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SKIING's interview with Daron Rahlves, one of North America's top 25 skiers.

Name: Daron Rahlves

Age: 27

Current hill: Sugar Bowl, CA (I'm the ski ambassador there...)

Claims to fame: Daron is a downhill, super G, and GS racer, and a member of the US Ski Team's A-team. Last March, he won two World Cup downhills within 24 hours in Kvitfjell, Norway. He's also won four skiercross competitions in the past two years, including the World Ski & Snowboard Festival in Whistler. Daron is also a three-time U.S. champion (once in super G, twice in GS).

On early skiing: I learned to ski in the Sierras, and my parents met in Aspen. We spent every Christmas there. I started skiing in Squaw when I was three. We were weekend warriors. I really grew up skiing, though, at Alpine. I joined the ski team to find buddies to ski with. I got into racing at 12.

On freeskiing: Freeskiing is really why I love skiing, and why I got into the sport. Racing came a bit later. It's such a fun way to test yourself. I like trying to be the fastest up there on the mountain. I like to push myself... to get that big rush. It's all about fun.

How did it feel to win back to back World Cups? The best thing that came out of that was knowing that I have what it takes to win at that level, on the World Cup. I've committed most of my life to taking it all the way in skiing. It was the best feeling I've had in my life -- that I'm the best guy in the world. The first day was amazing; the second day showed that I had what it takes. When I find my zone, I have what it takes. I'm hard to beat.

What are your goals for this year? I'm taking it week by week. I obviously want to win more races and to finish on the podium more. My big goal? I'd love to win at Beaver Creek and get Americans pumped on ski racing. We've always been in the shadow of the Europeans. My biggest dream? To win the Kitzbühel downhill and the Hahnenkamm. That's eternal fame.

What about 2002? That's a long way away. I think about the Olympics a lot, though. It's the biggest opportunity. It's close to home. It's going to be unreal. The ultimate would be to win at Snowbasin in 2002.

How do you feel about people always talking about how small you are for a downhiller? Does size matter? There's most definitely nothing I can do about it. I'm built this way. Still, pound for pound I'm as strong or stronger than anyone on the World Cup.

What kind of course do you like?The fun downhills are the technical ones, like "Birds of Prey." I like downhills that push your limits, courses that don't give you any time to rest. I like courses that offer -- from top to bottom -- big jumps, the chance to catch lots of air, and big turns that make you feel super-dynamic where you feel the speed and the course coming at you. Any time you can just glide in a straight line, that's not fun to me. I like to push on my skis, feel the power build up, and get thrown out of the turns.

Any pets? Two black labs: Decoy and Tule.

Favorite food: Steak

Beverage of choice: Water, Mountain Dew, and when I want to go out and rage, I grab a Red Bull and vodka.

Music: Lots of different kinds. It depends on my mood.

Car: A black Dodge Ram pickup, circa 1996.

Last book you read: Lord of the Flies

Ski hero: Shane McConkey -- he's the best skier there is. The guy is sick.

Extracurricular activities: Surfing and motorcycles. I have a '97 Harley FatBoy and a Honda CR 250 dirt bike. Any time I'm at home, I'm on that thing. Friends come over, I fire up the bike, and we go out to track and battle.

Have you been in any ski movies? No, but I'm planning on it.

What about a love interest? I have a girlfriend -- she's a pro snowboarder. She kills the halfpipe. I just got her skis and boots, though.

What's going on with skiercrross?I've been doing skiercrosses for the last two years, in the spring. I've done five in all -- I won four, and got second in the other. I like racing head to head especially with fun terrain and jumps. That's my style of skiing.

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