Vail snowboard cross racer Senna Leith starting season strong
SKI COOPER — Vail snowboard cross racer Senna Leith has now checked a World Cup big final off his list, which means a podium is next.
It’s the logical progression of any snowboard cross racer, and for Leith — who is now embarking on his second full year of World Cup competition — to have that big final under his belt means he can relax a bit.
Back home Vail this week after a strong start to the season in Cervinia, Italy, Leith said he’s finally feeling comfortable in the World Cup starting gate.
“I don’t have to prove anything anymore, now people know that I can ride at the top level,” Leith said.
Everyone’s goal in every race, the big final is the last event in a World Cup snowboard cross competition.
Getting there means a whole day of racing, not including a qualifying event, which usually takes place the day before. After five rounds of racing leading up to the big final, the last event pits six racers against each other to determine the top six spots in the competition.
Leith was the only American to make the big final in the first World Cup event of the season this year in Cervinia on Dec. 21.
“It was a huge day for me,” he said. “It was my first time making the big final being the top finishing American. Definitely checked a couple big ones off the list.”
With his rookie status now in the past, Leith said the fact that he was feeling more comfortable this season after getting the debut year out of the way in 2017-18 may have contributed to his success in the first race of the year.
“My racing that day was the most comfortable I’ve ever been racing,” he said. “I can get in a World Cup gate right now and be really confident.”
Leith is now training with coach Ross Hindman at the International Snowboard Training Center, which is currently putting on a camp at Ski Cooper. Many of the world’s top international snowboarders are there.
Leith is a member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Snowboard Cross Development Team, which represents the lowest tier of support from the organization, but at just 21 years old, Leith said he relished the opportunity to train with Hindman another year before joining the higher ranks of the U.S. Team.
“I work so well with Ross as a coach and I still feel myself progressing with him, so honestly I’m not in such a rush to get off the development team,” Leith said.
Leith said having the camp near his home, and having a strong start to the season, has him excited about every day at Ski Cooper.
“Each race that goes by I earn more respect from the older guys on the World Cup, and that definitely feels good because these are people that I’ve looked up to my whole life, and now I’m racing against them and they’re starting to respect me more as a racer, which is a huge step in my progression as far as my riding and the confidence that I gain,” he said.
The next World Cup races take place in Feldberg, Germany, Feb. 8-10.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.