Over the weekend the third and final event in the Rahlves Banzai Series took place at Sugar Bowl, CA. The Silver Belt Banzai race went down on March 12-13 and competitors and spectators alike came out in force despite variable snow and weather conditions. Basically a skiercross down natural terrain, the Rahlves Banzai’s are a unique type of race showcasing the challenging natural terrain of the area and talents of the skiers and snowboarders who participate.
This inaugural season of the Rahlves Banzai series, created by four-time Olympian turned big mountain freeskier Daron Rahlves, was a ski tour of epic proportions. The tour was created to “build off the success of the last two Silver Belt Banzai’s and take it to other cool places like Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood,” said Rahlves. The Beaver Bowl Banzai at Alpine Meadows and the Eagle Bowl Banzai at Kirkwood took place earlier this season. Each stop in the series featured a $10,000 cash prize purse with an additional $10,000 in prize money for the overall tour winners. Daron Rahlves had opted out of competing in the three tour stops, acting instead as ambassador, promoter, forerunner, and coach, leaving the door open for others to win.
The events at Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood were clearly a success with as many as 200 hundred competitors filling the Men’s and Women’s Ski and Snowboard Divisions. The venues provided challenging terrain for the racers and, equally as important, excellent viewing for spectators. Hundreds of spectators came out for each event reveling not only in the head to head off-piste skicross racing action but also the fun and festive atmosphere of the event. Prior to the racing over the weekend, Rahlves was pleased with how the series had gone so far, saying that the success of the first two stops had “already exceeded my expectations.” Having only forerun the courses and done some follow-cam work at the two earlier Banzai events it was clear that Rahlves was fired up to race for all the marbles in the Super Final of the Banzai Series.
The Banzai Series is an especially cool event because it attracts all types of skiers. Jamaica Ski Team’s Errol Kerr and former U.S. freestyler Shelly Robertson are mixing it up with professional freeskiers like Blake Nyman and local Tahoe rippers whom you’ve probably never heard of. Ex racers, big mountain competition skiers, and average Joe’s all had a chance to win big in an event like this.
On Saturday competitors brought their “A” games and threw down blistering qualifying runs in the Silver Belt Gully. Third place Men’s qualifier Greg Lindsey said, “The course was super fast, super rugged, it really tested everyone’s limits.” Things got really interesting on Sunday under grey skies with very poor visibility and intermittent wet snowfall as the top qualifiers went head to head, 4 at a time, with hopes of making it to the final round.
When all was said and done, Squaw Valley ripper Greg Lindsey claimed the coveted Silver Belt Buckle taking first for the men followed by Kyle Smaine, Errol Kerr, and George Hjelte rounding out the top 4. Shannon Rahlves took top honors for the ladies for the third year in a row followed closely by Keely Kelleher, Hannah Jermstad, and Quincy Young finishing 4th. Marcus Caston and Shannon Rahlves were rewarded for their consistency and claimed a little extra cash and the overall titles as Banzai Champions for the Men and Women respectively.
Rahlves finally got his chance to shine when he took on the Men’s Ski division winners from all three stops in a winner take all, dash for the cash, Super Final for $10,000. The Super Final took place Sunday afternoon and Daron Rahlves took on Marcus Caston, John Bochenek, and Greg Lindsey. Not surprisingly, Daron Rahlves, the most decorated male downhiller in U.S. history, raced to victory over the other three Banzai champions. After finishing second to Daron in today’s Super Final, Greg Lindsey said that he did everything he could but, “That guy is incredibly fast.” Greg’s statement is a confirmation of something that most of us already knew, but only a few had the guts to learn firsthand.
For more information go to: www.rahlvesbanzai.com