Off-season time to relax for U.S. ski team members |

Off-season time to relax for U.S. ski team members

Jeremy Evans

MAMMOTH LAKES – After five months of traveling from resort to resort and country to country for World Cup races, U.S. Ski Team members from the Lake Tahoe Basin are in search of a well-needed break. It appears they won’t have any trouble finding it.

The U.S. may have finished second in the Nations Cup standings – its highest ranking ever – but Jonna Mendes, Julia Mancuso and Daron Rahlves are more focused on relaxing than patting themselves on the back.

“It drains you for sure when youíre traveling so much,” said Rahlves, a Truckee resident. “It kind gets to the point where it’s the last thing you want to be doing.”

All three Tahoe athletes won at least one gold medal this past week at the 2005 Oroweat U.S. National Alpine Championships at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Mendes won Friday’s downhill, Rahlves won Saturday’s super-G and Mancuso won Monday’s giant slalom, which gave her two gold medals. She also won the combined on Sunday.

Now that the season officially ended with the conclusion of Tuesday’s men’s giant slalom, the trio has officially entered their vacation period.

“I think we’ll go to Hawaii in the next couple of days, my wife Michelle and I,” said the 32-year-old Rahlves. “After that, maybe Alaska for some heli-skiing and then we’re going to Cabo, try and get in the water and do some surfing and get away from the mountain a little bit.”

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Mancuso also has island plans. The Squaw Valley skier won her record 11th straight nationals medal with Monday’s gold but yearns for gliding on a different platform – surfing.

“I’m going to Maui this summer and then I’ll just hang out with my family,” Mancuso said.

Mendes, who collected her second straight national downhill on Friday, is planning a road trip. After chilling in Tahoe for a few days, she plans to visit her boyfriend in New York, her sister in Chico, her brother in Santa Rosa, then her aunts and uncles in Santa Cruz, where she was born.

“I get to take a few weeks off,” Mendes. “I wish I could say I’m going on vacation. We start training soon for 2006. But that’s what I do this time of year, pretty much do the California loop and see everybody.”

It has been rumored that Rahlves might be interested in competing in the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe. On Tuesday at Mammoth, he denied such talk.

“I do golf, but I can drink beer and golf,” said Rahlves, who also enjoys motocross racing in the summer. “Seriously, it gets a little too anal at all those golf tournaments. I’m really not into that stuff. I’d rather be hanging with my friends and knock some balls around that way.”