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.

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It’s been a Winter X Games sport since 1998, but this year marks the Olympic premiere of skiercross, rechristened by the Olympics as “ski cross.” When snowboard cross (which everyone but the Olympics knows as boardercross), the sport’s single-planked sibling, was introduced at the 2006 Torino Games, it brought a grisly but telegenic mix of medal-blowing crashes, friendship-ending collisions, and pelvis injuries. Ski cross promises to be just as exciting/terrible. The rules are simple: First one down the minutelong course of tabletops, jumps, spines, and bank turns wins. There are no style points, no Russian judges for sale, and no second chances. The top two finishers from each four-person heat move on to the next round. Contact is technically illegal, but that doesn’t stop racers from throwing elbows on the sly. The Canadians were dominant in World Cup races last winter, but the Austrian, American, and Swiss teams should give them some competition.

Ones to Watch: The Veterans, Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett. 

The entire American team is made up of two former ski racers, Daron Rahlves (bottom) and Casey Puckett, who already have seven trips to the Olympics between them. Rahlves is the most successful American male super-G and downhill racer ever, and now he’s officially America’s best shot at ski-cross gold. Puckett is a four-time Olympic racer who switched to ski cross in 2003. “I believe Casey and Daron are the best skiers on the hill,” says Tyler Shepherd, the head coach of the U.S. Ski Cross Team, “but with ski cross anything can happen.”

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