Many Winter Olympic sports are synonymous with snow, so it may be surprising to learn that some athletes spend most of the year honing their craft away from it.
Aerial skiers, unlike many other winter athletes, don't travel the world chasing snow. They spend the warmer months training at water ramp facilities, where they glide down large ramps lined with plastic surfaces and perform their tricks into a giant pool of water. They'll spend months working up to their hardest maneuvers, and then when the competition season begins, they'll have to take what they've been working on in the pool and do it on snow, building back up to their best tricks as quickly as possible.
And while water ramping is somewhat unique to freestyle skiing, competing at venues that lack natural snow is not. Over the years, creative solutions have emerged for that problem though. Many competition venues, including at past Olympics, have been supplemented by manmade snow, dry ice and other innovations that enable athletes to put on a show under just about any type of weather conditions.
To explain more about all this, "The Podium" podcast from NBC Olympics caught up with a pair of U.S. aerial skiers: Ashley Caldwell, a three-time Olympian, and Justin Schoenefeld, who will make his Olympic debut next month. Listen to the full episode below to hear about their starts in the sport, how water ramp training actually works, and the craziest weather stories they've experienced in their careers.
Season 3 of The Podium is hosted by Lauren Shehadi. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes will be released weekly on Tuesdays ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, followed by daily episodes throughout the duration of the Games.