"It is better by noble boldness to run the risk of being subject to half the evils we anticipate than to remain in cowardly listlessness for fear of what might happen."
She's the last person to call attention to herself. Yet among her big-mountain freeskiing peers, none would deny her greatness. Modest, understated — and fiercely (almost self-destructively) independent — Whistler's Jen Ashton is a skiing enigma.
Really. I'm not kidding. You see, when it comes to attacking bold, hoary, highly exposed mountain lines (that would intimidate most male skiers), Ashton has few peers on the planet. And her long list of international triumphs on the big-mountain freeskiing circuit bear ample witness to her unique talents. I mean, she won the great granddaddy of events — the Crested Butte Extreme contest — an unprecedented three times! Was crowned IFSA World Overall Champion in 2002, '03 and '09. And she did amazing things on the European tour too. So why isn't she better known at home?
"I guess it's my own fault," says the 39 year old with her characteristic shrug. "I'm just not that good at promoting myself." She stops. Laughs. "I guess I just don't care enough about that stuff. And I hate doing photo shoots. All that standing around to do just one turn... yuck. I'd rather just go skiing..."
Did I mention her stubborn streak? Though her athletic abilities have never been in question, Jen is the kind of athlete who'll ski to the beat of her own drum no matter what sponsors, filmmakers or photographers might wish her to do. "We all have our particular skills," she explains. "I just love to ski. That's what I do best. I guess that's why I like coaching kids too. I get to pass on my love of skiing to the next generation."
Indeed. And the kids are lucky to have her. "I got involved coaching with the Whistler Freeride program a few years ago. And it's totally awesome. I love it. They're all little rippers — and they're getting stronger every year!"
A self-described "army brat', Ashton got her first taste of skiing in Germany. She was all of two-and-a-half years old. "I don't remember much of that," she admits, "except maybe for buying a pair of boots in some shop in the Alps..." She laughs. Mostly, what she remembers of those early years is skiing with her family. "I never decided to 'be a skier,'" she says. "I just wanted to ski. The fun of going fast down the hill, that special sensation of sliding on snow — I just loved it. The fact that my parents and brother also loved skiing, well, it just made it easier for me to stay involved."