Three times the Banzai |

Three times the Banzai

Sylas Wright
Sierra Sun
Sun File Photo/Greyson HowardWomen snowboarders compete at the start of a heat during last yearand#8217;s Silver Belt Banzai. This year the event is expanding into a series, with stops at Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood and Sugar Bowl.

The original ski race down Sugar Bowl’s Silver Belt Gully again has been tweaked for the better, transforming this time into a three-event series with stops at Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood.

Once a giant slalom race that attracted the world’s top alpine skiers from 1940 through 1975, Sugar Bowl revived the Silver Belt in 2004, using the same course as the historic race but adding the hairball element of skicross and boardercross, where competitors speed down the mountain in four-person heats. They named it the Silver Belt Banzai.

Now, after running the race in 2004 and again in 2008 and 2009, Sugar Bowl Ski Ambassador and former Olympian Daron Rahlves is expanding the event into a three-stop tour beginning with the Beaver Bowl Banzai at Alpine Meadows on Jan. 22-23. It then swings through Kirkwood with the Eagle Bowl Banzai on Feb. 5-6 and ends with the Silver Belt Banzai and Super Final at Sugar Bowl on March 12-13.

Rahlves calls it the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour.

and#8220;I helped push to get it to come back (six) years ago, and the tour was kind of a vision of mine,and#8221; said Rahlves, who remains one of the most successful men in U.S. alpine racing history. and#8220;I wanted to see a ski and snowboard tour go off here in Tahoe. It’s kind of missing some sort of fun tour. There’s cool events here and there, but nothing that really involved all the resorts at the lake.and#8221;

Rahlves said both Kirkwood and Alpine, which he considers similar resorts to Sugar Bowl, were receptive to the idea of hosting the series. And with similar terrain to his home resort, Rahlves said he couldn’t ask for a better trio of mountains to house the all-natural courses and#8212; each of which will be in the hands of the resorts to create.

and#8220;I thought it would be a good fit to take it to two like-minded resorts that Sugar Bowl works well with,and#8221; Rahlves said. and#8220;We had to get their blessing, and they thought it was awesome. And in my eyes, I think Alpine and Kirkwood have great terrain, and they’re resorts that already do these sorts of events anyway. I know Alpine does the Mad Cow race, and Kirkwood has done some banked slalom through their gullies.

and#8220;So I just thought it would be a cool way to expand the tour, to go to the other resorts.and#8221;

Unlike past years when Rahlves has competed and#8212; and dominated and#8212; the four-time Olympian will not race in the series. Instead, he said he will oversee the event and make sure everything runs smoothly, while also getting onto the courses to do some filming for fun. In the series finale at Sugar Bowl, however, Rahlves will take on the men’s ski division winners from all three stops in a one-run, winner-take-all, $10,000 and#8220;Banzai Super Final.and#8221;

Before then, each individual race offers a $10,000 purse, with an additional $10,000 given out to the overall Rahlves’ Banzai Tour winners.

and#8220;It’s not a tour for the meek,and#8221; Rahlves said. and#8220;I’m not trying to make it easy. I want to see some good competition come out.and#8221;

Among the top competitors Rahlves hopes to see are Kyle Smaine of South Lake Tahoe in the men’s ski division, Jackie Paaso, his sister Shannon Rahlves and Jess McMillan in the women’s ski division, and many more. Last year, snowboarding legend Shawn Farmer competed in the Silver Belt Banzai.

The Rahlves Banzai Tour is open to men and women skiers and snowboarders ages 18 years and older. Entry fee is of $100 and includes a lift ticket on race day. Rahlves expects about 100 athletes to race at each tour stop. For more information or to sign up, go to

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