September 2023, Case Studies


Combining a passion for story-telling and mountain exploration was a long held dream for former Winter Olympian and X-Games freeskier, Janina Kuzma.

Thanks to Prime Minister’s Athlete Scholarships, most recently a Gold Scholarship, the now retired freeskier is using her communications degree and mountain guiding qualifications to pursue her multi-faceted ‘life after sport’ career as a film maker, ski guide and Development Team Manager for North Face Australia/New Zealand.

Janina began her high performance career as a big mountain skier on the Freeride World Tour within the Snow Sport NZ programme in 2008. When Halfpipe Skiing was announced as part of the Winter Olympics from 2011, she not only became what was then a HPSNZ carded athlete but also came under the wings of HPSNZ Performance Life coach, Carol Goodlass.

“Carol was extremely supportive from the outset,” says Janina. “She encouraged me to continue my uni degree with an eye to having interests and skills outside my sport.”

With the help of Carol and HPSNZ, Janina completed her communications degree, all the while maintaining her focus on two Winter Olympic campaigns, the last of which was the half pipe event at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.

“After my final Olympic campaign I was excited to discover I was eligible for a Gold PM’s Athlete Scholarship for recently retired Olympic athletes,” says Janina. “This enabled me to start my pathway to becoming a New Zealand mountain guide and gain my certification which is recognised worldwide.”

Janina has used the skills she learned in her communications degree, most particularly media studies and video production, to work with her sponsors, putting together videos.

“The knowledge I gained also helped me in my planning, management and marketing of the films and videos I produce and I have also been able to use these skills to communicate with the Snow Sports teams I work with.”

Janina Kuzma

If ski guiding is an action-packed career, so too are many of the locations she’s worked in – from skiing Mt Herman, a mountain that sits on the borders of Israel, Lebanon and Syria, to her most recent guiding tour, 14 days in the Arctic Circle.

Her gutsy antics climbing huge mountain faces then skiing down them made her the star in the last Shades of Winter female freeski films produced by Austrian freeskier Sandra Lahnsteiner.

The film’s success gave her the confidence to start up her own film company, A Winter Affair. “Using the skills I’ve learned through my qualifications means I can produce films that show skiing in exotic locations around the world, many of which people don’t know exist.”

With four films under her belt, her role working as an NZMGA Ski Guide and the Australia/New Zealand North Face Development Team Manager, Janina says she loves every minute of what she is doing.

“That has been 100% made possible by the support I’ve received and continue to receive from Snow Sports NZ and HPSNZ.

“For me, it is such a privilege to use my qualifications to shine a light on gutsy female freeskiers here and around the world, to combine my love of story telling with the sport that has been my long time passion, in mountains which are my special place.”

Check out three of Janina’s films:

East West

Peace Mountain

The Pursuit