Ladies weekend celebrates freestyle skiing
Professional skier and Uniontown native Kristi Leskinen grew up buying snowboarding videos – not skiing videos – for one simple reason.
She couldn’t find any females in the freestyle videos being produced, only the snowboard ones.
That’s changed in the last 10 years, with Leskinen herself among the pros who travel the world filming, competing and helping draw attention to the sport in general and women in particular.
This weekend, Leskinen and Seven Springs will play host to the third annual Kristi Leskinen Homecoming, an all-female event that allows the top freeskiers of the gender to showcase their abilities in the terrain park and introduce young girls to what is possible.
“I know that it’s really inspiring to watch another girl do something because when you’re younger, you don’t realize the difference between men and women. But as you get older, you do,” Leskinen said. “I think it’s important to watch another girl do a trick because you think, ‘I could do that.'”
Leskinen said it’s a unique event not only for its gender-specific nature, but also because Seven Springs terrain park designers create the course specifically for them.
“In tennis, the women play three (sets) instead of five, and in the LPGA, they play off different tees. But we go to these competitions – it’s a dangerous sport – and we’re going on the exact same course as the men,” said the 30-year-old Leskinen, the 2006 Action Sports Female Skier of the Year and veteran of several Winter X Games. “So, it was important to me to build around what girls want and allow people to watch them perform at the highest level.”
The event usually features competition, but injuries to several of the scheduled participants have forced a switch to a demonstration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. The group will be on the mountain all day today, Saturday and Sunday, she said, skiing and showing what they can do. Leskinen encourages people to come seek them out.
Then, they’ll host a special ski with the pros event at 11 a.m. Sunday for kids 12 and under and an amateur rail jam from 1 to 3 p.m.
In addition to Leskinen, pros scheduled to participate include Kaya Turski, the two-time defending gold medalist in slopestyle in the Winter X Games; Keri Herman, the two-time defending silver medalist in the same event; and Anna Segal, who earlier this month won gold in the first ever slopestyle competition at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Park City, Utah.
“It’s very inspiring for the young kids who see these girls and recognize them from magazines and competitions. And here they are in their own backyard, and they can meet them and talk to them,” Seven Springs spokesperson Anna Weltz said.
Leskinen said it’s not only the girls who’ve been impressed by their skiing the past two years but also the guys, and that’s important.
“It’s not just about empowering the girls in the area,” she said. “I grew up at Seven Springs, so part of it is giving back and letting kids know what’s possible. Not just the girls, but the boys.
“You don’t have to grow up in Colorado to be a pro. You can make it to the top ranks.”
Read more: Ladies weekend celebrates freestyle skiing – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review