Rahlves’ Banzai Tour to kick off at Kirkwood | SierraSun.com

Rahlves’ Banzai Tour to kick off at Kirkwood

Becky Regan
File Photo / Jeff Engerbretson Ally Keef tries to hold off Amie Engerbretson during a women's skiing heat during the first stop of the Rahlves' Banzai Tour at Kirkwood last year. This year's tour kicks off at Kirkwood on Saturday.

It’s called the Wall for a reason.

The double black diamond that resides over Kirkwood is an icy wall of pure insanity, and come Saturday, skiers and riders will push its speed barriers in a kamikaze dash for the base.

This year’s four-stop Rahlves’ Banzai Tour kicks off at Kirkwood with qualifying runs Saturday and finals Sunday. Racers will go head-to-head and four at a time down some of Kirkwood’s toughest terrain for a share of $80,000 in cash and prizes.

It’s racing at its purest. No rules, no gates, just a mad dash from top to bottom.

“This is just going back to how I grew up and raced my friends down the mountain,” said former Olympic alpine ski racer and race organizer Daron Rahlves. “We would just go top to bottom and see who got down first. Last one down is a rotten egg.”

Racers will take solo timed runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to qualify for Sunday’s final heats. Sunday’s finals will be a four-at-a-time showdown, again from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The men’s ski division winners from each stop will race Rahlves in the Super Final at Sugar Bowl on March 10, a race Rahlves has never lost.

The winner-takes-all Super Final is worth $10,000.

But first thing’s first, and that’s Kirkwood.

Kirkwood racers will face a dramatic, steep and icy start known as the Wall.

“It’s a big drop coming in, but there’s just wide open space up top so you can just get the drop and do two huge turns,” Rahlves said.

From there, racers will fly down into the CEP compression and launch off the cat road at the top of Chair 11 into Snow Snake Gully. Those gully banks will funnel racers down the pipe. Once the gully ends, racers will hit a left bank that shoots them toward a drag-race finish.

“Don’t get intimidated by these tracks. It all comes down to regular skiing and you’re just pushing yourself a little bit more,” Rahlves said. “There’s plenty of space that you can use on these courses and turns to avoid disaster if you’re uncomfortable, but you never know what you’re capable of until you give it a shot.”

A little strategy never hurts either.

There are good spots to pass on this course, so pick wisely. There are other spots that should be ridden more conservatively.

“If you’re behind just wait for that moment where it’s a better place to make a pass,” Rahlves said. “Those are the kind of things you figure out when you’re doing your inspections or training runs.”

Also, don’t push for first in every heat, Rahlves said. The top two will advance to the next bracket, so there’s no reason to risk a wreck if second place is locked up.

“If I were going to do it, I would go really hard in the top and then ease up a little bit to save myself physically,” Rahlves said. “You’re doing four rounds, so the guys who are a little smarter about saving themselves can maybe have a little more in the final round.”

For spectators, the cat road at the top of Chair 11 is a prime place to set up. From there, spectators can watch racers rip the wall and launch into Snow Snake Gully. The start of the race, up Chair 10, is also a good place to post up, but be warned, there’s no easy line down. The finish line is another good option.

After the Kirkwood stop, the Banzai Tour moves on to Alpine Meadows on Feb. 9-10 and Squaw Valley on March 2-3 before wrapping up at Sugar Bowl on March 9-10. Expect to see household Tahoe names like Nate Holland and Shaun Palmer at some, or all, of these stops.

Skiers and riders can sign up at http://www.rahlvesbanzai.com. Competition registration is open to anyone 18 years old and up.

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