Elias Elhardt is a professional snowboarder, filmmaker, and activist from Germany who uses his sport to tell powerful stories that inspire action. As an athlete, he is considered one of the best backcountry snowboarders in Europe, having taken a main presence alongside other riders such as Travis Rice in multiple international snowboard films and on podiums across the world for the past decade.
Elias is also an exceptional storyteller, having directed three award-winning short films exploring critical questions about personal goals, responsibility, and societal conflict through the lens of his sport. He recently became involved in activism and initiated a lobbying campaign for better climate policy across Europe with Protect Our Winters and Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
As we welcome Elias as a speaker at Blue Earth Summit 23, we chat about his journey, commitment to purpose-driven filmmaking, and advocacy for climate action.
Passion and Purpose
Elias’ love for filmmaking stems from a desire to tell meaningful stories that resonate with audiences and inspire change. As a filmmaker and protagonist in his films, he has highlighted the controversies surrounding the environmental impact of his sport, featured a mountain sport community in Kosovo as they rebuilt their ski town after the war, and explored heavy topics around risk-taking and losses that hit close to home for anybody who has spent time in the mountains.
“I discovered filmmaking as a vehicle to reach people on an emotional level through their passion for sport. People want to feel a connection to what their heart is close to. It can be hard to grasp if the subject is about a random theme that’s far out from their own reality. Equally, just the delivery of action sports is too little of a goal in the world that we live in. People are seeking meaningful stories in their interest space,” he told us.
Environmental Impact of Snowboarding
Like many sports, snowboarding has a significant environmental footprint, with transport to remote mountains, habitat disruption from the construction and maintenance of ski resorts, and the product-intensive nature of the sport. “There is so much gear you need for it. So producing all that gear is a big part, which is why I really want to participate in how the brands manufacture their products,” he says.
Elias acknowledges the role of brands in shaping narratives and influencing consumer choices. He believes that brand storytelling should go beyond marketing and encompass tangible solutions, emphasising the need for brands to promote responsible consumption, focusing on producing fewer products of higher quality.
Attending Blue Earth Summit
In an industry prone to greenwashing and marketing ploys, Elias values the opportunity to connect with purpose-driven individuals and distinguish genuine efforts from superficial statements. By attending Blue Earth Summit, he hopes to foster clarity and promote impactful change within the snowboarding community.
“It is a very tricky space and it’s more important than ever to get it right. I like the idea of connecting with other people from different areas of the industry. Institutions like the Blue Earth Summit can hopefully provide a platform to discuss and distinguish what we should do and what is purely marketing and greenwashing.”
Personal Importance of Finding Solutions
For Elias, finding solutions to global issues can paralyse people into inaction. Instead, he believes we should focus on attitude and contribution rather than achieving large-scale goals. He encourages individuals to make a positive impact within their own capacities, recognising that collective action can lead to meaningful change.
“Otherwise, I feel like we feel very much helpless,” he explains. “I want to invite people to shift their thoughts away from the solution being so far out of reach that they don’t even start. It’s not on you to solve these issues of the world. It’s about finding a suitable place for you to help shape a better system and society. I think that’s a better place to live.”
Insights and Future Ambitions
One notable initiative Elias has just started working on is a partnership between Protect Our Winters and Citizens’ Climate Lobby to advocate for better climate policy across Europe. By combining the passion and community of snowboarding with political know-how, Elias and his fellow comrades aim to make a significant impact in shaping climate policy.
As a professional snowboarder, award-winning filmmaker, and activist, Elias reminds us that our actions and choices matter. Whether it’s addressing the environmental impact of snowboarding, advocating for better climate policy, or promoting responsible consumption through brand storytelling, Elias encourages everyone to find their own avenues for contribution. It is not about being perfect or finding perfect solutions but about taking action that collectively amounts to meaningful change.