Olympic Appearances: 1998, 2002, 2006 (all alpine)
Trophy Room: Twelve alpine World Cup wins; three
alpine world championship medals; X Games skier cross
gold medal, 2008
Outlook: Rahlves made the switch from most decorated American downhill and super G skier in history to ski cross rookie in 2007, because, as he puts it “ski cross is
rowdy.” The next year he looked like a veteran of the sport with an X Games gold medal
around his neck. He now looks at 2010 to “dominate at X Games and battling Casey
Puckett in the ski cross final for the win.”
Extracurricular: When not on the course last season Rahlves was filming with MSP.
Check out the footage in this year’s film, “In Deep.” He also enjoys biking, swimming
and beach time with his wife and kids.
Hometown: Aspen, Colo.
Equipment Sponsors: Kjus, Atomic, Rooly, Carrera,
Olympic Appearances: 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002
Trophy Room: Two alpine national championships;
three ski cross World Cup podiums; X Games skier cross
gold medals 2004, 2007
GEPA (2); PE TER FOLEY/USSA (2)
Outlook: Like teammate Rahlves, Puckett paid his dues on the U.S. alpine team and
is now looking to reap some Olympic hardware on the ski cross track. “I love the speed,
the chaos, and the competitiveness of ski cross,” says the father of two. Puckett will look
to move up from his strong fourth place overall finish in last year’s World Cup race. His
goal is clear: “I would like to win gold in Vancouver.”
Extracurricular: Puckett will star in the upcoming documentary film “Appointment
in Vancouver,” which follows him into the sport’s Olympic debut. He also looks toward
some more camera time on “Dancing With the Stars” whenever the show calls. “I would
kill it,” says Puckett.
WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?
With just three months until ski cross debuts at the Vancouver Games,
the U.S. Ski Team has no named female ski cross racers. What gives?
“We have a women’s [ski cross] program, it’s just that no women have
met the objective criteria that’s in place to be named to the team,” says
coach Tyler Shepherd. “We’re not in a position right now to just name
people arbitrarily, by discretion, just because we want a women’s team.”
During the last two
seasons only two
American women have
given the World Cup a
real go. Langely Mc-Neal has logged nine
World Cup races over
the last two years,
her best performance
coming at Deer Valley
in 2008 with a 16th-
place finish. Since
then, she hasn’t finished above 23. Caitlin Ciccone tallied fiver World Cup
races last season but never finished better than 24th.
“It’s a huge battle for these women that are going to try to make it to
the Olympics,” says Shepherd. “First they have to do better than they’ve
ever done, earn quota spots that we don’t have right now and then meet
the Olympic criteria.”
The U.S. Freestyle Team currently holds 18 total quota spots for the
Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, meaning a female ski cross athlete
would have to prove, with World Cup points, that she deserves the spot
over an aerialist or mogul skier.
As proven by Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett, former alpine racers
are a natural fit for the sport. But Ciccone says that once many of her
fellow female racers retired from the alpine world, they’re done. Plus, she
says, there may not be enough support for some.
“There isn’t enough coaching and camps and all sorts of stuff like that
to get people into it,” says Ciccone, who is quick to credit Shepherd
for single-handedly running the team. “It’s really hard to go take trip to
Europe if you don’t have the financial backing.”
Ciccone, who managed to make her way to three European World Cup
races last season, is hosting a fundraiser Nov. 11 in New York in hopes of
raising enough money to gain some much needed experience.
“I really don’t know why more people aren’t into it,” says Ciccone. “With
all the crazy athletes in this country, and it’s kind of the American lifestyle.
I look at it like a new opportunity; it’s an exciting challenge.”
Shepherd says he believes the Olympic exposure will get some American speedsters thinking about the sport. “After this Olympics I think
people will start to see the ski cross medal holds as much weight as any
other Olympic medal,” he says. “We have to stop looking at ski cross
as an offshoot event. We have to start feeding athletes into the sport as
Who does Shepherd have his eyes on for the future of American women’s ski cross? Who do you think? “With Julia’s ability in free skiing and her
natural ability in terrain she would be a natural in ski cross,” says Shepherd of Julia Mancuso. “Lindsey Vonn would be phenomenal because she
is just so fast anyway and she’s a competitive person, so obviously she’d