USA Ski Cross thinking big for World Cup season


USA Ski Cross, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization run by Casey Puckett, supported elite-level ski cross athletes throughout the summer at Mount Hood. The organization now turns its attention to the upcoming World Cup season, as it invites supporters to attend several fundraising events over the next few months, starting with USA Ski Cross golf tournament at Killington Resort on October 6.
 
“After last year’s success from John Teller, Pat Duran, Joe Swensson and Langely McNeal, USA Ski Cross has big goals for 2012-13,” Puckett said. “We’d really like to have Teller (an X Games gold medalist) on the top of the podium, and we’d like to see Swensson, Duran and McNeal consistently in the top ten.  I’ve worked with these four athletes for the past two years now, and I know they can do it.

“We had a great camp at Mount Hood, continuing our collaboration with US Snowboarding and USSA,” says Puckett, who also coaches the athletes as his schedule allows. “The course at Mount Hood was challenging with large jumps and space that allowed the guys and gals to practice skiing in traffic next to other competitors, an essential skill for ski cross.”

The other main goal of USA Ski Cross is to continue building depth in the team, says Puckett.

“Joe Swensson is the perfect example of how a high-level alpine racer can develop into an elite ski cross athlete,” Puckett said. 

Before taking up the sport of ski cross, Swensson was a former Division 1 racer for Middlebury College and the Green Mountain Valley School. He was racing Europa Cup alpine events, on the verge of qualifying for the Alpine World Cup, when he got a call from Puckett and USA Ski Cross.

Puckett’s message to Swensson was clear: If you start racing ski cross, we’ll pay for your travel and expenses to the World Cup Ski Cross events. If you do well on the World Cup, you have a great shot at making the Olympics.

That was all it took for Swensson. He booked a trip to New Zealand to warm up by racing in the Australia/New Zealand Ski Cross Cup over the 2011 summer. In his first ever World Cup Ski Cross, Swensson finished 14th.  A few weeks later at St. Johann Austria, the biggest Ski Cross World Cup of the season, Swensson dropped a bomb on the competition when he qualified with the fastest time. Although he ended up 13th in the St Johann final, Swensson continued to quietly rack up top 20 finishes during the 2011-12 World Cup season.

Starting this year, every Ski Cross World Cup will be used to determine eligibility for the 2014 Olympic Games, so Swensson may get a shot to represent the U.S. in Sochi.

“One thing many people don’t realize is that World Cup Ski Cross athletes are generally not funded by USSA,” says Puckett, “While we work with that organization and they provide some support, it is our organization, USA Ski Cross, that buys those plane tickets and pays for hotel rooms for the elite athletes like Teller, Swensson and Duran. 

“Another thing people don’t know about USA Ski Cross is that we spend every dime we receive on the athletes. We don’t spend our donor’s money on our board members, on events, on press, or even on salaries (except for our ski technician), even though sometimes we should. I don’t get paid for my work as director. When people make a donation to USA Ski Cross, we use it to send elite U.S. athletes to the World Cups. We use it to give those athletes a shot at greatness while wearing the red white and blue. We really could use more help.”

USA Ski Cross hosts fundraising events throughout the year. They will be holding a golf tournament at Killington Resort on October 6, a gathering at Kutak Rock, LLP in Denver in November and a party at the Ski Cross World Cup in Telluride, taking place Dec. 11 to 13.

“Come play a round of golf with Swensson, Duran and me at Killington,” says Puckett, “It’s guaranteed to be a great time.”

Information can be found at www.killington.com/summer/golf_course/golf_tournaments. Or to make a donation to USA Ski Cross, send checks to: USA Ski Cross, P.O. Box 2044, Aspen CO 81612.

Cover Photo: USA Ski Cross
Story Photos: ESPN
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