Kiwi big mountain skier Janina Kuzma has an impressive CV – Seven-time New Zealand Open Freeski Champion, two-time Canadian Freeski Champion, two-time World Heli Challenge Champion and Winter Olympian.
Not content with simply skiing, Janina has in recent years also turned her hand to ski mountaineering and guiding alongside film producing with East West (New Zealand) and Peace Mountain (Middle East) under her belt.
We took some time with her to talk big mountain, Covid and life lessons.
What do you prefer, halfpipe or big mountain?
I love them both. Both have different qualities. You’ll find me more freeridng and in the backcountry at this stage in my career than in the halfpipe.
What do you love about your sport?
I love my sport’s freedom and the ability to constantly learn as there are so many different aspects to it from freeriding, park and pipe and mountaineering.
What do you learn about life from your sport?
Hard work pays off. Risk vs reward. Believing in myself, learning to listen to my body and knowing how far I can push it. The most important is understanding that the mountains stand resolute, not vindictive. They do not give special rights to anyone or any activity – when the mountain speaks, you listen.
Can anyone do big mountain ski adventures?
Yes, anyone can enjoy a big mountain ski adventure, whether you’re a novice or not. Depending on your skill level, there are many different adventures to be had. The most important thing is to have knowledge of avalanche dangers, understand weather and backcountry travel. A good way to ensure your safety is to hire a qualified ski guide. That way, you can enjoy a big mountain ski adventure working around your skill base.
Where is your favourite place to ski big mountains?
My favourite place to ski big mountains is wherever the snow is falling, and the terrain is fun. I’ve skied all over the world from North America, Europe, Aisa, New Zealand and Australia. It’s hard to pick one favourite place as I’ve skied so many unique big mountain lines worldwide with so many good memories.
What has been your most exciting adventure?
My most exciting adventure was skiing a mountain range called Mt. Hermon, skiing through Israel, Lebanon and Syria. It was when we filmed A Winter Affair “Peace Mountain”. It was an all-female media crew. It was exciting to travel to ski and explore some new areas and enjoy the culture and people. It was my first time in the Middle East, and it was an incredible experience and to also capture skiing epic lines made it that much better.
Where have you been skiing you want to go back to?
There are so many places! Lebanon, for sure. The skiing was incredible, and there is so much more to explore over there. I’d love to go back to Scandinavia and Russia as I was only there for competitions and didn’t get much time to ski for myself.
Where haven’t you been that you want to go?
I love to go to China to ski on the foothills of the Himalayans and South America, as I’ve never skied there because it takes place at the same time as the New Zealand winter.
Who do you look up to within the sport?
There are so many people who I look up to within the sport. Currently, as I’m completing my New Zealand Mountain guides qualification as a ski guide, I’m meeting so many inspiring women who are mountain guides.
Who inspires you in your life?
Our Prime minister Jacinda Ardern. She is an exceptional leader, and it had shown through these tough times dealing with CODIV-19. She has shown us that you don’t have to compromise on what you want, that you can have power, a career and a family. She was pregnant while negotiating coalition deals, campaigning, winning an election and running our country. She’s just an inspiration.
What has 2020/2021 taught you?
2020/2021 has taught me that nothing is certain. Things change. Don’t get too comfortable. Family and friends are so important, but most importantly to look after yourself.
What is your favourite piece of outerwear from TNF Team Kit?
The Team kit Jacket in the peak purple colour. Purple is one of my favourite colours, so when I saw this piece, I was like, “that’s me!”