Words by Greg Fitzsimmons
Photo by Dave Reddick
We’ve heard it all before about Daron Rahlves: America’s most decorated Super G and Downhill skier, an abundance of World Cup wins, Super G World Champion, Winter X Games gold medalist, winner of the legendary Hahnenkamm Downhill and now big-time ski-film star (with killer segments in MSP films and TGR’s “Light The Wick”). But before sitting down with Rahlves in Portillo’s picturesque lobby to talk about last year and, more importantly, what’s to come, I had no clue that despite logging more time atop World Cup podiums than any other countrymen and flashing high-speed, big-mountain lines that would leave most full-throttle ski pros puckered, Rahlves has schussed through his career sans ego.
So, what did last year hold for Rahlves and what’s on tap as the weather drops, leaves start to change, and ski season quickly approaches? Rahlves and I caught up in the southern hemisphere to discuss.
Rahlves’s 2010 can be edited into a crash reel of highlights. He was escorted off of the Skier Cross course at Winter X in the Ski Patrol’s toboggan, after crashing during the technical rhythm section and dislocating his hip. The chance of taking home an X Games medal obviously blew up when he crashed, but Rahlves devoted his energy towards an expedited recuperation and recovered in a mere 21 days to compete in the Vancouver Olympics. Unfortunately, he got clipped by a French skier cross racer during the semifinal qualifying race, preventing the four-time Olympian from reaching the podium in what most expected to be his final Olympics.
Bruised and battered, Daron didn’t disappear with his tail between his legs post-Vancouver. “I got off of the racing circuit and was pretty excited to jump into the freeskiing scene,” says Rahlves. “I met up with the TGR guys on their trip to Alaska, and I was definitely impressed. They have their shit together…” Nightly meetings to discuss the next day’s objectives, meticulously planned details, and a world-class team of pro skiers, film crew and staff, and guides made an impression on Daron. The best part? TGR brought Daron along with Ian McIntosh, Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, and Seth Morrison to Petersburg, Alaska to scope some brand new, mind-blowing terrain. “The cool thing about Petersburg is that we had the run of the mill. There wasn’t any competition between crews like there always is in Haines,” says Rahlves. “Ian, Sage, and Seth had been there for three weeks and had already picked their lines so I landed a line that was pretty aggressive [but none of them wanted].”
Sticking with the 2010 motif, Rahlves ended up crashing; however, this one will go down with some of the all-time tomahawks. While flashing a super-steep spine in his typical style, Daron sloughed off a large amount of snow to expose frozen rock underneath, and started to tumble. “It was the nastiest crash I’ve had freeskiing,” he remembers, “I still feel it today.”
Like The Dream Team and Guns N’ Roses, the TGR crew eventually split up: Seth flew to Chamonix and Ian got injured and headed home, leaving Sage and Daron to have their way with the untouched Alaskan terrain. “It was a funky year up there with thin snow and guys dinged up. But if everything goes right you can go out there with only two guys and crush it,” says Rahlves. “I didn’t really have any of those classic AK runs where you get to the bottom and feel like lightning bolts are coming out of your fingers, but I had a lot of fun skiing with Sage. I started looking at things differently skiing with him, he’s super versatile and creative.”
You’ll see it soon in TGR’s new flick, but Rahlves’s first-hand explanation of a massive crevasse gap that was sessioned in AK is one for the ages (see the photo in Powder’s October 2010 issue). “I was on top of this line with Sage and looked over to see him loosening up, swinging side to side like he was preparing to spin over this thing. ‘What are you thinking?’ I asked him. He downplayed it and didn’t let on to what he was about to throw.” In the end, Sage laced down the upper portion and boosted a “sick, sleepy 3” across the crevasse and stomped it. Rahlves was next to go and “did a straight-line air-type-of-thing over the crevasse,” nailed the landing, and claimed it. “I went for it on the next run, but got bucked going 62-mph (TGR has state-of-the-art technology that records the skiers’ speed), and started to roll in the air. I wish I had a little Sage, Tanner, or Pettit in me because then I would have tried to make a sweet flat spin out of it. I should anyways,” Daron says, laughing, “I couldn’t have crashed any harder.”
After his second big crash of the Alaska trip with TGR, Rahlves headed back to his Tahoe home, where he’ll be spending a lot of time this upcoming season. “There’s so much in Tahoe to explore, it has got a ton of adventure skiing. I was just introduced to the terrain between Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley, and I’m going to spend a lot of time around the guys that know that stuff,” says Rahlves. “There’s this cool ice-fall, double-stager back there that needs a big season to fill in, and I’m looking to bring some creativity to that type of stuff.” Rahlves smiles like a little kid as he says that, obviously stoked about the possibilities in his own backyard. “I’m just trying to line everything up, Jeremy Jones-style.”
However, competitive skiing is in Daron Rahlves’s DNA, and he will definitely be spending a bit of time in the starting gates. “Any chance we’ll see you back on the World Cup, or skiing in the Freeride World Tour?” I ask, hinting at how versatile America’s most decorated skier truly is. He eschews the direct question, but alludes to pulling a bib on in other venues. “The Skier Cross at X Games is such a fun track and awesome experience; I’m keeping that option open. But, I’m really excited about the Silver Belt Banzai at Sugar Bowl and the Banzai Series we’re putting together in Tahoe (at Alpine Meadows January 22-23, Kirkwood February 5-6, and Sugar Bowl March 12-13),” he answers. “Anybody can freeski, but the Banzai Series is all about how fast you want to do it. These are really fun events, the terrain is in its natural form, and we’ve got some prize money involved to make it worth it. All types of skiers are coming – racers, freeskiers, skier cross. Even, Steven Nyman is psyched to try to get there to compete after a World Cup event.”
With it all said and done (and to come), Daron Rahlves will be juggling between professional skiing and family time in 2011. His goal: “I want to step into the freeskiing world more and hang with the big guns. I’m hoping to pull together a good, fun season and spend lot of time skiing with my family in Tahoe.”
Check out other Season Recaps for:
Check the vids:
– X Games Crash
– Daron Rahvles in AK (from TGR) – sick footage of the fall that Daron describes
– Red Bull’s video from last year’s Silver Belt Banzai in Sugar Bowl
– Tahoe TV’s footage from Silver Belt Banzai