High speed chase
Former World Cup ski racer Daron Rahlves has one speed: fast. Since retiring from the World Cup in 2006, Rahlves has not slowed down. He won a gold medal in ski cross at the 2008 X Games, filmed video segments for Warren Miller, Matchstick Productions and Teton Gravity Research, and for the last three years, he's hosted the Rahlves Banzai Tour, a big mountain ski/boarder cross race series he founded at four Lake Tahoe ski areas. We caught up with Rahlves at his home in Tahoe to talk about the highlights of his past winter and why, for the first time in nearly a decade, he had to hit the brakes and bow out of his annual spring trip to Alaska.
Another winter is in the books. What was the highlight of your season?
The highlight of my season was definitely returning to Kitzbühel to forerun the Hahnenkamm downhill that I won 10 years ago. That track is the ultimate challenge -- two minutes of hardcore in-your-face downhill. With no training I was nervous, but I skied it solid and felt pretty good. It helped having some flashbacks. I had my former ski tech in the start gate with me. He handed me my skis, slapped me on the back and said, 'Get it On!' Emotionally that was a big deal to be back in the start gate, let alone at the Hahnenkamm.
This was the third season of the Rahlves Banzai Tour. What was the highlight of this year's race series?
We had the best Banzai course we've had to date at Kirkwood this year. The start was really intimidating -- a good 20 feet of almost vert dropping straight into the bowl. Then the course went into some big wide open turns and good hits in the middle section before finishing with a full-on banked slalom. I'm always trying to find a nice flowy route down the mountain where you can use natural terrain features to kill speed. I don't want to see speed checking. I want to see racers shut down speed by choosing the right line.
The Banzai race at Squaw Valley in March had to be the low point of your season. Tell us what happened at Squaw.
I was putting the hammer down in my qualifying run and went into a gate a little too straight. I hit a hole the wrong way, got thrown into a spill and dislocated my hip again.
How many times have you dislocated your hip?
I've done it six times. The first time was in 1998, then again in 2000 and 2002. Then I had eight years where I went through the best part of my career with no injuries. But then it happened again in 2010, 2011 and now this year. I used to think it was a freak accident. I would just rehab, get strong and come back from it without surgery. But this sixth time I knew something was wrong. Now I've been talking to doctors about what else I can do to help repair the problem.
So with the injury you decided to pull out from an Alaska trip and not film with TGR this season?
Yeah, that was a really hard decision to make. My whole winter ramps up to go ski with TGR in Alaska each spring. At first I was thinking I could recover from this and go to AK, but I'm dealing with something that has been reoccurring, and if something does go wrong out there, I'm hosed. If your femur stays out of the socket for more than a couple hours you lose blood flow to the joint, which can lead to degeneration. So it just wasn't worth it this year. Better to be safe, figure out this problem and work on getting strong for next year. I want to be running around and skiing with my kids when I'm 80. I'm only halfway there.