Tanner Moller, Joey Leonardo lead Americans at Freeride Junior World Championship in Switzerland | VailDaily.com

Tanner Moller, Joey Leonardo lead Americans at Freeride Junior World Championship in Switzerland

‘We definitely want to keep competing and see if we can get on the tour’

Tanner Moller, a senior at Battle Mountain High School, sends it off a cliff during the Freeride Junior World Championship on March 31 in Verbier, Switzerland. Moller finished fourth.
Freeride Junior World Championship / Special to the Daily

Battle Mountain High School seniors Tanner Moller and Joey Leonardo both finished in the top 10 at the Freeride Junior World Championship in Switzerland on March 31. Moller finished fourth and Leonardo, last year’s winner at the big-mountain event, finished eighth. They led all Americans in a field of 27 junior freeride skiers from nearly a dozen different countries.

With a long vertical drop of almost 1,500 feet down the picturesque face of Mont de Cion, Moller and Leonardo were among the best young freeriders competing in Verbier, Switzerland. With the pros wrapping up the World Freeride Tour finals on the same mountain a week earlier, the local skiers enjoyed spending time in Verbier learning from the best — including Moller’s brother Blake, who finished second overall and third in the World Freeride Tour snowboard finals on March 23.

“My favorite part was just being able to be with Blake and Joey and being able to ski and ride with all these insane professional athletes,” Moller said after returning home to Eagle County. “That was kind of a dream come true in such a cool place. I think that we both learned so much, too.”

They enjoyed linking up with pros like Andrew Pollard in Verbier, who was the Freeride World Tour Rookie of the Year last year and finished sixth this year.

“Just to talk to the guys was a super cool experience and eye opening,” Leonardo said. “It gets us excited for what’s down the road.”

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Both Moller and Leonardo are part of a small crew of friends that grew up skiing at Vail and Beaver Creek. They’ll be out enjoying Vail’s closing week before looking forward to next year, when they’ll be eligible to drop the “junior” and qualify for the Freeride World Tour.

They said it won’t be easy to qualify in their first year of eligibility, as it requires top finishes at select qualifiers, but they are looking forward to progressing with the ultimate goal of competing on the tour, where Moller’s other brother Grifen already qualified for next year as a skier.

“We definitely want to keep competing and see if we can get on the tour,” Leonardo said.

Battle Mountain High School senior Joey Leonardo goes big at the Freeride Junior World Championship in Verbier, Switzerland, on March 31. Leonardo finished eighth.
Moritz Ablinger / Freeride Junior World Championship

At the Freeride Junior World Championship, they learned some valuable lessons by competing in the premier event. They also learned a lot about European course inspections, which include visual inspections from a distance compared to being able to inspect the run by skiing carefully down it.

“You have to be ready for things to look different,” Leonardo said. “You have to adapt to whatever’s happening, especially at Verbier because it’s insane.”

With strict COVID-19 restrictions in Verbier shutting down many restaurants and businesses, the families and friends enjoyed their time together in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland.

“It was an eye opener but a really cool experience,” Moller said. “We still made the most out of it.”

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