Experience a mountain sunrise with multitalented athlete Caja Schöpf.
For freeskiers like Caja Schöpf, the thrill of zooming full-speed down the steep mountain slopes is only the beginning of the ride. With the finesse of a pro-skateboarder, Schöpf does death-defying flips, dodges obstacles, and skis down rails, all atop powdery white mountain snow. This is freeskiing—a daredevil remake of the classic sport where athletes jump and flip over obstacles. For Schöpf, the mountains are truly her playground—not only does she practice near every kind of snow sport, but at lower altitudes, she runs, hikes, and even does yoga, too. We followed multitalented athlete Caja Schöpf and a GLA 220 d from the lush green of Fellhorn, Germany up into the snow park. We experienced the sunrise and learned why freeskiing is more than a sport—it’s a lifestyle.
GLA 220 d: Fuel consumption combined: 4.4–4.2 l/100 km; combined CO₂ emissions: 115–110 g/km.*
How did you become an athlete?
I actually never planned to be a professional athlete, and neither did anybody else, least of all my parents. I wanted to study to become a veterinarian and travel the world. At least I achieved my second goal of travelling the world. For the first goal, I ended up studying psychology, which turned out to be the perfect choice for me. So how did I become an athlete? I always loved all kind of sports, I always was ambitious and I loved setting goals. So I accidently started snowboarding, accidently met my by then-boyfriend, who was a professional freeskier, and I started to do my first competitions the season right after graduation. I had my first successes and thought, well, let’s make a profession out of my passion.
What are your earliest memories with sport?
Very positive ones: skiing with my mum when I was three, and very negative ones; when I had my first knee operation I couldn’t do any sports for a year because of immense pain and I had to work hard to recover. Also horseback riding since forever which I even did competitions for. Followed by all kinds of sports like biking, climbing and exploring the mountains around my home by foot and by bike. But everything I tried the first time was without any thought of competing, just because I liked it and I had fun doing it with my family, brothers and friends.
When and why did you decide to do freeskiing?
To be honest, I started all this freeskiing and freestyle with snowboarding. Of course I grew up in the middle of the Alps and was skiing since I was 3 years old, but like most people, during puberty I wanted to be a bit rebellious and so I switched my skis to a snowboard. After two years, I came to reason and recognized that skiing is also kind of cool, maybe even cooler. And this new sport of freestyle skiing had started in Europe so I tried it and suddenly fell in love.
What do you love about freeskiing?
The creativity, the versatility and the freedom. Also that no single day is like the other. You can learn and improve every day. And you will learn a lot about failing, you will suffer pain and you only become better when you get up again and again. One last thing I love is that I could combine my sport with my passion for travelling. I travelled the world, saw so many nice places, met incredible people and had lots of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
What is your favourite place to ski and why?
I love the spots near my home all around Garmisch-Partenkirchen since it’s close. No long travelling and I mostly get to explore them with my brothers. Besides that, Arlberg in Austria is definitely one of my favourite places in Europe for skiing powder while Niseko in Japan is my choice overseas. If I like to ski a sweet snow park—which I don’t do that often anymore—I love to go to Stubai Zoo in Austria.
I think most of us have to master things at some point that they thought they never could.
Since you are not only a skier but also a year-long mountain explorer, can you tell us what kinds of sports one can do in the mountains when there isn’t any snow?
There are lots of options. I always loved to run for training so I developed a passion for running in the mountains—nowadays called trail running. Just exploring little paths up and down all day long. Then there are my beloved bikes: my road bike for nice paved curves over sweet passes and my mountain bike which takes me almost everywhere. My full suspension bike to ride up trails and smoothly freeride down flowy trails. If you want to play directly on the rocks, it’s all about climbing. I’m not very good at it but I love it—also as a perfect whole body training for stability.
You also work as a sport psychologist—could you please describe what this profession entails?
It entails working on mental strength with other athletes. Regardless of whether they are adults or youth athletes, it is very challenging, inspiring and motivating. The combination of studying psychology and being a professional athlete myself for many years allowed me to experience many situations most athletes have to deal with and will always deal with in the competition circuit. We work on topics like focus, goal-setting, organization, self-confidence, self-efficacy, structure in private and training life, nervousness, activation and relaxation, motivation, body language, discipline, rituals, team spirit, rehabilitation, etc. Controlling all those things creates mental strength and enables an athlete to deliver when it really matters.
Do you feel that through sports you’ve developed a special bond with nature?
To have a special bond with nature sounds a bit too spiritual to me, but yes, I’d say nature and ecological issues are really important to me. Not through sports, though, but through my parents’ education and style of living back home. Maybe all those outdoor sports and travelling gave me again and again a glimpse of how important a “working” ecological system is for our beautiful world with all the creatures living in it, human beings included. But as the past and several political decisions show, sustainability is not the greatest strength of people and society and it will come back like a boomerang at some point. So, maybe my special bond means not only thinking sustainably, but also acting sustainably, wherever possible.
What has been the hardest move for you to master?
I think most of us have to master things at some point that they thought they never could, or at least not at that point. But then, we master them, like coping with the loss of somebody you really love. I call it “the backpack of life”. Everyone is carrying beautiful, empowering and nice things to remember and then there are things we collect in our backpack of life which are hard to handle and cause us to feel deep pain. I also carry these things in the backpack of my life. But I think this is life, isn’t it?
When you’re not in the mountains, where is your favourite place to be and why?
I really love surfing, waves, beaches and fresh fruit, so you’ll find me in really exotic places improving my surfing in Indonesia or Central America. Besides that, I also love the city life: fashion, having a coffee or a beer with friends. I love going to the theatre or to concerts. And I love spending time at home with my family, having a barbeque or cooking for everybody. I love to cook and let creativity rule the kitchen.
Anything else you’d like to share about yourself with the She’s Mercedes community?
I already told you so much about myself now and I wonder how many of you will read my words and then think, is this really Caja? If you do and if there are any questions, feel free to ask, because authenticity is a key aspect of my personality. I’m also saying this because I wish people would communicate and listen more. That’s also why it’s called the She’s Mercedes “community”: to communicate more. We could learn so much from each other if we only asked more and listened longer, and get our inspiration, motivation and creativity from different perspectives, different people and different women. While talking and listening, be yourself and don’t pretend to be somebody else. Last but not least, here’s my favourite quote from Winnie the Pooh talking to his friend Piglet, which I think is very simple but inspiring (maybe a reason to listen more to children): “What day is it?,” asked Winnie the Pooh.“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favourite day,” said Pooh.
Thank you very much for the interview!
* The figures are provided in accordance with the German regulation 'PKW-EnVKV' and apply to the German market only. Further information on official fuel consumption figures and the official specific CO₂ emissions of new passenger cars can be found in the EU guide 'Information on the fuel consumption, CO₂ emissions and energy consumption of new cars', which is available free of charge at all sales dealerships, from DAT Deutsche Automobil Treuhand GmbH and at www.dat.de.