Her family left a tropical paradise behind, but moving to Lake Tahoe at age 6 ended up being the most fortuitous move of Elena Hight’s young life.

Hight was born on Kauai. Now 21, she’s become the rarest kind of Hawaiian — a professional snowboarder.

And not just any pro, either. Hight is one of the best women’s half-pipe riders in the world.

“My dad was an avid surfer his whole life,” she said. “When we moved to the mountains, the first thing he taught the family how to do was snowboard.”

It sure paid off. Hight, who will compete in the Winter Dew Tour this weekend at Killington, has been to the Olympics twice (2006 and ’10). She won bronze at the 2007 Winter X Games.