Battle Mountain seniors heading to Switzerland to compete in Freeride Junior World Championship
Joey Leonardo, Tanner Moller to represent Eagle County on big mountain riding’s biggest stage
Growing up in Eagle County, Joey Leonardo and Tanner Moller first met on a local soccer field when they were 8 years old. Now seniors at Battle Mountain High School, the two are among the top big mountain junior freeskiers in the world and will be heading to Verbier, Switzerland, later this month to compete in the Freeride Junior World Championship.
Leonardo, who won the event last year, is looking forward to defending his crown in his final year as a junior freerider. While he’ll have to go through his friend and daily riding buddy in Moller to make it back-to-back titles, the camaraderie trumps the competition aspect of the Freeride Junior World Championship.
“We want each other to do the best we can, ideally we’ll be (Nos.) 1 and 2,” Leonardo said ahead of heading overseas. “It’s competitive, but at the end of the day it’s all love.”
Both Leonardo and Moller are among a small group of friends who can be found out on Vail Mountain or Beaver Creek together throughout the winter, when they aren’t competing.
“I’m just stoked to go ski one of the sickest mountains in the world for big mountain riding with my best friend,” Moller said.
The Freeride Junior World Championship is the only competition where junior European, North American and New Zealand riders compete together. In total, 60 competitors ages 16-18 will compete — 30 male skiers, 13 female skiers, 12 male snowboarders and five female snowboarders. Fifteen nations will be represented from three continents.
“Winning worlds last year makes me even more eager to compete this year,” Leonardo said in the Freeride World Tour’s 2021 competition announcement. “One of the only things better than being Freeride Junior World Champion, is being one back to back.”
Leonardo and Moller enjoy all Vail and Beaver Creek have to offer for big mountain skiing but are looking forward to Verbier.
“We just push each other,” Leonardo said. “We make it work so once we get to that bigger stuff, we’re kind of prepared because we’re already going as big as we can. We’re pushing the limits here at Beaver Creek and Vail.”
Stone Creek Chutes at Beaver Creek is one of their go-to spots. And with this year’s snow conditions, they have been enjoying a little more exposure in certain parts of the mountain.
“It kind of changes the terrain for our advantage, honestly,” Moller said. “There’s a lot more features available and they’re a lot bigger. It also teaches us patience going out in the backcountry and having that knowledge.”
The Freeride Junior World Championship will take place between March 30 and April 6, as organizers leave a scheduled window to accommodate for the best conditions and weather for the competition.
Moller’s 20-year-old brother Blake is currently competing — and impressing — in the Freeride World Tour big mountain snowboard competitions in Europe, preparing for finals in Verbier.