Smaine third as Banzai Series ends with foggy stop
SUGAR BOWL, Calif. – Daron Rahlves was hoping for one more day of clear blue skies to conclude his second annual Rahlves Banzai Tour this past Sunday.
His wish was not granted.
In contrast to the first three stops of the big-mountain, ski-cross-style race series, when sunshine prevailed, Sugar Bowl’s Silver Belt Banzai was greeted with gusty wind and snow and freezing fog that severely limited visibility.
“The wind wasn’t the issue, really, it was more the foggy conditions,” said Rahlves, who claimed victory in the Super Final for the second time in as many years. “You just couldn’t see, for one thing, and then you had this ice that would cover your lens. You had to do goggle wipes and just hang on. So it was a little sketchy out there.”
Despite the challenging conditions, skiers and snowboarders in heats of four took to the historic Silver Belt Gully on Mount Lincoln – site of the original Silver Belt giant slalom race held from 1940 to 1975 – for Sunday’s finals.
Casey Riva, a former Tahoe resident living in Telluride, Colo., blazed through his first three heats in the men’s ski division to advance into the final round, where he was matched up against two-stop winner John Bochenek, B Devine and John Lange.
Riva came out on top in his first-ever Banzai race, earning him a spot in the Super Final against Rahlves and the other men’s ski winners from previous stops. The five-man field included Bochenek, who won at Kirkwood and Squaw, Kyle Smaine, who won at Alpine, and Todd Disbrow, who was third behind Bochenek and Smaine at Squaw.
“I was scared,” conceded Rahlves, a former Olympic alpine racer who now serves as Sugar Bowl’s ski ambassador. “The visibility was really difficult to get after it. I just tried to get out front and make it down clean. Bochenek was all over me at the start. We were elbowing each other in the first turn.”
Rahlves said he managed to stay ahead of the pack until the finish, though Riva pulled up hot on his tail near the end en route to his runner-up finish. Smaine was third, Disbrow fourth and Bochenek fifth, while Rahlves captured the winner-takes-all, $10,000 Super Final prize.
Bochenek came out even better in the end, as he took home $10,500 for winning the overall men’s ski title. Smaine, who finished second overall with 223.5 points to Bochenek’s 325, received $4,500.
A new winner also emerged in the men’s snowboard division, as consistent top-four finisher Chris Galvin beat out favorites Chelone Miller – who’s the brother of Olympic alpine skier Bode Miller – and Sylvain Duclos in the final heat. Jason Kosich was fourth, while Nik Schneider won the small final to finish fifth, Dan Krenecki was sixth, Dave Brumm seventh and Matt Clark eighth.
“Galvin has been really strong but just hadn’t quite put it together until Sugar Bowl. But that kid’s fast and has great board control,” Rahlves said. “I was stoked to see a different winner. It’s cool to have a handful of guys who can win.”
Duclos, who placed first at Kirkwood and Squaw, won the overall men’s snowboard division with 335 points to Miller’s 300 and Galvin’s 260. Duclos took home $7,700 for his tour win, while Miller received $4,000 and Galvin $2,800.
The women’s ski division came down to former Olympic freestyle skier Shelly Robertson versus Shannon Rahlves. Robertson, who won the Alpine stop and was runner-up at Kirkwood and Squaw, raced to her second victory of the tour as Shannon Rahlves crashed hard in the final.
“Shelly got out in front and skied really smooth. Shannon went down, and I guess she came out of her skis,” Daron Rahlves said of his sister.
“When I saw her at the finish, she had a bunch of snow packed in her helmet and under her goggle strap.”
Robertson received $6,100 for winning the overall with 410 points to Shannon Rahlves’ 315, which was good enough for second place and $2,350. Hannah Jermstad was third with 285 points ($1,470).
Casey Lucas captured her second win of the tour in the women’s snowboard division to earn the overall title, and $2,650. Carrie Hall, who won at Squaw, was runner up at Sugar Bowl and in the overall to earn $1,350, while Marguerite Cossettini was third and Rose Marie Daiek fourth.
Bochenek won the final Popchips award for the most impressive air on course.
The Rahlves Banzai Tour was documented by NBC and will air as part of the Red Bull Signature Series on Tuesday, March 27 at 10 p.m.