Words: Cem Tanyeri
Art Direction: Stefan Kuil
Every once in a while, we all bump into a special person. Someone that’s inspiring and has a great story to tell. Young, energetic and armed with a care-free, ‘no guts no glory’ approach to life.
Tijn Vuijk, for us, ticks all the required boxes to star in UpprValley’s very first personal interview.
In Part 1 she will takes us behind the screens of the life of a professional Freeride Skier and in Part 2 we will venture down a more spiritual slope.
We hope you will enjoy her story and let us know how you feel about it.
Sport: Freeride skiing
Daily Occupation: Running my own catering business “Catering Het Kookstel”
Current ranking at the freeride world qualifier: freerideworldqualifier.com/rankings
My top-5 playlist:
- Follow the sun – Xavier Rudd
- The Letter – The Box Tops
- Howling around my happy home – Daniel Norgen
- Take Over – Joe Goddard
- Gold on The ceiling – Black keys
I would say finishing two Masters Degrees with honours (Clinical and Cognitive Neuropsychology) although I’m happy that for now I chose to follow another path in life.
I’m grateful to have decided to start up my own catering business and devote myself to freeride skiing despite the fact that it was the last thing my family and friends expected me to do. And yes I am truly happy with becoming the 2015 Dutch Freeride champion of course!
Tijn in 140 Characters:
A strong, fearless, entrepreneurial, on the ball, smart, direct, social, sharp, hardworking, spiritual and above all a caring girl.
Last year, you made a conscientious decision to really commit to freeriding. How has this lifestyle choice worked out so far?
Holy shit, what a decision it was! One that was met with quite some resistance from family and friends at first but I’m so happy that I continued doing what I love doing most. Being happy is so important! I cater a lot of events in the summer, mainly weddings, and in winter I go skiing. Through my catering business I make just enough money to live the life I want, that’s for sure but nevertheless it’s important to plan for the future.
One of the things I realized is that to become a better rider I need to find more sponsors. More sponsors equals more travel and training which is crucial for my development as a free skier. Being from the Netherlands I don’t have unlimited access to mountains and snow so I need to improvise and get creative.
How do you get ‘creative’?
Last summer we have been to the Andes to experience more harsh winter conditions, this summer we have been to the glaciers in Les Deux Alpes and Cervinia to learn tricks in the park. When I’m in Amsterdam I train on an artificial indoor slope (www.skiinn.nl) focusing on technique. I also spend a lot of time in the gym with a personal trainer to increase strength so I can tackle the cliffs an drops. To stay in shape and become stronger demands a lot of hard work and devotion but it helps to keep reminding myself why I do it in the first place. The better skier I become the more I can ski which would bring me closer to my dream. My dream is to ski all year round and making a living off it.
Doing the Freeride World Tour qualifiers seems to be a transient lifestyle, can you give some insights into this lifestyle?
My boyfriend (Paul de Groot) and I are doing the freeride competitions together which makes it really fun. We travel the world together and don’t really care where we sleep, it’s quite a nomadic way of life. We travel back and forth to the mountains as competitions are spread across the Alps. We spend many hours driving but that gives us a lot of time to reflect and come up with new ideas.
It sounds cool to embody this lifestyle but can you tell us about what kind of sacrifices you are making to live your dream?
I love the freeride lifestyle but there are downsides. For instance, if I break a leg I have a little problem. It would mean that I’m not able to ski and work anymore. Additionally, I’m not saving up for retirement with this way of life, these are some of the risks I am taking. But I believe in fate and that everything happens for a reason. I’m convinced something else will come across my path that will take me in a different direction when I least expect it. I’m very grateful for what life has brought me so far and I continue living on the edge.
Skiing steep couloirs for example, truly empowers me and makes me feel alive while being grateful for life in general. I live with my whole heart and don’t hold back. Maybe this sounds stupid and who knows one day I might pay the ultimate price for living this way. But so far I have zero regrets!
It is clear that you are taking this adventure seriously, Project Backflip is an example of this. Can you tell us a little bit about this?
My goal is to be on the Freeride World Tour. The other girls on the Tour are technically more accomplished than me because they were born and raised in the mountains on skis. Becoming a better technical skier would be too time consuming for me….So, I decided to take a shortcut and learn to land a backflip.
I figured that if I could land this trick in a competition I would definitely have a shot at winning. Provided I stick it. This trick is often done by guys in comps but girls never do this. Hopefully one day I will have the courage to try it and land it in a comp!
I’m fortunate that my boyfriend (Paul de Groot) is a backflip master. He was throwing backflips left and right while we were riding backcountry last season. I was so impressed by this that I decided to start Project Backflip this summer. I went from the trampoline, to an indoor ski slope, to the freestyle academy in Stuttgart and eventually to a real park. I was not used to jumping kickers at all since I am not a park rider.
Yes finally I'm able to land it properly most of the time. Summer mission really accomplished. Unfortunately my teacher @pauldegrootfreeskier who helped me trough the whole learning process overshoot badly while giving an example… displaced and broke his hip and tailbone. After some revalidation we gonna do it in the #backcountry and in #fwq competitions! #noholdingback #practice #ski #backflip #wepowder #poederbaas #blackcrows #patagonia #freeski #freeride #les2alpes #nofear #girlsdoski #mountaingirls @sportlifenl @patagonia @blackcrows_skis
I wanted to land a backflip but here I was not even being able to jump off a kicker in a straight line. I was so f***** afraid and cried and I often asked myself why I was doing this stupid shit. You have no idea! I cried so many times. I bruised my chest twice, had stitches in my arm, I fell so many times and had to overcome a lot of fear…but I survived!
After 4 days I was able to master a backflip in the park on a real slope. Since then I’ve landed it many times so now I feel ready to take it to the backcountry and eventually into a competition! I’m so excited!
Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, my coach and boyfriend who helped me through the whole process, badly overshot a landing while training me. He displaced and broke his hip and tailbone. Poor him. He was not able to walk for a couple of weeks and probably not able to ski for a couple of months. Really sad, but this is the risk we take and it puts thing into perspective.