Wend rider Daron Rahlves of Lake Tahoe made his fourth and final Olympic appearance not as an Alpine skier, but competing in Ski cross, which made its Olympic debut in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Although an untimely on-course collision may have cost him a medal, Rahlves has gained a definite affinity for the sport and has continued to ski cross in “retirement.” The Truckee resident has helped invigorate the sport by helping to establish the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour each winter, which culminates with the finals at Sugar Bowl ski resort in late winter.
Like many skiers and snowboarders, Rahlves was disappointed at last week’s announcement by the Winter X Games. Two of the longest-running competitions in X Games history – Snowboarder X and Skier X – will not be part of the show when the X Games returns to Aspen in January 2013.
Event organizers confirmed last week that ESPN decided to cut the events, as well as Mono Skier X, and will not build the X Course for the first time in history.
“I’m against X Games’ decision to take out the X Course for 2013. As a competition with straight up speed, skill and battles to the finish line, this is the best action in the Winter X Games,” Rahlves said. “I’m biased, of course, because that’s what I do. It might be time for a change in the build though. Shorter length, more technical, and keep the speed in it.”
Snowboarder X was one of three events that had taken place every year since the Winter X Games debuted in 1997, along with Snowboard Superpipe and Slopestyle. Skier X had been staged 15 of those 16 years, starting in 1998. Mono Skier X was added five years ago.
“These decisions are never easy, obviously,” said Tim Reed, senior director of content strategy for ESPN X Games. “We understand the ramifications these things bring. We come up with what we believe are the best events to showcase to our fans on-site and obviously the networks, too. There wasn’t one single factor that led to this decision. It just comes down to filling the schedule with how much we believe we need to make the event enjoyable to the fans and deliver on what we need from a product standpoint.”
One of the top U.S. Alpine skiers of all time who entered the Ski Hall of Fame in 2011, Rahlves had 12 World Cup victories, 28 World Cup podiums and seven U.S. National Titles.
Despite leaving the World Cup tour, he still savors the action. Ski cross is an unpredictable event that features four skiers racing down a course with huge jumps up to 100 feet through the air, and speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. The first person to the bottom wins.
“The bonus for me is the 2013 Rahlves’ Banzai Tour,” Rahlves said. “It should gain more attention now and attract athletes who want that ultimate race experience of four at a time over nature’s best natural terrain.”
Rahlves was quick to give credit to both the Winter X games and ESPN for promoting the event.
“We all owe ESPN and the X Games a huge thank you for the progress they have made for the sport of ski cross, boarder cross and mono-X,” Rahlves said. “Unfortunately it will make the ski cross year a little less exciting without the premiere event.”