Steamboat Springs A year off the U.S. Ski Team, Chris Puckett wanted to see if he still had what it took to compete against some of the country's best.
And he found out that he did when he won Wednesday's Holiday Classic giant slalom race, beating out U.S. Team members Jakub Fiala and Brett Fischer.
The Steamboat coach and former Olympian, who helped organized the series of International Ski Federation races in Steamboat this week, called up his former teammates and asked them to come to compete. The appearance of the top racers raise the curve in FIS points earned during the series, which helps younger competitors pick up more of the points used to rank skiers.
"What was really special was that Jake and Brett came to help out and beating those guys," Puckett said. "I haven't trained at all. I haven't skied all summer. It was nice to know I have enough to beat those guys."
On Mount Werner's See Me course under sunny conditions, Puckett won the first of the two giant slalom FIS races held this week. In a clean first run, Puckett turned in a time of 56.86, the best in a field of more than 100 competitors. In his second run, Puckett finished in 58.86 and ended the competition with a total time of 1:56.17
Although Puckett has raced in two other FIS competitions, this was the first time all season he has gone up against U.S. Team members.
"I felt confident I would ski well. I just didn't think I would beat those guys," Puckett said.
Fiala finished second with a combined time of 1:56.17 and Fischer finished third with a combined time of 1:56.46.
Puckett, who helped bring prize money to the Holiday Classic for the first time, will be rewarded for his efforts as he walks away with $300 in his pocket for winning Wednesday's events.
Teddy Berglund, who captured first place in Monday's slalom competition, had Steamboat's second best finish, placing sixth. With runs of 58.23 and 59.42, Berglund finished with a combined time of 1:57.65.
The racing continued Wednesday night with the Holiday Classic Steamboat Open held under the lights at Howelsen Hill, and it continues today with another giant slalom race. Today's races will be on Mount Werner with the first run at 10 a.m. and the second at 1 p.m.
The overall winner of the series will get the $500 prize.