Silver Belt Banzai: Favorites Daron Rahlves and Errol Kerr 1-2 after day one qualifying
Race skis at 130mm underfoot? Avi beacons as part of a ski racing setup? Crazy, sure. But that just might be the best word to describe day one of the Silver Belt Banzai at Sugar Bowl resort today.A progressive event coupling the energy and tactics of ski-cross with the action and excitement of a traditional downhill race, according to Sugar Bowls official press release, the action in day one of the competition lived up to the hype.With close to two feet of fresh snow blanketing the ungroomed course which followed the natural terrain features of Sugar Bowls Silver Belt Gully practice runs and racer inspection felt more like powder laps with buddies than any real pre-race training.But as the main event got underway, with competitors launching themselves one at a time down the now choppy and hazardous course in flat light with wind gusts easily topping 30 miles per hour at times the laid-back vibe took on a more competitive feel.With approximately 75 to 80 registered racers in all divisions mens and womens ski and snowboard, as well as juniors categories as well the struggle to make the top 24 and move on to tomorrows finals heats was intense.Not everything was crazy about the race though, as local ski-cross racers and favorites Daron Rahlves and Errol Kerr threw down blistering sub-one-minute runs to claim the top two spots in tomorrows heats.The gnarly course even reminded Rahlves of sections of the legendary Kitzbhel downhill and the leg-burn it induces in racers. A feeling that was shared by all in the field.But despite the untypical race course conditions, competitors were unanimously stoked by the deep snow and the chance to take on the Silver Belt Gully.Read on for Qandamp;As with competitors Daron Rahlves, Errol Kerr, Jackie Paaso and Scott Murray.
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Sierra Sun: What were the conditions like out there?Rahlves: It was really rough and bumpy. It was one of the most wild rides Ive ever had. You try to skip off these bumps and get more speed every time. You double something or gap something and then you come to a huge whooped-out section… It was so tiring because youre just pounding the whole way down. But I think conditions were ideal. Its going to be so fun tomorrow. If we get a little more snow tonight were going to have perfect conditions for the comp tomorrow.SS: So how will your strategy change when you start going in six-man heats in tomorrows finals?Rahlves: With this much snow, one thing thats tough is dealing with that smoke screen that blows off the guy in front of you. Thats going to make it super tough to negotiate all the terrain correctly. I think youre going to see even more carnage tomorrow… But its a blast. There are a lot of people out here smiling, having a good time. Were getting a good buzz and energy here today. Im stoked that Sugar Bowl and Red Bull stepped up and made this happen because I was pretty much fighting for it since last summer, and Rob Kautz, CEO of Sugar Bowl, the Ski Patrol, everybody just got behind it. And then we got Red Bull to step in and become the title sponsor for it.I think its a really unique race. And todays solo runs gives a little taste of whats going to happen. But its a whole different deal tomorrow.
Sierra Sun: It looked like you barely got to scout the course this morning?Kerr: Yeah, I got here a little late so I just got one inspection run and then had to go full-throttle the entire way. I think I went the wrong way at the split [and spot in the course where racers had the option to go one of two different ways around a ridge], so Im going to fix that tomorrow and get a feel for it.SS: How do you like these conditions out here?Kerr: This new snow is good. Without the new snow, I dont think I would be racing. Actually, Im sure I wouldnt.SS: What do you think tomorrow will be like with other racers on the course at the same time?Kerr: Youre going to want to be in front. If youre not, theres going to be a smoke screen and youre not going to see the bumps and youre going to take your knee to your chin really hard. So I think the key will be to get the hole shot, and if you dont do that, somehow find a way to get X-ray vision and get er done. Either that or watch the guy in front of you go too fast and explode. There could be that side of it too.
Sierra Sun: What brought you out to this competition today?Paaso: I dont really do skier-cross, but the all-natural event sounded like fun. And I like moguls, so I thought Id try it out.SS: How was the racing?Paaso: Its a leg-burner. Its a little scary with the bad light you cant really see what bumps are coming up. But its still fun.SS: Can you describe the conditions up here for our readers who didnt get out today?Paaso: This morning there was so much snow that everyone was getting stuck on the course. But the more it got skied-out, the more certain areas turned into random bumps and drops. So the course is difficult in the flat light, youll end up dropping off something and ending up on the face of another mogul. And there are a couple of turns and compressions that hopefully you see when you get there. But its fun. That all makes it interesting.
Sierra Sun: What convinced you to enter this race today?Murray: Ive always heard about it… and I havent been passed lately, so I feel confident. Maybe a little over confident, but Im trying not to be. But in this situation, Im just thinking about getting down as fast as possible from point A to point B.SS: Have you seen anyone else out here on tele skis?Murray: I havent seen anyone else on teles on the course, but they kind of come out of the woodwork at the last minute. There are some rippers out there, all over the lake.SS: So whats your goal for today?Murray: Keep em sunny side up. [He says, laughing.] I crashed twice in inspection going too fast, so now I know how to taper my speed a little bit. And I just want to make it to tomorrow. SS: What do you think of these conditions today?Murray: I love em. Bring it on. Make it harder, make it stronger, more people in front of you… that would be great. Im an ex-hockey player so I want it to be a burley as possible.
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