Daron Rahlves described snow conditions as "firm and fast" for the second stop of his Rahlves' Banzai Tour at Alpine Meadows this past weekend.
In other words, it was perfect day for puckering, four-at-a-time racing down steep, natural terrain, said the former Olympic skier and Banzai Tour founder.
"It was great. I keep thinking that every one we do is the best ever. I just get caught up in all the excitement and competition," said Rahlves, who admitted that he was itching to get in on the high-speed action himself, instead of overseeing. "Right now, with the snow level we have, it's perfect for bringing out a lot of the terrain."
In its third year swinging through Alpine Meadows, the Rahlves' Banzai Tour used the same challenging course as before, starting atop Wolverine Bowl and finishing below the steep and bumpy Face - aka, the "mine field."
"It's an awesome venue," Rahlves said.
The event started with a day of time trials Saturday, which were used to narrow the field of 94 skiers and riders into eight, four-person heats for Sunday's finals. With many of the usual top competitors on hand, the final day figured to be drama-packed - and it was, particularly in the men's ski division.
Multi-stop winner John Bochenek out of Squaw Valley, who won the first stop at Kirkwood a week prior, seemed poised to capture yet another win in the final men's ski heat, as he passed Sugar Bowl skier Jesse Maddex just above the Face to take over the lead.
Maddex had other ideas, however. After a bobble that allowed Bochenek to pass, Maddex pulled it together and crept up until he was in Bochenek's draft, Rahlves said. He then surged even with Bochenek as both crossed the line in a photo finish.
The head judge, who was perched at the line to "eagle-eye" such a finish, Rahlves said, determined that Maddex reached the line a split-second ahead of Bochenek, who wasn't convinced and disputed the decision. Rahlves said photos and video later confirmed that the judge made the correct call.
"It was the closest race in Banzai history, so there was some controversy" Rahlves said. "It was real close. I was nervous that we had made the right call, because there's money on the line and pride on the line. But we did. On that long of a course, for it to come down to that is pretty cool."
Maddex was awarded $3,000 for his win, while Bochenek received $1,500 and John Lange, who came in third, received $700.
The women's ski final also featured some tight racing, as Shannon Rahlves, who was second at Kirkwood, narrowly held off a hard-charging Katie Wry to take the win and $1,200 cash payout. Wry won $600 for her runner-up finish, while former Olympic moguls skier Shelly Robertson received $350 for third place.
Chelone Miller, the brother of Olympic alpine racer Bode Miller, avenged his runner-up finish at Kirkwood with a win in the men's snowboard division. He was awarded $2,000. Abe Greenspan was second, which was worth $1,000, and Vincent Remmel was third, worth $500.
Kirkwood rider Casey Lucas is the only racer to go two-for-two in the win department, as she finished ahead of local pro Iris Lazzareschi in the women's snowboard final to earn $650 for the second straight week. Lazzareschi won $350 and Carrie Hall, who was third, received $250.
The four-stop tour now moves to Squaw Valley on March 2-3 before wrapping up at Sugar Bowl on March 9-10. Included at the Sugar Bowl stop is the Super Final, in which Daron Rahlves will take on the men's ski winners from the previous four races in a one-run, winner-takes-all heat.
"I look at these guys, and it's going to be a tough battle to beat them," Rahlves said. "Every year these guys are getting better."