Hometown Hopefuls: Ashley Caldwell, Freestyle Aerials
“I love flipping. I love crashing. I love landing. I love learning. I love overcoming fear. I love hanging out with my friends,” Ashley Caldwell says. “There are so many little things that I love about this sport that it’s easy to find those things and overcome [setbacks].” Even after a crash at the last Olympics left her arm dangling by a thread while she competed, the very next day she wanted to start jumping again.
That unbridled passion is matched by some serious raw talent and the fearlessness required to launch 40-plus feet in the air for flips and twists before landing on snow. Caldwell is just one of two women ever to attempt the full-double-full-full—and she’s the only one who’s landed it on snow. That’s what she’ll bring to the Olympics if conditions allow. If not, she’ll drop a twist and go with the still-massive full-full-full.
Aerials Spectating Tips
“Landing is good,” quips Caldwell, adding that it’s tough for most spectators to differentiate between the twists and flips that they’re seeing. “My parents have been watching for 15 years, and they still don’t know which tricks I’m doing sometimes.”
Now age 28, Caldwell has seen her fair share of injuries. “I’ve hurt from my head to my toes,” she says. “It’s just a typical thing in the sport for me right now.” The mental injuries are more challenging than the physical, she adds, but having a strong support system is what keeps all the highs and lows of such an emotional sport “in balance.” She’s also learned to control her all-or-nothing attitude, prioritizing the “go big” moments when they count.
Taking a more calculated approach, however, doesn’t mean holding back.
“I want to win,” she says of her current aspirations. “Sometimes in the past, I’ve said that I want to do my best, which is very true, too. But I know my best is good enough to land me on the top of the podium, so that’s the big goal, and I want to do it in World Cups and at the Olympics this year.”
Local go-to eats: Chimayo, Alberto’s, and O’Shuck’s
Favorite competition locale: Deer Valley
Favorite training snack: Built Bar (which sponsors the on-and-off vegetarian, who likes the bar's protein) or popcorn and chips
Pre-event ritual: “I try to unmake rituals. I like to mix it up,” she says. “If I wake up and I’m not feeling good, I just fake it until I’m happy.”
Other interests: Mountain biking, sailing, free skiing, playing guitar
Landed in Park City full time 10 years ago
Little-known tidbit: She's a Garlic Mustard Games winner
Beijing will offer a new opportunity to bring home Olympic hardware, given the addition of Team Aerials to the 2022 events. Caldwell, who podiumed twice in the team event last season, calls the U.S. Team “stacked.” She hopes to compete alongside teammate Chris Lillis (with whom she won bronze in the World Championships team event) and her teammate and boyfriend, Justin Schoenefeld, at the Games. “I hope to have a lasting and positive impact on skiing and women's sport in general,” she says.