Dear Ski Cross. Welcome to the Olympics

The U.S. Ski Cross Team consists of two guys: Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett, both retired ski racers. We caught up with them while they were training in Telluride in preparation for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Ski Cross

What do alpine ski racers do after they’ve been to the Olympics, won World Cup races and National Championships, had a couple of kids and reached their late 30s with knees that still work? Retire? Not exactly.

Skiing celebs Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett did retire. From racing. But then a new kind of race started to gain momentum: ski cross. Sort of like a Chinese downhill, or roller derby on the snow, ski cross lured both men back into the starting gate to compete at the X Games and the Jeep King of the Mountain tour. And now that ski cross is debuting at the Winter Olympics this February in Vancouver, Puckett and Rahlves have found themselves back on the U.S. Ski Team, this time as the team’s oldest members. “I’m actually older than my coach,” laughs Puckett. “And I’m older than my ski technicians.”

It’s not just age, but experience that put Rahlves and Puckett at the front of the pack. Both athletes say that their race experience and knowing how to handle speed helps with ski cross. Rahlves says, “The first objective is to try and get out of the start as fast as you can, so you have the lead and you can run the line that’s the fastest, the optimal line.”

Looking at the course they are training on in Telluride right now, it’s hard to see any similarity between ski cross and its more genteel predecessor, alpine racing. It looks almost like an obstacle course, with impossibly-tight banked turns and menacing jumps. Four skiers race at a time, elbow to elbow, at an average speed of 65 mph and it seems inevitable that someone will crash. Sixty-five miles per hour. You’d want more than just a helmet and a bib—you’d want an airbag.

There is one thing that ski cross and alpine racing have in common: the rush. Ski cross gives Puckett and Rahlves that same feeling that alpine racing did, the headiness of going so fast that you weave in and out of control, at the absolute threshold of your ability and just outside of your safe zone. Puckett’s infamous crash last year at Grindelwald (check out the You Tube clip of that crush) is a reminder of just how steep the consequences can be, but as seasoned racers, they try to use the adrenaline buzz to their advantage. “Am I still nervous in the starting gate? Sure,” says Puckett. “You don’t want to step in the gate and not be nervous. You want to have some butterflies, but you just want to make sure they’re flying in formation.”

You can follow Rahlves and Puckett’s Olympic bid at


Ski Cross

Guide to the Olympics: Ski Cross

Welcome to the throwdown, year one, also known as ski cross. A Winter X Games event since 1998, ski cross premieres this year as an event in the Winter Olympics. If you are wondering about gold, make sure to watch the two former ski racers, Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett, participating in the event.

Caitlin Ciccone in Action

Olympic Athlete to Watch: Caitlin Ciccone

A year and a half ago, American ski racer Caitlin Ciccone quit racing for good. Or so she thought. Now with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics around the corner, she’s trying to make the U.S. Women’s Ski Cross team. That is, if she can raise enough money to go to the Games.

Lindsey Vonn World Cup Crash

Making Olympic Ski Racing Safer

If charging down a super G course doesn't scare you, it should. After a rash of early season injuries, officials re-examined how race courses are designed, making the Olympic slopes safer—maybe.

she jumpers

Women's Ski Jumpers vs. the Olympics, Round II

Why aren't the female ski jumpers allowed to compete at the Olympics?

"We're number 1! We're number 1!" Cheerleader Dave Barry sis-boom-bahs over Blackcomb.

Olympic Countdown: Local Whistler Athletes to Watch

Only 28 days let until the 2010 Winter Olympics head to Whistler and Vancouver. This video podcast from Whistler Blackcomb looks at some local Whistler-area athletes, including ski cross athlete Julia Murray, daughter of famous Canadian downhill skier Dave Murray, Maelle Ricker, a snowboard cross athlete, and halfpipe snowboarder Justin Lamoureux, who reflects on his experiences at the last Winter Olympic Games in Torino and what it means for him to compete on home soil.

Jean-Baptiste Grange

Winter Olympics Event Calendar

Whether you're heading to Vancouver to watch the Olympics or just tuning in from your TV, we've got a schedule of the events you don't want to miss from February 12-28. And if you are traveling to watch the Games live, we've got some helpful pointers on where and when to eat, ski, and party.

Tessa from France

A Chat with French Ski Racer Tessa Worley

Snow King Resort—Jackson, Wyoming’s town ski hill—is camp to some of France’s Olympic ski racers, who are training out of the public eye until the technical ski events begin in Vancouver. We chatted with French racer and first-time Olympian Tessa Worley, who'll be competing in the GS in Whistler, after some morning training runs about lucky underwear, cowboys, the English word for pick-up truck.

Daron Rahlves

The Hahnenkamm: Super Bowl of Ski Racing

Reggie Crist reflects and Daron Rahlves prepares for the gnarliest downhill race on the planet.