Q&A Janina Kuzma
You started a film series called A Winter Affair which showcases women adventurers, travelling to exotic winter locations all over the world. What are some of your favourite places to visit and why?
That’s a tough one! I guess some of my favourite locations would be seeing a different culture to what I’m accustomed to. Just recently we explored Mt Hermon that sits between Lebanon, Israel and Syria. I was blown away by the skiing, history, food and how we were welcomed into strangers homes. It was such a humbling and eye opening experience. But if I just want to go shred I love being home in New Zealand and also skiing in Canada.
The first film in the series, A Winter Affair – EAST WEST is just about to be released. Can you tell us about it?
The story follows three athletes crossing New Zealand’s Southern Alps over the Main Divide from East to West starting at the bottom of the Liebigs mountain range and following in the footsteps of Freda Du Faur. The key message of the film is how global warming is melting our beautiful glaciers in New Zealand.
You represented New Zealand in free skiing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Can you share your insights from this experience?
This event was my second Olympics. Both were completely different. Coming into Pyeongchang was one of the hardest experiences I’ve had to deal with in my skiing career. I went into the games with an injury sustained from Dew Tour, two months before the Olympics. It was mentally challenging having to still perform knowing that I wasn’t in peak physical condition. What I enjoyed about the games was that New Zealand finally broke the dry spell of 26 years of obtaining a medal at the Winter Olympics. Not only did they get one medal, they got two on the same day! It was the best celebration ever.
We heard you spent your childhood exploring the steamy jungles of Papua New Guinea and Borneo. What is one of your favourite memories of being a kid?
I was born in Brisbane while my parents were living in PNG. At the age of three in PNG a civil war broke out and we left and moved to Borneo, Indonesia. My fondest memories are exploring the jungle and wildlife. I feel super lucky to have experienced such an amazing childhood.
As someone passionate about a sport like free skiing you have experienced some difficult situations on the mountains including saving the life of your friend in an avalanche. Can you comment on the impact losing people or serious injury has on you and the community?
Absolutely, it has made mountain safely such a high priory on how I approach backcountry skiing. Back in 2007 I was involved in a category 2 avalanche that buried one of my friends. I had recently done a backcountry avalanche course in British Columbia where we were the first students to get taught a new digging technique that literally saved our friends life.
Touring and split boarding is becoming so popular right now, and it’s great to see people getting out there, but it’s so important that they educate themselves first before getting into the backcountry. It could be a matter of life or death between you and your friends.
Whenever someone is taken by an avalanche, the loss is felt all throughout the skiing community. The mountains are such a fun place to play, but we can never forget that they are so powerful and it can take your life if you don’t respect them.
What brings you the MOST joy out of everything?
Do you use any rituals or techniques to prepare yourself for something you have never done before?
Visualization is the key to getting through something I’ve never done before, whether it’s skiing a new big mountain line, hitting a new pillow line or hitting a big cliff. I learned this skill when I was in high school and really developed it to be a part of my tool kit to help me throughout my skiing career.