If surgeons gave out punch cards the way some coffee and sandwich shops do, the Battersby family would be in line for a free knee surgery.

Between U.S. freeskier Ashley Battersby and her three brothers – one older, two younger – the family has had nine knee surgeries, all performed by the same surgeon.

“My mom was like, 'When are we going to get a wing in the hospital for the Battersby family?' ” Ashley joked.

Battersby's latest knee injury came on what should have been a festive occasion – a competition at the X Games in Aspen on her 25th birthday.

“I was actually in third place, last run, second-to-last girl to go,” she said. “I can do this trick in my sleep, I just landed a bit too hard on my left side.”

Ashley Battersby hopes her rehabilitated knee leads to strong results this season.
Ashley Battersby hopes her rehabilitated knee leads to strong results this season. (Tom Zikas/Courtesy)

Since that unfortunate day in late January of 2013 and the subsequent surgery on Feb. 19, Battersby has been at the gym every day, working hard to get her knee back to full strength.

Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Ski Team training staff at the Center of Excellence in Park City, she feels as though she's ready to have a great bounce-back year. After recent testing on the knee, she said the results were better than she could have expected.

“I'm literally the strongest I've ever been,” she said of the knee.

The sport of freeskiing prides itself on individuality and creativity, so Battersby had never had formal trainers or coaches before catching on with the U.S. Ski Team.

Though she's not used to such a rigid training plan, she admits the benefits are clear.

“Now I have this ACL injury and they're telling me I can't do certain things,” she said. “When I did my other [knee injury] five years ago, I would have been on snow by now. [The training program] is really strict, but it's amazing the opportunities we have with the ski team.”

Before joining the team, it was just Battersby and her brothers policing themselves on the slopes, pushing each other to bigger and better things.

“My best coaches were my brothers,” she said. “If you fall, they can kick your butt and then you get back up and do it again. They know my pain tolerance and if I'm being a baby or not.”

The freedom involved with that kind of skiing is something Battersby tries to hold on to when she hits the slopes during competitions. She said she's worried that too much regulation is going to creep into the sport, especially when it makes its Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

“People are worried that freeskiing being in the Olympics is going to change the core of the sport,” she said. “Usually, you just go with your friends and try stuff out, kind of feed off each other. 'You're going to do this trick? I'm going to match it. I'm going to do this trick and then some.' ”

Competing in events like the X Games [where Battersby won a bronze medal in Tignes, France, in 2010] has already regulated the sport more, Battersby notes. She's hoping the Olympics find a way to keep the freedom and spirit of the sport from further modification.

“You have to have a strict rulebook [for the Olympics],” she said. “Like, this trick is sicker than this other trick. This one is bigger than this other one, but this one was done with more style.”

But, regardless of what happens with the future of the sport, Battersby is thrilled at the prospect of being able to represent America in Sochi.

“Just to be a part of Team USA and be able to, I don't know, say that you were an Olympian or say you were an alternate, whatever it is, to say you went to Russia to do that would be awesome,” she said. “You literally spend years and every waking moment of the day thinking about it – you make sure you eat right, make sure you sleep enough, make sure you go to the gym every day and make sure you do everything you possibly can – if you make it, that's what all this work was for, this one contest.”

The 25-year-old acknowledges that this might be the only Olympic chance she gets, since most athletes transition out of slopestyle to something with less impact on the body during their late 20s.

“I've been doing it for 10 years, I'm 25, three knee surgeries – that's a lot,” she said. “My body doesn't heal as fast, I'm tired and I'm not as quick.”

Though Battersby sounds like a 70-year-old instead of a 20-something when she says that, and readily admits to spending most Saturday nights in front of the sewing machine, stitching together custom, handmade hoodies for A-Bomb Apparel, her young-but-popular company, she knows she still has a lot to give to the sport that she's competed in for so long.

“It's crazy to think the Olympics are just one thing,” she said. “But, to me, I think it's pretty huge. It seems silly, but, if that's your dream and your goals, that's it. That's what you've been working for all these years. That's huge.”