Racing Beyond Limits: SYNC Team Athlete Audrey Crowley

"I Just Never Thought I Couldn’t" is more than just a quote from a movie for SYNC Team Athlete Audrey Crowley; it's a motto she wholeheartedly embraces. This mantra has been a constant source of inspiration throughout her ski career and life.

Despite being born without a right arm, Audrey's introduction into the world of skiing mirrors the early experiences of exceptional able-bodied athletes like Lindsey Vonn and Paula Moltzan. Now, as a first-year FIS athlete, Audrey is poised to compete in her inaugural Para World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, the very city set to host the 2026 Paralympic Games.

How it all started

At the age of four, Audrey learned to ski on the 196-vertical-foot hill of Ausblick, Wisconsin. Recognizing her talent, her parents made a significant decision to move to Vail, Colorado, allowing Audrey to fully pursue her racing passion.

The move to Vail wasn't unfamiliar to the Crowley family, who often visited the area during Audrey’s childhood. Despite the pressure that came with relocating, she views the move as a catalyst for her ambitions. She played a pivotal role in developing the prosthetics she wears, testing and providing insights to enhance their functionality. Audrey's prosthetics, custom-made by Shriners Hospital for Children, allow her to use a ski pole while racing, so she can push out of the start gate and use the pole for balance. However, in an event like slalom, she uses her prosthetics without a pole to cross block the gates, often breaking them. Coaches now humorously remark, “Oh, Audrey's going; we need replacement gates to follow.”

Finding Motivation and Inspiration

Throughout her racing journey, Audrey draws inspiration from athletes like Mikaela Shiffrin, particularly resonating with Shiffrin's mental struggles at the Beijing Olympics in 2022. No stranger to such challenges, she admires Shiffrin's openness about her mental struggles. According to her, "she's just a great role model by showing other athletes how to present yourself when dealing with mental struggles and how to keep getting better at what you love to do."

Audrey's biggest motivators come from the friends she surrounds herself with. In her early racing career, fueled by her friends' encouragement, Audrey not only decided to compete in para racing but also in able-bodied races. To her, "friendships are built on mutual support rather than skiing performance", reflecting the camaraderie that propels her forward.

Mastering it all

Racing in both para and able-bodied races underscores Audrey’s commitment and passion for the sport. As a first-year FIS athlete facing older competitors and starting with 999 points, she happily embraces the challenge. Recently, she achieved her goal of making flip 30 at the Murphy Roberts Holiday Classic in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, signifying her determination.

In para races, she is a force to be reckoned with, winning every event at the Winter Park Open—Giant Slalom, Super-G, and Slalom—lowering her points enough to qualify for the Para World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo. This marks her first World Cup and her inaugural trip to Europe.

On the world stage

Audrey has long set her sights on the Cortina World Cup, a strategic move considering it’s the venue for the 2026 Paralympics.

Competing in the Para World Cup event and familiarizing herself with the hill will be a significant advantage for the Paralympics. The unique scheduling of the able-bodied Women’s World Cup speed events alongside the Para World Cup adds an extra layer of excitement for Audrey, where she hopes to meet her skiing idols. 

Audrey's journey, marked by hard work and dedication, serves as an inspiration to others. Her story encapsulates the essence of her motto, "I just never thought I couldn't"- Lightning McQueen.

Tune in to the Para World Cup in Cortina d’Ampezzo from January 30th to February 2nd to witness Audrey competing in the Downhill, Super-G, and Slalom events.