On a bus from Whistler to Vancouver, Daron Rahlves is talking sports: heli-skiing the day before, driving the green on a 300-something-yard hole in Arizona, an upcoming surfing trip to Costa Rica with his girlfriend. Waterskiing, fishing, mountain biking, motocross, whatever. When it comes to keeping in constant athletic motion-whether hurtling down the Kitzbühel downhill course at 80 miles an hour or scoring a tube off the coast of Central America--few human beings on Earth have got as much game as Daron Rahlves. And then, some days, no one can touch him. On one March weekend in Kvitfjell, Norway, last winter, Rahlves won back-to-back World Cup downhills."I know now that when I ski my best, I can be the best in the world," he told me afterward. "That's a good feeling."
It's a feeling that keeps on keeping on. On the morning of our bus ride-April 19, 2000-Rahlves has just come off a 10-grand payday for demolishing the field in a Whistler skiercross, which followed his resounding super G win at the U.S. national championships. But winning twice in Kvitfjell is what made Rahlves the man of the moment in ski racing. He'd never done better than 15th in any previous World Cup downhill, and then boom-two wins in a row.
Suddenly, Daron Rahlves was ski racing's rock star. "Girls were calling me all the time, leaving messages," he says. More telling was the appreciation from Austria's über-knowledgeable race fans. Training in Austria with Hermann Maier a week after Kvitfjell, Rahlves stole most of the Herminator's crowd-pleasing thunder. The congratulatory schnapps and beer flowed fast and hard. "I couldn't buy a drink," he says.
Maybe that's because everyone loves a winner. More likely, though, the Austrians see in Rahlves a new embodiment of the leather-tough downhill competitor, daring and borderline reckless. I'd have to agree. At a U.S. Ski Team camp in Beaver Creek a couple of years ago, Rahlves demonstrated for me how the separated pieces of his broken collarbone still moved independently whenever he raised his left arm, then headed up the hill for training runs.
You gotta love a guy like that.
Born: June 12, 1973
Home Ski Hill: Squaw Valley, California
Nicknames: D, Chach
Competitive Edge: Just before his Kvitfjell wins, Rahlves ripped up Squaw with Shane McConkey and Jonny Moseley. "We picked some big drops and fun straightlines."
Soul Searchings: "I don't paint my toenails or anything weird like that. I just like to clear my mind and enjoy being outside."
Results: 2 World Cup wins, 3 U.S. national titles, ranked 10th in the world in downhill, 10th in the world in super G, former world jet-ski champion.