Close

Member Login

Logging In
Invalid username or password.
Incorrect Login. Please try again.

not a member? sign-up now!

Signing up could earn you gear and it helps to keep offensive content off of our site.

PRINT DIGITAL

ski racing

Collision Course, Page 7

Collision Course, Page 7
Casey Puckett Portrait
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

But as ski cross grows in relevance and prestige—Olympic acceptance being a key badge of acknowledgement—it is colored by a singular oddity for a new sport: It is growing in a top-down way.

Collision Course, Page 6

Collision Course, Page 6

Downhill great Daron Rahlves is about as new to ski cross as he is to fatherhood.

The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

But as ski cross homes in on its true identity, it is increasingly taking on the look and feel of elite-level alpine racing. In bringing ski cross into the U.S. Ski Team family last year, the Americans were putting it on more or less equal footing with the national alpine team. But they were actually a little late in doing so, and at times the cross team looks a little like the runt of the litter among national teams. The 2008–2009 team, for example, consisted of three funded athletes (Rahlves, Puckett and another former U.S.

Collision Course, Page 5

Collision Course, Page 5
U.S. coach Tyler Shepherd guides a team on which the stars are actually older than he is.
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

The clothing controversy is just one example of an underlying cross question: What, exactly, are the rules? There is a rule book, but Puckett, now in his third season, says he’s never read it. He’s not alone. Instead, the de facto rules, particularly regarding on-course entanglements, are essentially framed by a gentlemen’s agreement. “We try not to kill each other,” Puckett explains. Protests and disqualifications are unusual, because to lodge a protest against another athlete would violate that gentlemanly code of conduct. Will this fly when there are Olympic medals at stake?

Collision Course, Page 4

Collision Course, Page 4

Not even a decade old, ski cross is already an Olympic sport.

The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

Although obviously a racing sport, it has slipped into the FIS fold under the “freestyle” rubric. To have a racing event in the realm of judged freestyle skiing is an oddity arising from cross’s history. It’s a sport born and raised in freeriding competitions such as ESPN’s X Games.

Collision Course, Page 3

Collision Course, Page 3

Like Daron Rahlves, unretired U.S. Ski Teamer Casey Puckett will put his racing talent to the test in his new career as a crosser.

The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross— make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

Still, the appearance of Rahlves and Puckett in Olympic ski cross conjures images of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon getting together for one more buddy movie. And how ironically nonsensical is it that two elder statesmen lead a U.S. ski cross team that, in just its second year, is a relative infant in a relatively infant sport? And the team is led by a coach, Tyler Shepherd, who is several years younger than his two star players.

Collision Course, Page 2

Collision Course, Page 2
Daron Rahlves
The freeskiers who invented it don’t have to like it, but skiercross—make that ‘ski cross’—is now an official, FIS-controlled Olympic event, and former World Cup racers like Daron Rahlves are among the favorites. Burning questions remain, like how baggy should your clothes be, what exactly are the rules, and who’ll win the first gold medal.

That transition might include all the appearances of retirement: parenting, dabbling in commercial real estate and victory-lap stuff like starring in ski movies and promoting sponsors. But Rahlves never relinquished that genetic exigency to compete. He believes, for example, that if rules could be bent to allow an officially “retired” racer to enter, say, just the World Cup downhill held annually at Beaver Creek, Colo., “I still could kick some ass.” And he probably could.

[ Thu, 2010-01-21 07:55 ]
Olympic Medalist Bode Miller
Returning-to-form American ski king Bode Miller made the top of USA Today's "Athlete of the Week" list after a big win.

On the runup to this weekend's always-thrilling Hahnenkamm races in Kitzbuhel, Austria—and just a few weeks before the 2010 Olympics—Bode Miller has received a couple of well-desrved boosts. For starters, of course, he took his first World Cup win in Wengen, Switzerland, last weekend—his first in close to two years.

RSS Feed