Park City aerials skier Madison Olsen reaches super finals at Deer Valley

Ben Ramsey
The Park Record
Aerialist Madison Olsen spots her landing during her jump in the finals of the Visa FIS Freestyle World Cup Aerials at Deer Valley Resort Friday evening, January 12, 2018. (Tanzi Propst/Park Record)
Tanzi Propst |

The price of going big is that sometimes, you don’t land. It’s something Ashley Caldwell has come to accept, but on Friday, when Caldwell and Kiley McKinnon, two of the U.S.’s top aerial skiers, both missed the super finals, it gave Madison Olsen and Madison Varmette, two athlete’s from the American B team, some time in the spotlight.

On Friday, Caldwell missed making the super finals after not landing her jump cleanly at the FIS Visa Freestyle International Ski World Cup at Deer Valley Resort.

“I kind of rocked back too hard,” she said after the competition. “Slipping a little too fast, went a little too big – it slapped back and I got seventh.”

She said she wished she had reached a podium in one more event this season. With only an event at Lake Placid between her and the Pyeongchang Olympics, she needs to stand on a podium to clinch a spot on the team, but she said plans to do so through maximum degree-of-difficulty jumps. She and Mengtao Xu of China were the only athletes to attempt jumps with a 4.05 degree of difficulty, a multiplier which can send scores rocketing, as it did for Xu’s winning run. However, Caldwell said that won’t be the case in a few weeks.

“Everyone’s going to throw down at the Olympics,” she said. “Here, people are still holding back their (degree of difficulty). Some people are starting to ramp up, but when the Olympics comes around you’re going to need over 100 points, and I’m positioning myself well to where I have the degree of difficulty that I can do that.”

She said, just like most of the male competitors, she runs a risk of not landing, but it’s important to compete at a high level so she has practice performing at her maximum and landing in those situations.

“I feel better every jump,” she said. “I feel less scared and I am performing more jumps well, so it’s just making sure that happens on contest day at contest jumps. Now that I feel like I have a lot more degree of difficulty under my belt, I’m going out (to Lake Placid) and doing a little more training, then hopefully I will put down some good jumps.”

When Neither Caldwell nor McKinnon made it to the super finals, Olsen and Varmette stepped up.

For Olsen, who grew up in Park City and watched the 2002 Winter Games here, it was “like a dream.”

“My entire family is out here, friends that I went to high school with, it was awesome,” Olsen said after placing fourth overall. Varmette finished sixth — her first time in the super finals.

Olsen said she started skiing aerials at about 15 after switching from moguls.

“I think (my parents) wanted to see some sweet jumps,” she said.

Since then she has taken fifth in the World Championships and has had multiple high-level finishes at World Cup events.

But she said Friday’s outcome was totally unexpected, especially after wind and rain put a damper on practices earlier in the week.

“I kept it lower on the degree of difficult,” she said. “But I’ve been training these jumps for a long time, so I was ready.”