local hero kaya turski is a canadian freeski athlete hailing from montreal – with three winter x gold medals under her belt as well as a spot representing canada in the upcoming 2014 olympics in sochi, russia, kaya is one of the leading female freeskiers at only 24 years old. i had the opportunity to meet kaya at this year’s iF3 international freeski film festival (peep my review here), where she showed (and was nominated for) her webisode, the edge of state of mind. despite being the it girl at iF3, kaya is an incredibly down to earth person – a quality that was powerfully resonant in her webisode, and her demeanor as a professional athlete. we had a quick chat session about what it’s like to be a girl in a male-dominated industry, her webisode series and her iF3 experience. read on!
thanks so much for talking with me. let’s start with what drew you to free skiing and to start competing? what would you say continues to draw you to the sport?
well, since i was a little kid i searched for some kind of adrenaline rush…i tended to be a little more daring than the people around me. that was what was fun for me. free skiing is a pretty daring sport and i like the challenege it brings in my life. as for competing, i’ve always been pretty competitive, and i like the way my heart starts to beat a little faster when i’ve got to perform at a certain level on cue.
and you won your first gold medal at the 2010 winter x games in aspen – what was that moment like for you? how has it changed your outlook today?
it was the best day of my life! one of them. so exciting, something i’ve always dreamed of. i guess since i was a kid i’d dreamt of winning a gold medal at the x games, so that moment was like “yeah, you did it… you put your mind to it and you got here. work hard enough and anything is possible!” at that point it was like “what’s next?”… keep pushing the boundaries!
how does it feel to be a part of the change in how athletics, skiing especially, interacts with female presence? what would you say has been the biggest challenge in terms of integrating the presence of women in this sport over the past couple years?
it’s great to be part of this movement in free skiing. women have a stronger presence than ever and i’m so excited to be at the forefront, pushing the women of the sport. it’s been a challenge with events…a lot of the time it isn’t equal prize money, sometimes we don’t even have a women’s division. so it’s not always easy, but we’ve united to become a very strong pack that’s going to keep on pushing for as long as we can!
you girls are doing an incredible job!! what is it like to be such a strong role model for aspiring female athletes? what advice would you give to the younger generation of female skiers?
it’s amazing. i love being a part of the younger generations’ lives. that, in turn, inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing and to reach out to as many people as i can. the message for all the youngers, especially the girls would be…you always have a choice: how you react to a certain situation, how you are to other people, what you decide to do with your life…you can choose! if you have a dream there is no one who should be able to tell you “no” other than yourself. the main thing is to believe in the good in you and to trust in yourself – the rest will come naturally.
so, looking back, what advice would you give your younger self, if you could sit down together?
take it easy!!
let’s talk about free skiing – from the outside, jumps and tricks definitely seem to require a certain amount of fearlessness. what’s going through your mind when you’re in the air?
yes and no. sure, we do what most people would never be comfortable trying, and there is a certain amount of risk involved. however, most of us (at the top level at least) don’t just huck a trick to try it but work on understanding it first. you go through progressions with trampolines and water ramping, or jumping into an air bag, but at the end of the day, a lot of it is mental. once you grasp the idea of what the trick will feel like, you’re on the right track and then it’s not so much fearlessness…it’s more trusting in the work you’ve put behind it and letting go.
what was your iF3 experience like this year (in terms of the event itself)? montreal is your hometown – what was it like to be back here for the festival?
it’s always good to come back and connect with everyone! especially since we’re together all season long and then part ways in the summer. it’s great to see more and more people every year taking part in the event.
how did it feel to be showing at iF3? is it something you’ll continue to pursue in the future?
it was great to have the opportunity. i’m happy with the outcome and look forward to doing it bigger and better next year!
tell me a bit more about the short film you showed, the edge state of mind?
well, state of mind is a webisode series i started a couple years ago because women weren’t really getting any coverage. i saw a couple athletes starting to put out edits online and thought i would try to get some more coverage for the girls that way. the webisode is about life on the road with the girls of free skiing, on and off hill, to give people a feel of what we do.
this last webisode was the season recap so it was filmed all over – france, austria, colorado, utah, california, montreal. the athletes in there are the girls on the tour; anna segal, ashley battersby, emilia wint, dara howell, kim lamarre and a few more.
the ski world lost an icon in sarah – could you tell me a bit about her impact on you as a skier?
sarah was the brightest soul i think a lot of us have ever met and she touched thousands and thousands of people. she pushed the women’s side of sport with her determination and perseverance but lit up the world with her spark at the same time. she had it going on! i think just being in her presence, and having the amazing opportunity to compete with her and be her friend brought out a lot in me and what i believed in myself.
there’s been so much progress – it’s amazing to see the work that sarah did continue to develop and grow. her infinite determination and enthusiasm is still very much alive in the female skiing community – she is still very much a part of this sport. so, in terms of pushing the women’s side of the sport, there’s actually been some controversy about the gap between male and female performance levels. i know there has been some debate about whether construction of jumps designed specifically for female skiers makes a statement about their abilities as athletes – what are your thoughts?
yes! there is so much to say on this topic… but, our side of the sport is much smaller, so the progression hasn’t been as quick as the men’s. that means that the gap between us becomes bigger and when the courses are being built for the men’s abilities, we are left trying to keep up. it’s not that we can’t handle the courses, but i see a lot of injuries around me and i feel like it holds our sport back because it’s intimidating to do your best tricks on features that are simply sometimes too big for our bodies to handle (taking in account weather conditions as well)!
so, if you have a whole day off, what do you do?
a day off from skiing or training of any sort?!….i catch up with friends and family, swim in the ocean, take some time for myself.
any words you live by?
“i define me”
“it’s all up to you”
“wherever your heart is there you will find your treasure”
and finally…if you weren’t skiing, what would you be doing?