Rahlves: Off-slope Fun Pays Off
To understand why Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl is so successful during the
World Cup skiing season is to follow him during the offseason.
The two-time Olympian, 2001 super-G world champion and the 2003 Hahnenkamm champion recently said what he does away from ski slopes has almost as much impact on his skiing as what he does on snow.
Rahlves, who turns 30 on Thursday, has been a motocross enthusiast — he probably wouldn’t argue with “MX junkie” to describe his passion — for years, loving every opportunity to ride around Lake Tahoe or elsewhere.
This spring, he’s riding in amateur races on the motocross circuit. He recently beat several other high-profile skiers, skateboarders and snowboarders in a three-lap, amateur mini national race outside Sacramento.
The son of a former world water-skiing distance champion and graduate of Vermont’s Green Mountain Valley School, Rahlves won the 1993 Jet-ski World Championship before deciding to focus full-time on ski racing. Last winter, Rahlves won two World Cup downhills (Kitzbuehel, Austria, and
Bormio, Italy) and posted five other top-3s.
“Cross-training is a huge advantage for me,” Rahlves told http://www.usolympicteam.com. “I ride motocross and wakeboard during the summer. Both these sports challenge me physically and mentally. I need to test myself mentally when I’m off the snow and these two sports definitely do
“In any sport, the mental edge is what makes the difference.”
It also helps that Rahlves can shift focus from skiing to other interests.
“The best thing you can do is take some time away from your sport and challenge yourself at something else,” Rahlves said.
He uses a mix of off-the-hill activities to keep him revved when he gets back on snow.
“I train a lot in the gym, on the bike and in the mountains to get physically ready, but use these other sports (motocross and wakeboarding) as my real challenge.”
Andy Walshe, the U.S. Ski Team’s director of sport science, said Rahlves — like world champion Bode Miller — is almost a poster-child for cross-training, carrying the enthusiasm and energy from one or more sports into his ski training and racing. He’s one more example of ski team athletes who bring multiple-sport skills to their racing.
“The sports we’re involved in demand such a range of skill and only those athletes who are really ‘athletes’ have the opportunity to make it through,” Walshe said. “The requirements of Alpine are so broad — balance, strength, fitness, and so on — that unless you’re an athlete, unless you have some real athletic skills, you fall off the map. You don’t make it through to the top level.
“Look at Daron and what he does. Look at Bode — he’s a top tennis player and a good bowler, was all-state in soccer, now he’s learning golf — and it’s the same multi-talent athlete,” Walshe said. “What we tend to do is reflected in our conditioning programs; our programs have some strong
cardio(vascular) components, a strong strength component … and we’ll spend lot of time on agility, core stability, strength of stomach or back.
“And we encourage them to participate in other sports as good cross-training. It’s good for them to have that kind of balance.”
U.S. Men’s Head Coach Phil McNichol echoed Walshe.
“Typically, we see some of our more talented athletes come to skiing with diverse backgrounds from other sports. They’re still inundated with traditional sports — team sports like soccer, for example. These things fit in well with our schedule,” McNichol said.
“You have to be pretty far along in terms of athleticism across the board to do well in skiing. You need a variety of skills to succeed in our sport. Clearly, Daron’s got that kind of diversity and I think his success speaks for itself.”