On tap: Sugar Bowl hosting final stop of Rahlves’ Banzai Tour
MORE BANZAI COVERAGE
• Coxon, Robertson, Dehmlow, Hebert victorious in Wall Banzai last weekend at Kirkwood.
• First stop of Rahlves’ Banzai Tour in February challenges athletes with ice, bumps, wind.
DONNER SUMMIT, Calif. — The rugged terrain of the Silver Belt Gully put Sugar Bowl on the map as a world-class ski-racing venue some 75 years ago.
Given this winter’s meager snow totals, the famed gully is rippling with contours for the third and final stop of the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour — the Silver Belt Banzai — this Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s such low snowpack, everything has sharper angles,” event founder Daron Rahlves said of the Silver Belt Banzai course. “It’s going to be more technical than usual and work a ton of terrain. That’s the one awesome thing about the Silver Belt Gully, is that it has so much natural terrain to choose from.”
The 2015 Rahlves’ Banzai Tour opened with the Face Banzai at Alpine Meadows on Feb. 21-22 and proceeded with the Wall Banzai at Kirkwood this past weekend. Skiers and snowboarders are now set to battle for the overall tour titles at the place where it all started.
The series — down this year from four events to three — is a spinoff of the historic Silver Belt race, a giant slalom that attracted the world’s top alpine ski racers between 1940 and 1975.
Sugar Bowl revived the Silver Belt in 2004, using the same historic course down the belly of Mount Lincoln, but adding the exciting element of skicross and snowboardcross. After running the new Silver Belt Banzai in 2004 and again in 2008 and 2009, Rahlves expanded the event into a multi-stop tour with big-name sponsors and a large prize purse.
The tour finale is spectator-friendly, with barbecue food and drinks set up in a festive viewing area near the finish line. The action begins Saturday with individual time trials and ends Sunday with the finals, which pits the racers in four-person elimination heats.
Sunday will wrap up with the Super Final, in which the winning men’s skiers from previous tour stops take on Rahlves — a former Olympic downhiller — in a one-run, winner-takes-all race worth $5,000.
Because Utah’s Kyle Coxon won at both Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood, third-place Wall Banzai finisher Jesse Maddex is guaranteed a spot in the Super Final (Tyler Wallasch qualified with his second-place finish, but he’s in Europe competing in a World Cup skicross race). The men’s ski winner on Sunday will join Rahlves, Coxon and Maddex in the Super Final.
“Kyle Coxon is in it to win it,” said Rahlves, who narrowly edged Coxon in last year’s Super Final and remains undefeated in the race. “He’s defending his title from last year and he’s a dominant factor.”
Shawn McGee (96 points), John Lange (85) and Casey Riva (80) trail Coxon (200) in the men’s ski standings, while former World Cup moguls competitor Shannon Bahrke (180) leads the women’s ski standings ahead of Alexis Machovsky (130), Shannon Rahlves (129) and Aimee Doran (90).
In snowboarding, Bobby Minghini (150) holds a five-point lead over Lucas Dehmlow (145) entering the final event, while last year’s champion, Jayson Hale (140) and Sylvain Duclos (140) trail closely behind.
Audrey Hebert (200) of Banff, Alberta, leads the women’s snowboard division after winning at Kirkwood and Alpine — and winning last year’s title. Mariah Dugan (160) is second, Lindsay Wexler (110) third and Jenna Darmise (90) fourth.