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Caldwell and Schoenefeld Set Sail for 2020-21

By Lara Carlton
October, 22 2020
Ashley Caldwell and Justin Schoenefeld
Ashley and Justin sail the open water on their 1984 420 Vanguard (photo: Justin Schoenefeld)

Aerial skiers of the U.S. Ski Team are used to a predictable annual rhythm of training and competing. But when COVID-19 prompted international, national and local lockdowns, athletes got creative in keeping up with their fitness and mental health routines. For aerial skiing power couple Ashley Caldwell and Justin Schoenefeld, that meant turning to water, but not for ramping. 

“I’ve done some sailing in my past and during quarantine we had a lot of ideas...this was just one of them,” said Ashley. “Justin saw a small sailboat on Facebook marketplace and said we should buy it so I could teach him. We did.” And so the two skiers turned sailors with the purchase of a 1984 420 Vanguard. “It needs work but it floats,” commented Justin.

Ashley acknowledged that she was no pro at sailing but knew that together they could make it work. “There was definitely a learning curve the first time we went out,” said Ashley. “The morning of our first sail I had had a dream about it the night before,” said Justin. “I remember waking up and being super stoked. I was hooked immediately.”



Ashley and Justin committed to sailing about twice a week throughout the summer, weather permitting. They successfully navigated the waters of the Jordanelle and Rockport Reservoirs and have not only learned a new skill, but found sailing a great compliment to summer training. 

“Sailing is [usually] peaceful, like a meditation,” explained Ashley. “The wind is propelling you through the water. Most of the time you are cruising and have a fun time. In aerials most of the time you are standing around, just waiting for your chance at the jump. Then all of a sudden you have to give 120%. Sailing is kind of like that too. You’re just going along, going along, and all of a sudden you have to be ready and prepared.”

“We’ve been through some scary points,” said Justin. “We almost flipped the boat several times.”

Despite the challenges their new hobby brought, Ashley and Justin were thankful to have the outlet during such an unsettling time in the world. “It gave us a mental break,” said Ashley. “In that way, sailing was just like doing anything else other than our sport [of aerial skiing],” added Justin. 

“We learned a lot,” said Ashley. “We have yet to capsize. Sailing improved our communication skills and we enjoyed the mental cross training and teamwork element. Our goal is to win four medals between the two of us in Beijing.” Will sailing be the edge that sets Ashley and Justin up for success? Only time will tell.

As October fades to November, Ashley and Justin will be setting sail for their first on-snow jumps since March. Both have had excellent summer training periods and look forward to the season ahead. With Mixes Team Aerials included in the World Championships program this season and the Olympic Winter Games program next season Ashley and Justin have the opportunity to medal together on the same team. 

Follow Ashley and Justin on Instagram @ashleyskies93 and @jrschoenefeld.