Steep pitches and high speeds — and perhaps the best finish in event history — highlighted Sunday’s finals of the Rahlves’ Banzai Tour at Alpine Meadows.
With firm conditions early giving way to softer snow as the day progressed, skiers and snowboarders impressed spectators with some of the most hotly contested racing yet on the third stop of the tour.
“That was the most intense thing I have ever done in my life,” said Aimee Doran, who finished third in the women’s ski final. “I just told myself, ‘Be strong, stay on your feet — you can do this.’”
After flying down The Face and into the CEP Compression, former Olympic snowboardcross racer Jayson Hale of Sierraville edged men’s snowboard points leader Sylvain Duclos in a photo finish that was worthy of a Sports Illustrated cover.
“That was the best finish I have ever seen — in any sporting event,” spectator Danny Runkel said.
Bobby Minghini came in third and Chris May fourth.
Because Duclos and Hale had already secured berths in the men’s snowboard Super Final, Minghini will join them and the top finisher in the final stop at Sugar Bowl this weekend in a winner-takes-all heat worth $5,000 against Olympian Nate Holland.
Meanwhile in the men’s ski category, Kyle Coxon — a former alpine ski racer from Utah — claimed victory for the third time in as many events.
Kyle Smaine of South Lake Tahoe and Ben Paciotti of Squaw Valley finished second and third, respectively, and Cory Zila rounded out the final four-man heat.
With his second-place finish, Smaine earned a spot in the men’s ski Super Final along with Coxon, Shawn McGee and the top finisher in the tour finale at Sugar Bowl. They will compete against former Olympic alpine racer and event founder Daron Rahlves in a winner-takes-all, $5,000 heat.
Paciotti claimed the Alaska Airlines “Flight Deck” award for the most impressive air, which is worth $100 toward an Alaska Airlines flight.
The women brought their A-game as well, including regular top finishers and Banzai Tour ski rivals Shannon Rahlves and Shelly Robertson. The pair finished in the same order as the previous stop, with Rahlves taking the win ahead of Robertson, who won the opening event ahead of Rahlves.
Doran was third and Allison Tanner fourth in the final heat.
The women’s snowboarding division featured an exciting final heat that pitted the tour’s top riders against one another.
South Shore snowboarder Casey Lucas took the GoPro Holeshot to the finish line while the other racers battled it out for podium spots. Squaw Valley pro Iris Lazzareschi clipped Audrey Hebert’s board and lost balance when attempting a pass on the final turn, allowing Hebert to finish second and Jenna Dramise third.
The Rahlves’ Banzai Tour will wrap up this Sunday, March 16, at the place it all started with the Silver Belt Banzai at Sugar Bowl — which also will include the Chelone “Chilly” Miller “Live Free and Send It” memorial award.