Ashley Battersby competes in slope style qualification for the FIS Freestyle… (Matthew Stockman/Getty…)
For Ashley Battersby's 25th birthday on Sunday, she's got an extra special present in mind—a Winter X Games gold medal. In her last three years at the X Games, she finished fourth twice and fifth another time.
"It's all I really want," the Park Ridge native said. "I'm stoked about it."
Of course, in slopestyle skiing, just completing a competition without injury is an accomplishment. The sport involves doing aerial spins, flips, grabs, grinds off rails and big jumps to impress judges. Battersby has suffered three concussions in the past year—more than many professional football players.
"The scariest part for me is the jumps," she said. "You literally land on one jump and you're on the takeoff for the next—it's quite quick."
Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, a four-time X Games champion, died from a major head injury suffered during a practice for last year's Games. It's something that has stuck with Battersby.
"She was a friend, so it's been rough," Battersby said. "We're a lot more careful now after what happened to Sarah, but still, this is a very dangerous sport and we're putting our lives at risk every day."
The slopestyle ski course in Aspen, Colo.—site of this year's Winter X Games—has been tamed a bit from last year's jaw-dropping obstacle course in Utah, with its 20-foot-high rails. But the competition won't get any easier.
"Last year it was whoever could survive," she said. "This year it's more chill. This is more like who can get super creative on the rails."
But even if she doesn't reach the medal stand this weekend, Battersby still has 2014 in her sights. Slopestyle skiing and snowboarding will debut as Olympic sports in Sochi, Russia, next year and she is currently on the U.S. Olympic team with hopes of qualifying.
Looking back, Battersby says going from high school cheerleader in the northwest suburbs to Olympic contender in a 10-year span has been special.
"Coming from the Midwest and to be competing at this intense level against eight of the best girls in the world—it's pretty amazing."
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.
Is that Obama you're wearing?
Left without an outerwear sponsor, pro skier Ashley Battersby decided that instead of wearing someone else's gear, she'd create her own. Little did she know her funky brand of self-made hoodies would soon get a lot of attention.
"A lot of kids were asking me where I got them and who made them, so I decided to start selling them," Battersby said.
The result was A-Bomb Apparel, a website where you can purchase hats and hoodies with Rastafarian-, penguin- and even President Obama-printed gear.
"I don't party a lot, so I just sew," said Battersby, laughing.
Slopestyle Skiing 101
Slopestyle Skiing is a relatively new event in which riders perform tricks off of a series of rails and ramps while descending down a hill outfitted with a manmade obstacle course. Slopestyle will make its Olympic debut at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
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