RIGBY — Ever since Jessika Jenson traded her skis for a snowboard at the age of 10, she knew she was hooked for life.
She’d been hitting the slopes of Kelly Canyon Ski Resort with her family every possible weekend for years. After dominating competitions on local and national levels, last year she signed with the U.S. Snowboarding team.
“That was a pretty big step for me and now it’s just training for the Olympics, which is crazy,” she said.
The 21-year-old Rigby High School graduate has been training with her team in Mammoth Mountain, Calif. since May 2. She plans to head back to the team’s home base, The Center of Excellence in Park City, Utah, within the next week for dry land training.
But her travels won’t stop there.
In mid-June, she’ll hit Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, where she’ll train not on snow — but on a frosted ramp that mimics riding on snow. A giant air bag will catch her fall.
“That’s a really good place to learn new tricks — the bigger tricks,” she said.
In July, Jenson’s slated for on-snow training in Canada — then it’s off to New Zealand in August for her first Olympic try-out event. Jenson explained she had to place in the top 24 at a World Cup event to make it to tryouts.
She did just that. In fact, she placed ninth in women’s slopestyle out of 432 international competitors in January at the FIS Snowboard World Championships in Stoneham, Canada.
“I was stoked because pretty much everyone that was there would be who I’d be competing with at the Olympics,” she said.
“It just really boosted my confidence to know that I can compete with the best.”
According to Jenson, 11 women from around the nation placed and will be competing with her for two to four spots on the Olympic team.
Jenson has between three to six tryout events between August and January. The top two results from tryouts are tallied. Athletes with the highest scores will be chosen to join the U.S. Olympic team by Jan. 24, which means uncertainty for Jenson until two weeks before the games begin Feb. 7.
Until then, she plans to continue her fitness regimen and target her weaknesses to have the best possible chance of succeeding.
With several World Cup events canceled, including the Sochi test event, due to lack of snow—and after suffering a concussion her first day of practice in the Czech Republic, Jenson is seizing every chance to fine-tune her skills.
“I’m just going to work really hard this summer and this fall and feel like my hard work will pay off,” she said.
Coach Bill Enos believes she has what it takes to make it to Sochi in 2014.
In a phone interview, he described Jenson as a very positive person who is not afraid of anything, not to mention a “very good rail rider.”
“That’s really important in an athlete and she’s a 10 out of 10 in every one of those,” he said.
He explained just being on the U.S. Snowboarding team is a great honor, but to make the U.S team for the Olympics is huge.
“She has a really good shot,” he said.
Jenson said she couldn’t have made it this far without the support of her parents, Kevin and Natalie, as well as her teammates, who have been like family to her. She’s especially close with fellow pro slopestyle snowboarders Ty Walker and Jordie Karlinski.
Even if she doesn’t make the final cut, she plans to keep training and to plan ahead for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Making it to the X Games is another dream of hers.
“It would be nice to have a full four years to have your mind set to the Olympics,” she said.