Banzai ski race organized by World Cup legend Daron Rahlves returns
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — The “ultimate test of ski and riding skills” is back at Lake Tahoe.
Rahlves’ Banzai Tour returns to Kirkwood Mountain Resort Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 26-27, and Sugar Bowl Resort on March 5-6.
The race, which began in 2009 in its current incarnation, takes cues from the Silver Belt Race, which was first held at Sugar Bowl in the 1940. The Banzai Tour includes skiers and snowboarders charging down wide-open courses over natural terrain four at a time.
Qualifying heats take place on Saturday during the tour stops and rounds of 16 are on Sunday of each weekend.
Registration is open to anyone over 18 years old, and participants may find themselves rubbing elbows with world-class talent, including organizer and former World Cup ski racer Daron Rahlves.
“To me, it’s the most pure form of racing,” said Rahlves, a Truckee resident. “It’s who’s the fastest to the bottom.”
Lake Tahoe-area resorts have great terrain for the free-wheeling, high-speed races, and the snow should hold up for competitors this year, Rahlves said.
The events provide plenty of opportunities for spectators to catch a piece of the action, although people need lift access to get the best views.
“Once people see it, they get really interested and want to watch,” Rahlves said.
The Banzai has included as many as four stops in the past, but following a few low-snow years, Rahlves said the event is going through a rebuilding process. New sponsors including Deschutes Brewery, Giro and Clif Bar have kept the event going this year.
He encouraged skiers and riders to enter the event, noting looks can be deceiving.
“It seems a lot more intimidating than actually is,” Rahlves said.
Or, put more succinctly, “I don’t like excuses.”
Rahlves said his dream is to get local talent up against a full slate of world-class athletes at the Banzai because area residents could give some of the professionals a run for their money considering the format and their local knowledge.
Competitions around the globe sometimes prevent pros from showing up, he added. Regardless, the event is a great way to get the ski and snowboard community together. Each of the two stops will have bar crawls the night before the events as a way to build excitement for the races and rally snow enthusiasts.
“It’s just a way to have some fun,” Rahlves said.
New this year is a Mini Banzai on a modified course for invited boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 12. The Mini Banzai takes place on the first day of competition at each stop.
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Students frustrated at the cancellation of sports waved signs and delivered speeches at a Truckee High School protest in an attempt to return to the field this year.