TRUCKEE, Calif. - He's been to four Winter Olympics and is known as "the most decorated American downhiller" in our ski team's history. In 2003, he became the first American since 1959 to win Austria's Hahnenkamm downhill - sort of like the World Series in racer-speak. But even six years post-retirement, Truckee's Daron Rahlves still has plenty of game. After a return stint on the U.S. Skier-X Team and winning X-Games gold, he started his own fast-paced skier-cross tour. The Rahlves Banzai has grown to four events throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin and to date, the multi-talented skier has appeared in 12 adventure ski films.Not bad for a guy still in his 30s. His celluloid rsum includes stints with Matchstick Productions, Warren Miller and crowd-favorite Teton Gravity Research.Rahlves has been busy helping promote his latest flick, "The Dream Factory" by TGR, but we had a chance to sit down and find out how rough it is to be an action ski star. (Note: the movie has already played at both North and South Shore, but you can catch it in Sacramento or Reno. See www.tetongravity.com for dates.)
Q: Do you have a favorite clip of you skiing? Rahlves: Yes, this self-edit from Matchstick Production's "In Deep" from 2009. It was my best trip in Alaska with snow and finding epic terrain to push me in many ways. I liked the variety and it was pretty much me and Henrik Windstedt skiing, so we were able to ski a lot.(In the clip, Daron says, "Sometimes at the top of these lines, I ask myself why am I here doing this? It scares the hell outta me. But the feeling I get at the bottom is a huge reward and it's irreplaceable." If you check out the clip, note that some of those lines he skis so magically are pretty freaking vertical. You can view it on his website at http://daronrahlves.hookit.com.) Q: What goes on behind the scenes of action filming? I know there can be a lot of hurry up and wait. Does that change with helicopters at your command?Rahlves: Ha, ha ... yes. Filming is always a slow process. Rarely do you get to ski much. So many factors need to line up to capture great moments on film, which is what the goal is every time the camera is out. The logistics, especially in Alaska, are very important, so you don't waste time or money flying around in a heli. A plan is always agreed upon between the production crew, athletes, guide and heli pilot. Once you find terrain with great snow conditions, you then need the right light, dial in the sequence of shots with other athletes, doors off for the camera crew, plan out the fuel levels and route the heli flies to capture the best camera angles. They take one or more practice fly-by passes and then once they are set they call out "10 secs we are going live!" Then as an athlete, you need to be mentally and physically ready to ski it and wait until the camera crew gives you the "go, go, go!" Q: One of the showcase events of Warren Miller films is always the spills section. Other than your famous crash on (World Cup racing's) Birds of Prey course, have you had any big falls while filming?Rahlves: I take big spills every year - part of my style. Biggest crash filming was my first run with TGR in Petersburg, Alaksa on the Devil's Thumb. That's in "Light the Wick" 2010.Last year I had a few, too, that are in "The Dream Factory," but not as scary.Q: Is there somewhere that you haven't yet filmed, that you'd love to go to?Rahlves: Many areas in Tahoe. My interest is not all over the planet, but more of what's out my back door.Q: What's going on with the Banzai Tour this year, and isn't it sort of perfect for a winter action movie?Rahlves: We will be running the same venues as 2012 at each stop: Kirkwood, Alpine Meadows, Squaw and Sugar Bowl. I'm working on landing a title sponsor and other levels are still open. Red Bull is back and sponsors from last year are interested. It's been a long process and will continue. October is the final budget meetings for a lot of companies, so I'm waiting for them to get back to me. I'm also working on TV options. This event shows well on TV and captures the attention of anyone exposed to it. It's great action that many can relate to on runs open to the public year round until it's closed off for the event. The fact that it's four at a time and the first one across the line wins is easy to follow. To me it shows who the best skier on the mountain is over terrain and natural conditions with speed. In a segment of the ski industry that attracts adrenaline junkies, edgy soundtracks and a constant quest for big freshies, Rahlves has managed a great balance of career, family life and a blazing desire to get out and charge. It comes across over and over in interviews, film clips and the occasional meet and greet, where you'll still find Daron Rahlves happy to shake hands, sign posters and share the mega-rush we all call skiing.