Collision Course, Page 3

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.

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.


But then why should anything ski cross–related make clear sense? At the threshold of its Olympic debut, it’s an event tangled in an identity crisis of still-unresolved growing pains—an inchoate concept informed as much by matters of opinion as by well-defined standards.


At the core of its appeal is the pure simplicity of head-to-head competition—first man to the finish wins. But not so fast: Course design, rules, clothing and even the name of the sport itself are spread across a complex matrix of differing points of view.


Take the name, for starters. International Ski Federation (FIS) officials, with the zeal of a company protecting against trademark infringement, insist the name is “ski cross.” They bristle at the use of “skiercross,” and while the initialized SX is used in official FIS results, the abbreviated X is considered a bit sinister.

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