Ever wonder what it might be like to challenge an Olympic skier on a downhill run? That opportunity could come in March. And the man to beat is none other than U.S. Olympian Daron Rahlves.
The Daron Rahlves’ 2013 Banzai Tour culminates with five people racing down a steep, edgy, roller-coaster type terrain at Sugar Bowl ski resort on March 9-10.
The skiers will not only have the chance to defeat Rahlves and three others in the finals; the winner takes home a sweet $10,000 check that will make this one extremely memorable day.
The Banzai Tour also is a competition that includes snowboarders as well. There is a men’s and women’s competition in both snowboarding and skiing. The total purse for the Banzai Tour is $80,000. Competitors must be aged 18-above.
The Banzai Tour showcases racing in its purest form: four competitors at one time going head-to-head over natural terrain in ski- and boarder-cross-style action at four Lake Tahoe ski resorts. There are qualifying heats at each venue where money prizes are awarded to the top finishers that particular weekend.
“What’s so unique about this race is every-day rippers line up against pro-level athletes and have a shot at the title of Rahlves Banzai champ,” said Rahlves, who has captured first place at the first two Banzai finals. “It’s a competition among competitors. But ultimately, it’s against the mountain.”
The Banzai Tour is spread out over four weekends, starting Saturday and running through March 10 at four ski resorts — Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl.
“There’s no other race like this. So much can go wrong out there. Anyone can win,” said Marcus Caston of Utah, one of last year’s top skiers who earned $1,900.
It’s not necessary to compete in all four events to earn a place in the men’s ski finals against Rahlves, a Lake Tahoe skiing product. Skiers need to win at one of the following locations below to earn a spot in the finals. If there is a repeat winner, the top second-place finisher will be awarded a slot in the finals.
In last year’s 2012 qualifying run, Rahlves took first place and was followed by Casey Riva of Telluride.
“Competing against Daron was pretty surreal,” Riva said. “I was in the starting gate right next to Rahlves and when the gate dropped my only thought was, ‘Whoa, he is fast.’ I was able to make up a bunch of ground to make it a close finish, but it was challenging coming from the third position. I look forward to trying my luck again next season.”
Rahlves was a decorated downhill skier who had 12 World Cup victories and was a familiar figure on the U.S. ski team with four Olympic appearances. He ended his competitive career by competing in skicross during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Rahlves’ career record includes seven U.S. National titles and 28 World Cup podiums. His biggest victory came in 2003 when he won the prestigious Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel, Austria
During each of the Banzai Tour stops, High Fives Foundation will host a Saturday après ski party from 3-6 p.m. Spectators, competing athletes and fans are invited. The après ski parties are sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
The official Banzai Tour kick-off party will be Thursday at Hacienda del Lago, 760 Lake Tahoe Blvd., in Tahoe City. The public is welcome to attend.
The evening will benefit the High Fives Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes who have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.
Banzai Tour dates:
Saturday and Sunday: Kirkwood Mountain Resort
Feb. 9-10: Alpine Meadows
March 2-3: Squaw Valley
March 9-10: Sugar Bowl
Registration is still open at all four ski resorts. Visit www.rahlvesbanzai.com for details and to register.