whole lives to find; her calling.
“I knew from the moment I did it that that’s what I wanted to do” she says.
From then on Hohenberg spent every chance she had in the European Alps, snowboarding. As soon as she was old enough, 18, she packed up her things and trekked across the world to chase her dream of becoming a professional boarder in snow heaven, Canada.
The first year she worked as a snowboard instructor in Whistler, and the second she picked up a few sponsors and focused on serious training. Not loving instructing in Whistler, she spent summers coaching freestyle on the Glacier at Les Deux Alpes. Then, as Hohenberg began making proper tracks towards her successful pro-boarder dreams, she did her knee.
Create your own snow fortune
Now, up until this point, the story follows a similar path to many of those entertaining the idea of turning pro, or just wanting to live on the mountain for a few years. It is how she reacted to her injury, creating opportunity out of nothing that really showcases what it takes to make it in the industry.
Injured and couch bound, but full of passion for the sport she’d dedicated herself too, Hohenberg began looking over the footage her and her friends had accumulated from backcountry adventures and hillside antics. With the occasional tip from friends attending Ravensborn film school, Hohenberg taught herself to edit and a passion project began to emerge.
Half to make sure she was still around snowboarding, and half for something to do whilst injured, she enrolled in University. A degree in Sports Tourism and Event Management allowed her to remain around the industry whilst learning a little more about different aspects of it. University gave her the time and the tools to complete the passion project she had begun during injury.
Being surrounded by a bunch of rad female boarders and constantly disappointed with the lack of representation that female riders where getting, Hohenberg’s passion project turned in to one of the first all female snowboard movies out there, Snow Balls.
‘The success of that movie gained me a lot of attention out of Uni’, opening doors well beyond the snow world” explains Hohenberg.
That attention culminated in Hohenberg being headhunted by London advertising agency, TBWA, the group responsible for Nissan Sport Adventure. Alexa worked as a content manager on their actions sports partnerships; The Freeride World Tour and UCI mountain bike tour.
Diversify your skills
This opportunity set her down the road of digital production, strategy and advertising, ultimately moving her to Sydney, Australia as a Digital Producer for the same agency. Hohenberg has had the chance to work on other killer campaigns like GT Academy in London and Get Your Hand Off It in Sydney, aimed at reducing mobile phone related vehicle fatalities. It is this base that she says has allowed her to take the plunge back in to the snow industry.
“I think it’s really important to have something to fall back on” advises Hohenberg to budding snowboard pros. “You need another job, you need another trade.”
Hohenberg’s story doesn’t end there. Working in production and advertising was fun, and she still does it today, but there was something missing. The new path had taken her away from the snow, away from snowboarding and nothing could quite fill that void. Sitting in an office there was a pull she could not ignore.
“It is really important to do what you love” says Hohenberg. “If you’re sitting there not happy with what you’re doing, feeling this massive pull in another direction, the worst thing is to not follow that pull.”
Apply those skills to your passion
So, with 10 years of production and advertising experience behind her, she turned back to snowboarding, certifying as a US heli ski guide and Canadian avalanche Operations 1 Professional. Whilst it makes it easier to have another job to fall back on, leaving an established career in digital poses it’s own challenges. Your security disappears, way of life drastically changes. It’s a big step in to the unknown.
“I don’t think we are meant to do just one thing, all the time” explains Hohenberg. “Our parents did that. there is no reason you can’t just have an idea and go and do it.”
Living her philosophy, and her dream, she packed up and left agency world to qualify as a ski/snowboard guide and build her website Still Stoked. Re-emmersing in the snow world fit well with Hohenberg’s longstanding ambition to create a kick-ass women focused adventure sports site. “Starting” in 2010, it wasn’t really until 2014 that she could put in the time to build a successful site.
Taking up ten to twenty hours a week, Still Stoked is still a side project, but it does give her the opportunity to meet some of the most inspirational women in the industry and share their stories.
Champion your cause (stand for something)
“A platform for women’s written content wasn’t there online, so I thought I’d build it. I absolutely love it. I wish I could do it full time, that is my number one aim!” says Hohenberg who now guides at Niseko Photography and Guiding in Japan every winter and hopes to teach avalanche skills in Australia and Japan this year.
Hohenberg, who now calls Australia home, deals daily with the casual sexism that’s still commonplace, particularly within the sporting industries. Still Stoked provides a platform for women athlete focused written content and celebrates the incredible skill, dedication and achievements of female athletes across all adventure sports.
“I wanted to give the next generation the content I wished was available when I was up-and-coming” she says.
Whether you are looking to build a career in the snow from the start, or chase the dream you’ve had since you first heard the crunch of snow beneath your boots, you can do it. And if you get stuck along the way, remember what Phil Osborn, John Bresee and now Alexa Hohenberg says, “The ski industry is really small. If you just ask questions, search for opportunity and are willing to help other people, doors will open for you”.
At the end of the day, it’s totally worth it.
‘You really learn a lot about yourself when you move away from your safe spot” says Hohenberg. “Move away from others expectations, do what you love and make your own way.’
I’m sold. Over to you!