Alumnus Puckett's Return to U.S. Ski Team Featured in Aspen Times
Four-time Olympian and U.S. Alpine Ski Team alumnus and 2010 skicross Olympian Casey Puckett recently concluded a collective nine years of coaching Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club (AVSC) athletes, returning to the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team as head technical coach for the women's Europa Cup team. Austin Colbert, from the Aspen Times, recently caught up with Casey to talk about his return to U.S. Ski & Snowboard.
Casey coached two-time Olympian Alice McKennis her first two years of FIS at AVSC, and at their recent on-snow camp at Official Training Site Copper Mountain, Colo., Alice had a nickname for Casey—"Five Time". As the Aspen Times stated, "This required an explanation for the younger U.S. national team skiers, as they weren’t all too familiar with Puckett’s past, which includes an impressive World Cup career and five Olympic appearances."
As head women's coach Paul Kristofic said following the Copper camp, “A big target for this camp was the introduction of Casey Puckett as the Europa Cup coach, as he was leading the entire group since [World Cup Tech Team Head Coach] Magnus [Andersson] wasn’t there, so it was a chance for him to work with those athletes for the first time, work with Katie [Twible] for the first time, and get to know everybody."
“It says something about AVSC when the U.S. team is actively recruiting coaches from the club. It just shows you the level of coaches we have here,” Puckett said. “We have such a good group of kids here and they are a lot of fun to work with. They work hard and they are fast. It’s going to be hard to leave those guys. I’m going to miss them. But I think it will be good to move to this next level and see what’s out there.”
Puckett’s main job with U.S. Ski and Snowboard this season will be to help develop young skiers such as AJ Hurt, Katie Hensien and Alix Wilkinson. McKennis, a two-time Olympian from New Castle, is primarily a World Cup speed skier and won’t directly work with Puckett.
The Europa Cup team is a newer creation made by U.S. alpine director Jesse Hunt, who took over the role in 2018. Hunt was actually one of Puckett’s coaches back when he was an athlete, and it was Hunt who reached out to Puckett to bring him on as a national team coach. While the Europa Cup and North American Cup are deemed to be the same level on paper, in reality the Europa Cup is a step up from Nor-Ams and success there will make it easier for U.S. athletes to make the jump to the World Cup.
“If you are not going to that series and paying attention to that level, then it’s a little bit more difficult to make the step to the World Cup. His motto is to win at every level, so he hired me to come help do that,” Puckett said of Hunt. “You don’t often get a call from the U.S. team to coach. If I would have passed it by, it may not have been there again, so I went for it.”
Up next for Casey and the Europa Cup team will be an on-snow camp at Official Training Site Timberline Lodge & Ski Area in Oregon.