Slopestyle Skier Kaya Turski Talks X Games,
Olympics, and Finding Strength Through Tragedy
by Cassie Shortsleeve, Glamour Magazine
Thursday, 01/24/2013 2:16 PM
A year ago, the skiing world crashed with the death of Sarah Burke, the leader of women’s freeskiing. The 29-year-old, six-time X Games gold medalist, world champion, and pioneer for her sport died after a tragic training accident in Park City, Utah.
Today, the 2013 X Games start in Aspen—and they’re a preview to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, which will include for the first time women’s superpipe and slopestyle, for which Burke fought during her entire career. And the women are ready to show their sport to the world. So this week, we spoke to one of the best slopestyle skiers in the world, three-time X Games gold medalist Kaya Turski (who’s going for a four-peat!). Here’s what the 24-year-old said about the state of ladies in the sport, not psyching yourself out, and how she’s moved on from her devastating loss.
GLAMOUR: I know you were very close to Sarah. When she died, it was a devastating loss to the industry, but also to you personally. How did you find the strength to keep going?
KAYA TURSKI: Losing Sarah was absolutely heartbreaking. I had never lost someone who meant so much to me—as a friend, a mentor, and someone who played a major part in making my dreams come true. It’s still something that I have a hard time wrapping my head around—I don’t know that it will ever make sense. But what helped me most was not thinking of the loss, so much as all the amazing memories, great lessons, and energy that will always be around all of us. Everything she represented is still alive in all of those she touched. I know her energy is ever present.
GLAMOUR: What are some of the things you learned from her?
KAYA TURSKI: Well, from the day I started skiing, Sarah was one of my idols. She was constantly pushing the limits of women’s sports, and she never took no for answer—not only with skiing, but with everything. She was always pushing for events for us. She was a super strong and determined presence. And as a person, she was such a shining light and a kind soul. She never had anything bad to say about anyone, and I think everyone can take a lot from her in that sense.
GLAMOUR: Getting slopestyle into the Olympics was obviously a huge feat—can you talk a little about what that means for you and for women in sports?
KAYA TURSKI: It’s such a huge opportunity to show the world what we’ve been working on. We’ve had this reputation as partiers—smokers and drinkers—but it’s gotten a lot more serous. I’m excited for the world to see it. For as long as I’ve been in the game, I’ve been trying to showcase skiing as best I can. I like to reach as many people as I can, and now that our sport is more recognized in the world, I hope I can inspire a lot of people to follow their passions.
GLAMOUR: At one point, getting slopestyle to the Olympics seemed an impossible task. What would your advice be to women embarking on a huge goal?
KAYA TURSKI: I think the main thing is to just go back to the basics—remember why you are doing it in the first place. I love skiing. I love the feeling I get cruising through the park or out in the mountains. Sometimes you can lose sight of that if you have a bad day, or get too overwhelmed, but find the love and enjoy the process. It’s easy to look at an end goal and give yourself a hard time if you’re not progressing at the rate you want to, but take every step for what it is, and give yourself some praise.
GLAMOUR: I know the skiing community is pretty tight. How do you compete against women and still be friends at the same time?
KAYA TURSKI: Since beginning of my career, I’ve been skiing with a bunch of these girls. Before all of the Olympic stuff, we didn’t really have coaches around all the time, so we’d all be giving each other tips and advice. We became great friends over years and, sure, we are competing against each other, but it’s great to have that close knit support system.
GLAMOUR: But there have to be some boundaries, right?
KAYA TURSKI: Yeah. I mean, I’m a pretty open person, but sometimes I keep the tricks I’m working on to myself. I try not to pay attention to what the others are doing. I just tune them out. It helps me keep focused on what I need to do.
GLAMOUR: Do you have any mental tricks for building confidence?
KAYA TURSKI: Instead of getting caught up in what might happen or what could go wrong, I remind myself of the training I’ve been doing to get where I am. You just have to trust that you’ve done everything up till that point. Then you just let go.
GLAMOUR: And someone told me I have to ask: What’s the 15 guy challenge?
KAYA TURSKI: (Laughs) It’s a challenge a friend gave me: Give 15 compliments to 15 random guys, and then try to hold a conversation as opposed to just saying it and running away. And it can’t just be a B.S. compliment—it has to be something really beautiful about them. It’s quite a challenge, but I’ve been having a great time doing it. It’s nerve-racking, but it’s nice.
GLAMOUR: What number are you up to?
KAYA TURSKI: I think I’m on 15, but I’m going to keep going. It’s nice to see people’s reactions. You realize that it’s not such a big deal to throw out a compliment. It makes people feel good.