Ski Resort Life

Collision Course

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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This we know about Daron Rahlves: He is the most accomplished American downhill racer of all time. A competitive streak runs so deep in his system that
it’s like a thread spun directly into his chromosomal helix.

But can that explain why a 36-year-old father of 2-year-old twins would subject himself to the often violent rigors of ski cross, the newest sport—some would say “blood sport”—on this winter’s Olympic agenda? He already has a hall-of-fame résumé. What else is there to prove?

Ski cross is part racing, part jousting and part extreme cage-fighting, and when things go wrong—as they often do, with four guys knocking heads at close quarters and at high speeds—people get hurt. Yet for Rahlves, ski cross represents perhaps one last chance to succeed in the single racing arena where he has fallen flat: the Olympics. In seven races, he’s never finished better than seventh.

Racing fans might think they recall Rahlves retiring in 2006 after a gloried career in which he won 12 World Cups, one World Championship and seven national titles. They would be mistaken. Rahlves insists he never retired but instead went into “transition.”

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