The Rahlves Banzai Tour kicked off this past weekend at Kirkwood Mountain Resort. There is no doubt
that this is the most exciting race series in the US today. The course was set by Daron Rahlves and it
showed; technical, fast and above all fun. This particular course ran from above tree line and then dove
off the Pop Chips air into the Snake Gully. The lack of snow only added to entertainment of the course,
with more features such as jumps and the necessity of technical skiing. This Banzai stop will certainly go
down as one of the more exciting stops of the series.
Day one at Kirkwood was all about qualifying to determine who the best skiers were. The course was
running fast to say the least and having the right tune was key. There were skiers from all different
disciplines of skiers within this competition be it big mountain, freestyle or race all of which proved to
have certain advantages. Topping the Men’s qualifying was Toby Lamar with a time of 1:27.55 followed
by Greg Lindsey at 1:28.05 and George Rodney at 1:28.75. Other competitors with experience on the
Banzai tour such as Marcus Caston and John Bochenek both qualified with respectable times in sixth and
eighth. In the Womens ski class we saw some of the best competition of the Kirkwood Banzai stop. This
class was stacked with competitors such as Tara Hines and Keely Kelleher both of which are ex US Ski
Team members with World Cup experience and Shannon Rahlves the returning Champion of the 2011
Banzai Series. Tara Hines led the women through qualifying with a time of 1:40.43 followed by Kelly
Kelleher at 1:42.64 and Shannon Rahlves with a time of 1:46.15. Both of these classes were stacked and
we knew heading in to the final day there would be some changes in the standings.
The final day arrived with perfect race conditions. Cold overnight conditions allowed for the course
to set up and smooth out, the competitors were anxiously awaiting the drop of the start gate. By the
time Mens Semi Finals hit the field was narrowed to the top eight competitors and a few of our top
qualifiers didn’t quite make it. The semi’s consisted of Toby Lamar, Justin Roach, Lucas Matelich, and
John Bochenek in the first heat. Within the second heat we saw George Rodney, Marcus Caston, Jesse
Maddex, and Travis Wolfe. Travis Wolfe had a controversial win to get in to the Semis when a judge
on course deemed that he had not made it through a gate and was disqualified. At this point Travis
received the first video review of the series, after Daron Rahlves review his disqualification was reversed
and he advance to the semis. On the other side of the brackets Womens Semi Finals were stacked with
competitors. Tara Hines, Hanna Jermstad, Shelly Robertson and Ally Keef were on the top bracket
and Keely Kelleher Shannon Rahlves, Amie Engerbretson and Caitlin Robb rounded out the semifinals
competitors for the women. The first heat of women went off without a glitch and then we had the
second heat. Keely Kelleher had the hole shot out of the gate when Caitlin Robb took a very aggressive
line and unintentionally impacted Keely at the first gate stopping both of them. At this point Shannon
Rahlves and Amie Engerbretson took full advantage of the situation until an equipment failure stopped
Engerbretson in her tracks. At this point Keely had fought back from her crash and was skiing with
determination and was able to pass Engerbretson, finishing up in second and advancing to the finals.
One of the most exciting heats we saw all day, until the finals.
The finals across the board were stacked from Men’s Snowboard to Women’s Ski. The Men’s Snowboard
final literally came down to the last foot of the course. Shaun Palmer, six time X-Games Champion, was
behind by at least half a second and I have literally never seen somebody pump so hard and accelerate
to narrow the margin to under a foot when Sylvian Ducros just edged out Shaun Palmer. Just as the
Men’s snowboard finished with a bang Women’s Ski was an awesome show of talent. We had Tara
Hines, Keely Kelleher, Shannon Rahlves and Shelly Robertson; all of which were well decorated skiers.
This was an extremely competitive run with Kelleher edging out the competition in the final turns to
defend her Kirkwood title. Finally we had the Men’s Ski final which had last year’s overall tour winner
and Red Bull Huttenralleye competitor Marcus Caston, last seasons Kirkwood Banzai winner John
Bochenek, Lucas Matelich and George Rodney. This heat all came down to fluidity. John Bochenek took full advatage of mistakes made by others and in turn he won.
The Rahlves Banzai Tour is becoming one of the most eventful race series in Lake Tahoe if not North
America. The fact is literally anyone can get off there couch and run this course and have a great time
doing it. The courses are set such that there are turns and aspects of the course that are difficult but
without that what fun would it be? If you are that guy or girl that is charging around the mountain, and
racing your friends there is literally no other event in North America that lets you test your ability. Did
I mention that there is an $80,000 purse this season? If that isn’t enough motivation to come out and
compete I don’t know what is. How about the fact that Red Bull is filming the stops and will be airing an
edit on NBC with the potential of being viewed by over 1 Million people? Time to try something new,
exciting and challenging sign up for the Alpine Banzai while you still can spots are limited and expected
to fill up!!!