Winter stars rip at inaugural Red Bull Raid (VIDEO) | SierraSun.com

Winter stars rip at inaugural Red Bull Raid (VIDEO)

Several of the area’s top winter athletes gathered at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows to compete in the inaugural Red Bull Raid.

The competition went down under warm, sunny conditions Saturday at Squaw’s Silverado area, as a field of 60 competitors battled their way up to High Camp before racing to exhaustion on touring skis and splitboards, before putting on a show for spectators and judges by ripping down Katmandu.

“There are a lot of people out there now doing backcountry touring who are looking for the best lines and snow,” local ski icon Daron Rahlves said during an interview with Red Bull after capturing first place. ”Red Bull Raid incorporates more of an overall experience that’s inbounds. You have to be in shape to hustle up the hill and you also have to back it up with a good line that has it all: line selection, speed, air, style, fluidity. To win took someone who has strengths in both.”

After the morning’s first heats, the athletes met part way up Silverado for a mass start race up to High Camp. From there, they treated guests riding up Aerial Tram and dozens more spectators below the venue to an afternoon filled with massive airs, 360s, and backflips off the cliffs, boulders, and other features along the black diamond run.

Rahlves claims title, Holmes wows crowd

Rahlves took the inaugural title in the men’s ski division behind top scores in both heats, finishing with 365 points. Squaw’s Kyle Cota finished second with 358 points. JT Holmes, of Squaw Valley, finished in third place with a score of 346.

“Nobody had ever participated in an event quite like this,” Holmes told the Sierra Sun. “Essentially, if you’re out of shape and couldn’t be in the top four or five on the way up, you would have needed to do some incredible skiing to secure a top podium spot. It’s a combination of being extremely fit and being able to rip on the way down.”

Holmes drew the loudest reaction from the crowd below after launching roughly 40 feet off Squaw’s iconic China Wall.

“It was not 30 (feet), and I think it would be generous to call it 50 (feet),” said Holmes, who is also a Red Bull wingsuit athlete. “But it was a big jump.”

Holmes was the only skier or rider to attempt China Wall during the competition.

“I was pretty nervous to jump the China Wall today, because it’s a big jump and it’s a mandatory cliff jump. There’s no way around it once, you’ve dropped into that zone. I knew also the snow was not going to be soft and you need to land in a precise spot with a precise trajectory,” said Holmes.

“Even though my feeling about it was one of fear, I trusted myself that if I took the trajectory and the speed that I had planned out, that I would land on the right spot. The moment I jumped off the cliff, I settled into a compact position and I looked and thought, ‘Wow! That was a good idea. I’m going to land in the right spot … Yes, I got this.’

“I put down the landing gear, landed really solid, and then I had to straight line through these avalanche chunks, which was pretty intense … it was one of the highlights of my ski season to put down a line like that.”

Squaw’s Lisagor tops women’s field

In the women’s ski division, Squaw Valley’s Jessica Lisagor trailed Anna Sullivan, of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, Canada, by three points after the first run of the day.

In the finals, Lisagor picked up valuable points as the first skier to reach the top of the course. She then scored the second highest down Katmandu to edge Sullivan 168-166.

“What was really neat is after that second uphill, everybody, we were all friends. There was good camaraderie,” said Lisagor, on the climb which caused several racers to vomit from exhaustion. “The uphill really does build that connection and it’s fun to have that component.”

Squaw Valley’s Rory Bosio took third with a score of 158.00.

In the women’s splitboard competition, Jaime Vincent, of Bear Creek, Pennsylvania posted the two best runs of the day to capture the win with a score of 308.00. Local rider, Alison Hardy was second with a score of 301.00, followed Squaw Alpine rider Jennifer Newkirk, who finished with a score of 287.00.

On men’s side, Kirkwood’s Brian Stenerson took the splitboard title behind the two highest scores down Katmandu to finish with 344.00 points. Bryant Davis, of Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, was second with a score of 320.00. Squaw Valley’s Dave Zook was third with a score of 315.00.

“The event was a real success. Squaw Valley Mountain Operations put on a seamless flow of the whole schedule,” said Holmes on the inaugural Red Bull Raid. “Everything was perfect from signage to sound to the starter at the top. It was really professionally done.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.