Bumping around at her hometown resort of Seven Springs, Penn., Kristi Leskinen knew she liked to hit jumps and looked for every possible opportunity to improve her comfort level while flying through the air. If moguls were what it took, moguls were what she did. But when word of a new freestyle contest known as the US Open emerged, Kristi was first in line to see what it was all about. Girls or no girls, she ventured out to Vail and never looked back. She still competes here and there but is also focusing her time and energy and many connections on creating female contests and continuing the success of her Homecoming Ski and Snowboard event.
Q & A
HOW DID MOGUL SKIING INFLUENCE YOUR FREESKIING STYLE?
I grew up at a small mountain in Pennsylvania. All we did there was jump. I got into mogul skiing because it was the only organized freestyle event that I was interested in. I always saw the moguls as a way to get to the jumps! We were allowed to build jumps in the moguls, but not on a regular run. Without moguls, I wouldn't be where I am today.
WHAT TYPE OF CREW DO YOU SKI WITH?
My crews have switched so much over the years. I am definitely more into skiing with other girls these days. Kaya Turski is my new favorite ski buddy, along with Kim Lamarre, Sarah Burke, and Keri Herman.
HOW DO THEY INFLUENCE YOUR SKIING AND YOUR CAREER?
It's really important to surround yourself with people who can push you on the mountain, but that you also see as great friends and have fun off the hill as well.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE AFFECTED WOMEN'S SKIING?
You know, it's always easier to follow than it is to lead. It's always easier to see somebody and say, I can do that. Hopefully what Sarah and I have done has helped inspire young girls to get into the sport.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU AND SARAH GETTING INTO THE SPORT. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES WERE THERE AS FAR AS CONTESTS AND SPONSORS?
There weren't. There weren't any contests. The first year I went to the US Open I was the only girl who did the big air. They didn't have a pipe competition and I think I ended up being the only girl who ran the slopestyle. I remember I signed up for the event and they said they had a girls division but when I showed up, there weren't any girls. So they said no, actually, we don't have a girls division, there's no prize money, there's no recognition there's no anything. Sarah came in the following year. It was kind of that same year that I met all the Salomon guys and they were like, "Oh yeah, there's this one other girl in Canada and her name is Sarah."
WHO DO YOU SEE AS BEING THE TORCH CARRIER FOR WOMEN'S SKIING AFTER YOU?
Kaya and Kim for sure. I'm sure there are a lot of other girls out there that I'm not giving enough credit to, but it's just obvious that they're hungry and they have some really great ability. It's really cool to see the excitement that they have for the sport.
FROM WHOM DID YOU PICK IT UP?
I would say Wendy Fisher was the only girl actually skiing. She was the only girl that was filming when Sarah and I came on the scene. She was the only one we could tangibly see. And this was the industry we were getting into... making films. As far as the competition scene, we were writing our own book.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT/FUTURE PROS? WHAT ABOUT GIRLS JUST LOOKING TO RIDE?
Go to summer camps! I'll see you there! And the reason I always say go to summer camps is because we have a really unique thing in our industry where, if yo're a tennis player, you can't go to summer camp with Serena Williams, and if you're a basketball player, it's a very rare chance you get to play with Lisa Leslie and it's hard to get noticed. In our sport, you can go to camp and ride with the best riders in the world as your coach. And if they see talent in you, not only can you learn from them like crazy, they can connect you with the right people.