Ashley Caldwell
 Summer training into the freestyle pool in Lake Placid

With the London 2012 Olympic Games over, the focus shifts to the winter Olympic athletes who are preparing for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.  But even in October there aren’t a lot of places in the United States that have snow!  What do winter Olympic athletes do when there is no snow?

My name is Ashley Caldwell and I’m a freestyle aerial skier on the U.S. Ski Team.  Being a competitor in the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, I’m preparing now for this year’s World Cup season and next year’s Olympic qualification events. Over the next year I’m going to share what is it like, snow or no snow, to be a winter Olympic freestyle skiing athlete.

I grew up in Loudon County, Virginia in a suburb called Ashburn.  There isn’t a whole lot of snow in Virginia but from a very young age my dad would take my family skiing in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and out west to Colorado and Utah.  I also started doing gymnastics when I was 3 years old and started competing when I was 6 at Apex Gymnastics in Leesburg, Va.  I competed for seven years until when watching the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, my mom suggested that I try freestyle skiing. Little did I know we had been watching aerialists Jeret “Speedy” Peterson and Emily Cook, whom two years later I would become teammates with!  Anyways, my mom really thought that my gymnastics and skiing background would be a great fit for this crazy-awesome sport and she began Google searching for upcoming camps.  I went to a summer camp with Freestyle America (a camp run by Nick Preston out of New Hampshire) on a glacier in Whistler, Canada in 2007 and later a water ramp camp in Lake Placid, NY.  The following year I started online school and moved away from home at 14.  I was in love with the sport and really wanted to give it my best.  By 2009 I had made the national team and in 2010 I earned a spot on the World Cup team and 2010 Olympic team.  I was the youngest athlete that the United States sent to Vancouver!  In 2011 I won my first World Cup and was ranked 3rd in the world.  And now, after recovering from an ACL tear in December of 2011 I’m training again for this World Cup season and Olympic Games qualifications.

As a freestyle aerialist, I train in the summer time into the freestyle pool in Lake Placid, NY. This is where we learn new tricks and practice when there isn’t snow. The pool jumping concludes at the end of September and for a couple weeks we are caught between weather that is too cold for jumping into a pool and too hot for snow.  For this period we structure our training around physical conditioning and trampoline.  During the weeks of October I have been doing a little bit of traveling and visiting my family in Houston, Texas, because my training schedule permits it.  Starting in November I will head out to Park City, Utah to increase my training focus and start trampoline. By the middle of November we will start our snow jumping and by January our World Cup tour begins.  We have a bunch of really cool events this year including competitions in China, Norway, Italy, Canada, Russia and the U.S.!

I’ve been learning Russian for the past couple of years in order to help me for the 2014 Olympics.  So I’ll end every post with a few new Russian words that might help you out if you head to Sochi! 

If you want to say “Where is the freestyle skiing competition?” in Russian you just say “Gde con-kuRENceeya freestyle?”

You can also follow my journey on Twitter @AshleySkis.

Ashley Caldwell Ashley Caldwell Ashley Caldwell
"I started doing gymnastics when I was 3" "There isn’t a whole lot of snow in Virginia, but from a very young age my dad would take my family skiing" "By 2009 I had made the national team and in 2010 I earned a spot on the World Cup team and 2010 Olympic team"