To say Joey Leonardo of Edwards is a rising star of big mountain, freeride skiing misses the point of the sport, which is to actually descend, taking the most breathtaking line on sheer and treacherous mountain faces with the style, skill and confidence most of us don’t possess on our skis.
So let’s just say Leonardo, a Battle Mountain High School junior who also races alpine for the Huskies, is a descending star of a sport most recreational skiers can relate to more than banging gates. Who hasn’t looked at the gnarliest line and dreamed of nailing it – maybe hucking a rock or two in the process?
It’s also the stuff of ski films, where legends like Shane McConkey pioneered the sport and launched the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) – the group that organizes junior competitions in North America. The best freeride skiers stay very cool under pressure.
And at the relatively young age of 16, Leonardo has that demeanor on skis, propelling him near the top of the Junior Freeride rankings and landing him an invite to January’s 2020 Junior Freeride World Championships in Kappl, Austria. The IFSA is part of the Freeride World Tour.
“I’m super-excited and grateful for the opportunity I have to go to Worlds,” Leonardo said. “I am also thankful for everyone who’s helping me to get there.”
An independent competitor, Leonardo finished last season ranked eighth overall in North America, sixth in the U.S. and third in the Rocky Mountain Region in the 15- to 18-year-old age group. He won a regional competition in Vail and was second in a national competition in Taos, New Mexico.
But despite all his accomplishments, there are no cash prizes in freeriding – at least at the junior level (you can maybe win a helmet or some goggles) – so the Edwards community is rallying to help send him off to Austria this season with a fundraiser at Etown restaurant in Edwards on Monday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.
“It will be 10% of the evening’s sales after 5 until we close,” said Miller Lewis, one Etown’s owners. “We’re looking forward to celebrating Joey’s incredible accomplishments and hopefully raising some funds for his Austrian adventure.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in the Vail Daily.