Shades of Winter – Niseko Pro Insider

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Caja Schöpf was born in Bavaria, a state in the South of Germany. She grew up in the middle of the Alps and considers herself a 100% child of the mountains. Caja started skiing when she was 3 years old, taught by her mum. At that time she started falling in love with skiing, winter, and snow. She started competing in Freestyle Skiing, Slopestyle, and Halfpipe when she was 18. She competed in all the big tournaments like the US Open, New Zealand Open, Euro Open, Nippon Open (her first time in Japan in 2007), World Cups and the World Championships in 2010.

After slowing down with competitions, she took part in the Nine Queens Invitational in Austria and then started to focus more on filming & shooting, and also organizing her own trips to India, Japan, Norway, and other countries. Filming for Sandra Lahnsteiner’s “Shades of Winter” became a big part of her skiing career, however besides skiing, she has studied psychology and holds a master’s degree in economic-psychology as well as a certification in sports-psychology. Her passions are the mountains, all outdoor activities, nature, family and friends.

Caja Schöpf

Extreme skiers like yourself “live big” in the face of death and risk everything to experience the fullness of life in the mountains, how did it all start? How did you become a pro skier?

I think my answer is not quite as exciting as your question. My original plan was becoming a professional horseback rider, which didn’t work out. But I always loved skiing and I started, taught by my mum, when I was 3 years old. When 13, I started snowboarding and really loved that too. But then I saw a few super “cool” dudes in Garmisch starting free-skiing and I switched back to Skiing, good choice I guess. I started with little competitions with the guys and it all worked pretty good, so I kept on doing it and I’m still here.

 What’s your dream ski day?

Massive snowfall, bluebird, sun, friends, family and no other people around. Having a great day starts with a rich breakfast and ends with an amazing dinner cooked all together afterwards at my family place.

Tell us more about the Shades of Winter project and how it came together…

Well, first of all, I must mention that this was Sandra Lahnsteiner’s idea. I always had it in mind, to organize an all female project, but Sandra realized it in an impressive way. The idea behind it was pretty much doing what the guys are doing every year. Having my own project, only girls showing great skiing and passion.

Why make an all female ski film? Your mission, your team? Well, there are enough only- guys productions, so I think it was just about the time to have an all female project going on. The mission was to show strong skiing of female individuals, strong characters, and the shared passion they have. I’m sure lots of us female skiers had this idea already, but Sandra put it there and made it happen.

You and a few women are making women-only ski films, what do you attribute this trend to?

I wouldn’t call it a trend. It is just time to do this. There are enough strong female skiers out there, professionals and not professionals and why not have a women-only ski film when there are enough men-only ski movies. I think it’s important to send this message to all women out there that they don’t have to hide behind men. The performance is of course different, but different doesn’t mean worse just different, adjusted to what women are able to show no matter if in skiing or anywhere else.

What are the challenges women face in getting involved in outdoor sports like climbing, skiing, and mountain biking?

The same challenges like men. If it’s too big, it’s too big, if you can do it, you can do it. It’s just some physical differences, which make guys do what we won’t do at some point. But that’s fair enough in my point of view. I mean, look at alpine skiing, no women skis the same course whether in Downhill nor in Slalom than the guys, but fair enough. I guess that’s just a part of the evolution we have to accept. Well I do accept this and it’s no problem at all.

What is a major challenge or hurdle you’ve overcome in your career – what have you personally experienced being a professional female skier?

Well, a knee injury of my cartilage, which made me stop skiing for 1.5 years. It through me back a lot and made it hard for me keeping up. But I had other stuff to do, like university, etc. To me being a professional athlete, having other perspectives and focuses, makes it way easier to get along with injuries, defeats, and motivational issues. It makes you think positive, strong, and optimistic about your private life and career as professional athlete.

What or who was your inspiration and motivation

Loving what I’m doing. As soon as I started to be desperate or doubting what I’m doing I put my self together and asked my self why I started this. Because I love skiing, being outside, travelling, and challenging myself.

What advice would you give to younger extreme skiers/boarders?

Do what you love, love what you do. Don’t force it, but work hard for it and never give up on trying. Fall, get up and try again. And build yourself other perspectives that help you in situation where you doubt too much about the sport.

Can you tell us about the differences in skiing with a group of women versus skiing with a group of men?

Well, I grew up skiing with men and I always love it. They push you hard, motivate you and give you no time to rethink about stuff. I think girls rethink more what they’re doing, which is good too. I love both, but since I grew up with brothers and skied mostly with boys, I really love it.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment of your career?

Still being there after over 10 years and still loving it!

What’s better: skiing in places like Niseko, Japan or on your home turf?

Hard to tell, I mean I just love it, being back home, but nowadays I’ve to admit, that the snow in Niseko, Japan is just incredible, that’s why I keep coming back for 3 years, I guess.

Why keep coming back to Niseko?

As I mentioned… definitely the snow, but also because I’ve met awesome people over there, who showed me the Japanese way of life, the food, the cities, and many secret places. I made friends, who I love to see at least once a year.

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