Collision Course, Page 2

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.
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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.


He has continued ass-kicking in motocross and ski cross, in which he won a gold medal at the 2008 X Games. And he retains a competitive, young-blood level of fitness. His face might betray a few creases not there a decade ago, but his body still has the ironclad solidity of a walking, blond wood-burning stove.


Even so, it might seem a bit quixotic—even crazy—for a guy approaching middle age to throw his body into the ski-cross grinder. But look who’s there as his teammate: fellow thirty-something parent and former U.S. teammate Casey Puckett, a ski cross veteran who finished fourth in the 2009 World Cup standings.

The relative brevity of the ski cross season is one reason guys with pater-familias responsibilities can even consider it. “The fact that the season is only three months helps,” says the 37-year-old Puckett. “That leaves nine months to spend a lot of love on my daughters.” It’s nothing like the almost year-round training and racing regimen of a World Cup racer.

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