Photo: Kai Mahler – Underflip Japan
Full Name: Kai Mahler
Hometown: Fischenthal (CH)
Ski Resort: Laax, Livignio, Hintertux, Saas Fee
Sponsors: Movement Skis, Giro, Deliver Clothing, Level, 8848 Altitude, Exel, Sport Trend Shop, Skullcandy.
Influences: Sammy Carlson, Elias Ambühl
Favorite Ski Movies: Every day is a Saturday, Pretty Good.
What kind of ski background do you have? I hear you started skiing when you were two years old?
My mother loves skiing very much, so I got the chance to start so young. In the beginning, it was not exactly my favorite passion. I was never too interested in racing, and even tried snowboarding as well. After about 9 years, I got my first twin tip skis. We built a small powder kicker at the ski lift behind our house, where I spent every minute of my free time up there. My love of freestyle skiing was born.
Give us a typical day in the life for Kai Mahler both in the Winter and Summer time. I know you attend a sports school?
I’ve attended the sports school at Engelberg since last summer. We wake up at 7am, and have breakfast. Then we have school, lunch and training in the afternoon; dinner and study hall for 1-2 hours and 1 hour off. At 10pm we go to bed. We don’t have typical days. This depends on the snow, contests, school… Every week we receive updated plans. We also have a lot of snow camps in winter and during summertime. I never have big breaks on the snow.
Describe your training regime. Can you explain the steps you take between when you see a trick for the first time like a double cork, and when you are ready to take it to snow.
Before I tried doubles, I performed the single version until I had the trick down perfectly. Then I tried first to do double flips (back and front) on the tramp, and then double cork. After this, I went on the water ramp. There, I tried again first the double flips and changed to double cork. When I felt safe, I did it on the snow. But very often it happens directly on the snow. Like my last trick, the double underflip. I never tried it anywhere else before landing it on the snow.
Who do you typically ski with?
Mostly I go with my friend from school, or I go alone; you always meet somebody on the snow. In this scene, we all know each other.
Is there a significant milestone (learning a certain trick, winning a contest, etc.) that made you realize you wanted to go after turning pro?
Winter 06: I participated in my first two contests and I did quite good. After those contests, I said to my parents, that I’m interested to do more contests next winter. So I went every weekend to a contest in the following season. And at the Engadinsnow, with a lot of pros participating, they pushed and supported me so hard. It was amazing. That winter I decided I wanted to try to turn pro.
How did you come into contact and get linked up with your sponsors?
At the Engadinsnow 07 I broke my ski. So we asked the event host, if he could make an announcement asking if anybody had short twin tips available. The speaker actually worked for Movement Skis. He offered us new skis. Since then, we have an open contract with them. I get skis as much I need and also clothes (8848 altitude) from them. At the same time, a shop nearby, the Sport Trend Shop, offered me a contract and helped me to find my sponsors like Giro; Level; Exel.
In Europe, ski racing is notably more popular and bigger deal than in North America. How does freestyle skiing measure up over there? Do you think it’s more popular in the mainstream than for example, the United States?
In Switzerland, freestyle skiing is still backward. The majority of people think we are crazy. But in Austria, France or in the northern countries of Europe, it’s much more popular and supported. I hope in Switzerland it will be more accepted soon. The first step is underway and the Swiss Ski Association will vote next winter in organized contest, if they want to accept it in their association.
Photo: Kai Mahler – Flatpsin 720 at Engadinsnow
Have you ever competed in any North American contests? Are you planning to next season?
Unfortunately, no. It’s one of my biggest dreams, to ski in the U.S. At the moment, I don’t have any plans to go overseas, because, to the big events, you mostly have to be invited. I hope that I will be good enough in two or three years.
You represent a growing trend in the freestyle skiing world – skiers who are getting progressively younger, while still catching up to much older professionals. Do you think we are nearing a point where age isn’t going to play a factor into looking at talent?
That’s true. Age doesn’t matter if you have talent or not. But it’s true, that it is easier to learn certain tricks when you are younger. Kids are more agile. They don’t have so much fear to try something new. But I think, evolution is also a point, because you need a certain age to implement a trick.
What is the hardest part of freestyle skiing for you?
The hardest thing is, to perform a trick on a high level and not to loose the style element.
What is your favorite type of freestyle skiing? (jumps, rails, halfpipe, etc.)
My favorite type is jumps. From almost the very beginning I felt the most comfortable on kickers. Then last year I trained a lot more in halfpipe and on rails. On rails I feel good now, but in the halfpipe, I need to work harder to bring about more success.
With FIS presenting ski halfpipe to the IOC for inclusion in the 2014 Olympics, and it likely to be approved, do you have any plans to train halfpipe more now?
For sure, my goal is to be one of the best overall freestyle skiers.
Do you have any passions outside of skiing?
Indirectly, they all have something to do with skiing. I like to trampoline, rollerblade, and skateboard. I also love to make little films and edit them afterwards. If I have time, you certainly will find me on sites like Facebook or Newschoolers.
Do you listen to music while you ski? If so, do you have any favorite artists to listen to while skiing?
Yes I do. But I don’t have any special artists or style. This belongs to my personal, daily feeling. The only thing is that the music has to push me.
What are Kai Mahler’s future plans for his skiing?
To always have fun in the sport, and hopefully reach my goal of turning pro soon. To be invited at big events, take part in a movie…these are my dreams, and for this I give everything. Training, training, training.
Are you working on any new tricks that you want to let us in on?
At the moment I am trying to perfect my tricks by adding in style. On the tramp, I started working in triples.
Any shout-outs to those reading the interview?
I just want a chance to prove myself by competing at big events.