Ski Resort Life

Collision Course, Page 4

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.

That history also gives rise to a controversy peculiar to the event: What’s fair to wear? Originally billed as “anti-racing racing”—bucking the supposedly stale traditions of alpine competition—cross eschewed skin-tight Lycra in favor of baggy freeride wear. Early crossers felt that, while the extra material was less aerodynamic, it was important to make a symbolic sartorial stand. They wanted to represent a hypercool freeskiing hardcore, not some racer-geek fringe. Cross was racing with a freeride aesthetic.

But as cross has edged into the competitive mainstream, outfits have moved steadily—perhaps predictably—toward tighter, more aerodynamic designs. In theory, there is a pinch rule—suits should be loose enough that, when pinched, a healthy amount of material can be held between forefinger and thumb. But many athletes flout the limits.
In the spirit of original standards, the Americans have favored loose-fitting attire, disdaining the snug suits worn by French athletes in particular as being borderline unsportsmanlike, though they stop short of calling anyone cheaters. But it seems almost monumentally silly to insist on clothing standards conceived not with something sensible like function or safety in mind, but rather to make a lifestyle statement.

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