Kristi Leskinen's Invitational showcases female skiers |

Kristi Leskinen’s Invitational showcases female skiers

Snow Sports: Invitational Showcases Female Skiers

By Larry Welsh

Saturday, March 14, 2009

As a 12-year-old, Kristi Leskinen, of Uniontown, could be found every winter weekend on the slopes and trails of Seven Springs, pursuing her goal to become “as good a skier as the guys.”

She succeeded — and then exceeded — that goal.

In 1999, Leskinen, who described herself as “super competitive,” became the first female freeskier to compete in the U.S. Open in Vail, Colo. She was 18.

Since then, she has finished among the top three in national and international competitions. She took second in the slopestyle event at the 2009 Open at Aspen, Colo., where she demonstrated her skills on — and over — a variety of features, including ramps, rails, tabletops and walls.

Other career highlights include second place in slopestyle at the 2008 North American Open at Breckenridge, Colo.; third place in slopestyle at the 2008 European Open at Laax, Switzerland; two third-place finishes in slopestyle at the 2007 U.S. Open at Copper Mountain, Colo. and at Joetsu Kokusai, Japan; first place in the halfpipe in the 2005 Gravity Games at Copper Mountain; and second place in the halfpipe in the 2005 World Championships, also at Copper Mountain.

Now 28, the pioneer in women’s freestyle skiing has returned to Seven Springs this weekend as part of Monster Energy’s Homecoming. It’s an invitational event with a prize purse of $20,000 that will feature some of the best female skiers and snowboarders in the country.

“After traveling around the world to international competitions for the past 10 years, I’m thrilled to bring this contest to the resort where I grew up,” Leskinen said.

She will be joined for the slopestyle and rail jam event by Sarah Burke, three-time gold-medal winner at the Winter X — for extreme — Games; Tara Dakides, a four-time gold medal and two-time silver-medal winner at the Winter X Games; and Hana Beaman, a three-time silver-medal winner at the Winter X Games.

The event will be an opportunity for the participants to “push themselves, progress the sport and raise awareness and interest in the sport among young girls and women,” resort spokeswoman Anna Weltz said. She said spectators will be able to interact with the athletes, including at clinics and autograph sessions.

The first rounds of the competition will be held at noon and 1:15 p.m. today. The finals will be held at 2:45 p.m.

Tomorrow, girls age 10 to 16 will have an opportunity to ski or snowboard with the pros from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Space is limited.

Register from 8 to 9:30 a.m. in The Yurt at the base of the The Spot, the four-acre terrain park adjacent to the Alpine slope.

“It will give the girls in our area an opportunity to learn from some of the biggest names in the industry,” said Katy Rullo, events manager for Willi’s Ski Shop, organizer of the how-to-do-it clinic.

“Western Pennsylvania is finally showing up on the national map for freeskiing. We are hoping to make [the invitational] an annual competition.”

An amateur rail jam will be held outside the Foggy Goggle lounge from 1 to 2 p.m. tomorrow, with a pro rail jam at 2:30 p.m.

Snow Park Technologies built the course for the event and designed it to showcase the participants’ abilities and the sport, Weltz said. She said the event will be a rider-judged jam format that will encourage competitors “to go for their biggest tricks.”

Leskinen, the daughter of Summit Inn owner Karen Harris and Fayette County Common Pleas Judge Steve Leskinen, said she developed her skills “by trial and error. I started with the small features like the jumps by paying close attention to others to see how they did it.”

She added, “I think it’s a common misconception that you can’t become a great skier at a Pennsylvania resort . But you can.”

Monster Energy, a manufacturer of high-energy drinks, works with the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded in 1974 by tennis great Billie Jean King, to promote active lifestyles for women and girls.

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Posted on: March 14, 2009
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