Daron Rahlves, Jayson Hale claim wins in Alaska’s Arctic Man Classic | SierraSun.com

Daron Rahlves, Jayson Hale claim wins in Alaska’s Arctic Man Classic

Sylas Wright
swright@sierrasun.com
Truckee's Daron Rahlves kicks out of the start during a training run at the Arctic Man in Alaska. Rahlves paired up with X Games gold medalist snowmobiler Levi LaVallee to claim the men's ski victory.
Courtesy photo |

2016 Arctic Man Classic results

Men’s ski (top 5)

Skier or rider/snowmobiler

1. Daron Rahlves/Levi LaVallee

2. Scott Montalbo/Scott Davis

3. Marco Sullivan/Tyler Aklestad

4. Scott McCartney/Tyson Johnson

5. Eric Heil/Leon Story

Women’s ski

1. Natalie Van Norstrand/Cortni Brown

2. Caitlin Robinson/Brooke Nerup

3. Sarah Maynard/Kelci Boe

4. Anna Berecz/Dove Daniels

Men’s board (top 5)

1. Jayson Hale/Tyson Johnson

2. Nate Holland/Tyler Aklestad

3. John Cheever/Kyle Connor

4. John Hammond/Larry Levine

5. Lucas Dehmlow/Levi Lavalle

Women’s board (top 5)

1. Audrey Hebert/Kelci Boe

2. Faye Gulini/Rachel Kidwell

3. Carle Brennman/Ashley Nicolai

4. Mariah Duggan/MoAnna Bradshaw

5. Grace Dalman/Brooke Nerup

Tahoe athletes are suckers for the extreme. Throw in a competitive element and a hefty prize purse, and they’re tough to beat.

The annual Arctic Man Classic is a prime example.

With record prize money on the line, a large contingent of skiers and snowboarders from the Truckee-Tahoe area made their way to the Hoodoo Mountains of Alaska last week to compete in the 31st edition of the iconic race. The event is as original — and extreme — as it comes, combing skiing and riding with snowmobiling in a high-speed, leg-burning dash to the finish.

“It was kind of one of those bucket-list events I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s wild, definitely one-of-a-kind,” said former Olympic downhill ski racer Daron Rahlves of Truckee.

In his first time competing at Arctic Man, Rahlves teamed up with snowmobiler and 10-time X Games medalist Levi LaVallee to claim victory in the men’s ski division. Because the prize money from last year’s canceled event was rolled over, the duo took home $61,000 for their win.

“I’m stoked to take the title like so many of my buddies over the years and kind of be in that club right there,” Rahlves said. “There was a lot at stake.”

Rahlves and LaVallee dethroned North Lake Tahoe Olympic ski racer Marco Sullivan and Tyler Aklestad, who, after winning multiple years in a row, finished third.

In the men’s snowboard division, Truckee’s Jayson Hale took the win along with snowmobiler Tyson Johnson — a victory worth $26,000 — while Squaw Valley snowboarder and X Games gold medalist Nate Holland and Aklestad finished runner-up after winning the past couple of years. A number of other athletes from the Tahoe area competed as well.

The race begins with a skier or snowboarder straight-lining a steep, 1,700-foot face to a transition area, where he or she grabs hold of a tow rope and is pulled by a snowmobile more than 2 miles up a narrow cat track. At the top of the hill, the snowmobiler slings the skier or snowboarder toward the final 1,200-foot descent to the finish.

All combined, the course stretches 5.5 miles through the Alaska backcountry, with athletes reaching speeds exceeding 90 mph.

It’s hairy on a clear day. With whiteout conditions last week, it was downright dangerous, Rahlves said. In fact, event officials suspended the competition on Day 1, just before Sullivan was set to drop in. The remainder of the event was held two days later.

“Marco and I had to side-slip down right after that, because you could not see a thing — could not see the ground,” said Rahlves, who benefited from the delay because it allowed LaVallee time to repair a blown engine on his sled.

Although Rahlves and LaVallee were behind on practice time, they crushed the course on race day, posting a winning time of 4 minutes, 2.08 seconds. That was about 10 seconds off the record of 3:52.7, set by Sullivan and Aklestad in 2013.

“When Levi finally got his sled dialed in, he rode like a maniac. I mean, he was on it,” Rahlves said, adding that the race was “the biggest leg-burner” he’s ever experienced.

“It was hard to stop in the finish area and walk up to the results. I was cooked. Especially when you get behind the snowmobile, it’s pretty chaotic. You’re just trying to hold on. There was a point where Levi got pretty loose and got kicked around in some bumps, and I shot up right next to him, side-by-side. It took everything I had to hold onto the handle.”

While Holland and his partner did not repeat their snowboard title, the Squaw Valley snowboarder has seen enough of Rahlves on skis to place a confident wager on his friend — despite the fact that LaVallee was still working on his broken sled at the time.

“He made a little dough betting on our team,” Rahlves said. “It wound up being a pretty good move on Nate’s part.”