The Canadian Slopestyle Queen Announces her Retirement
She made her mark in the history of women’s slopestyle skiing in Canada and internationally. Today, Kaya Turski turns the page on a prolific career that took her to the highest snow-covered peaks of our planet. Eight-time X Games gold medallist, FIS world champion in 2013 and five-time world champion on the AFP circuit, the Montreal-born athlete is the most decorated skier in the history of her sport.
A pioneer in her sport, Kaya Turski was the first woman to complete a switch 1080 in a slopestyle competition. And yet she got into freestyle skiing at the age of 17 virtually by chance. An avid inline skater as a teen, Turski spent a lot of time at Montreal skateparks before a lucky coincidence led her to the ski slopes. Her previous training had taught her the rudiments of aerial orientation, balance and the know-how to accomplish fluid manoeuvres on the slopestyle ramps. With these basic notions and a fierce determination to learn slopestyle skiing, she climbed the ranks to become one of the world’s best.
“I always had an insatiable hunger for challenge, and sport gave me the opportunity to pursue things I had only ever dreamed of,” said Turski. “I was fortunate to be surrounded by incredible athletes who had a strong sense of purpose, which really pushed me to dive deep into mine.”
Turski dominated the slopestyle competition circuit for most of her career, managing to deal with numerous injuries in pursuit of her passion. “Kaya was a huge inspiration. To see how she overcame adversity to reach the podium taught me, as a coach, that it’s not over until it’s over and that ‘I can’t’ is not an option,” said Toben Sutherland, slopestyle head coach for Freestyle Canada.
“Kaya’s impressive athletic achievements and thirst for progression over the last 10 years has led to a new standard in women’s freeskiing for Canada and internationally”, said David Mirota, Vice-president of Sport at Freestyle Canada.
Just ahead of the Olympic Games in PyeongChang, mainly for health reasons and in order to preserve herself for future endeavours, Kaya felt that the time was right to turn the page. She has no regrets.
“I’ll never forget the rush in the start gate, ready to give it my all” Turski said. “I’ll certainly miss the freedom the sport allowed me, and my ski family, with whom I forged such strong bonds in pursuit of our common goals. But I’ve lived my dream, and learned invaluable lessons throughout it. What else could I ask for? The beauty is now I get to sculpt and pursue a whole new one”.
Her peers say:
Roz Groenewoud, half-pipe teammate:
“When Kaya burst onto the freeskiing scene without warning, I was intimidated by her instant ability to dominate the course and win competitions with amazing style. No one else has done that–she blew us away without having had years of training on snow. As I got to know her, her quiet intelligence, sense of humour, and sweetness contrasted her fierce competition mindset. Even after taking many months off after major injuries, she’d be right back at the top of the podium at her first event and then repeat it over and over. However, as her close friend, it has been heartbreaking over the years to watch her privately struggle with serious chronic pain, even while continuing to progress and be an inspiration in the sport. Though I will miss her on the competition circuit, both as a friend and an inspiration, I am glad that she can now focus on healing. She brings such fire to everything she does so I’m excited to see how she’ll set the bar high in all of her new pursuits.”
Kim Lamarre, slopestyle teammate:
“My first introduction to Kaya Turski was at D-Structure shop in Québec city when I was about 15. I was looking through a rollerblade brochure and I saw a photo of a girl on rollerblades doing a massive quad kink rail in the city! My jaw dropped. I was like who is this girl? It was Kaya. I thought she was probably quite older than me but no. I was shocked! I just couldn’t believe a girl my age was tackling such a gnarly handrail.
From learning 900’s and switch 900’s her first year on skis and battling them with Sarah Burke at the Orage Masters, to winning the Vermont Open that same year with a massive Cork 720 as well as being the first girl to perform a switch 720 in contest while the rest of the field was doing a bunch of 3’s and maybe a 5, landing the switch 1080 during her last run at the 2012 X Games for the 3 peat and X Games history…I mean the moments are endless!
Kaya changed the game for women in slopestyle skiing! Thank you for picking up skis Kayenne; it was amazing for the sport and me. My life wouldn’t be the same; so many laughs and good memories. I know this girl will be my good friend for life.”
Jean-François Cusson, assistant coach, Canadian slopestyle team:
“I was able to see Kaya progress throughout her career, first while I was a judge at the X Games and then as coach for five years with the Canadian team. I can say that Kaya is an absolutely extraordinary athlete. She hit the freestyle scene like a shock wave. I will never forget the first time I heard about her. It was from my friend Félix Rioux. He said, “There’s this girl from Montreal who’s a professional inline skater and has just started slopestyle. She’s already dominating the rails and has landed a perfect switch 900.” In 2005, that was unheard of! At that time, there was no coaching being done for this sport, no teams, no trainers. Kaya was self-taught and had learned almost everything on her own. She was five years ahead of the entire competition. While she had tremendous athleticism, I attribute much of her career to her mental strength. She is an ultimate athlete, a warrior. It was really something to see the determination in her eyes while under pressure at a starting gate. We knew then that she would give an amazing performance. It was not unlike that look of confidence Roger Federer had in his best moments. Kaya could have dominated the world in many sports, but luckily for us she chose to channel her huge talent into slopestyle.”
Kristi Leskinen, retired US freestyle skier and pioneer of the sport:
“At the height of her career Kaya carried women’s slopestyle skiing. For a period of several years everyone else was just watching. Kaya was driven by a very rare level of passion and determination that made her unstoppable. Competitively she accomplished what others only dream of. She is unquestionably the inspiration of the next generation of slopestyle athletes, and as she watches them take the sport into the future, I have no doubt that the same attributes that took her to the top of the sport will take her to the top of anything she chooses next. She’s Kaya Turski.”