Former World Cup skier, Rahlves, still racing to win
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” Daron Rahlves still looks like a World Cup racer.
The winning smile and competitive edge will last an eternity, but gaze closer and Rahlves is a changed man. He’s only 35-years-old, but one of the most-decorated men’s alpine skier in U.S. history is well into the next chapter of his life.
New interests, a new family and a new sport are just the beginning for the “retired” star. Rahlves is back in Vail this week to race in the American Ski Classic. The area produces found memories. He won two downhill titles at Beaver Creek in 2003 and 2005 during his alpine career.
“The reason I wanted to come back is because this is the heartbeat of racing in the U.S.,” Rahlves said about his first race at the American Ski Classic.
Although he didn’t win the giant slalom on Thursday, Rahlves is used to standing on the podium. In his illustrious career, he racked up 12 World Cup titles.
Those days are yet to fade in the rearview mirror, but they are no longer the most important in his life. Since retiring in 2006, Rahlves, and wife, Michelle, welcomed twins, Drayson and Miley, into the world. While Rahlves likely won’t be skiing the downhill anytime soon, it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of his kin doing so in the future.
The twins are only-one-and-a-half-years-old, but Rahlves is already teaching them to go fast.
“I have them out skiing,” Rahlves said. “I kind of let them go and catch up. Or I’ll snowplow backwards and catch them.”
Once an alpine god, Rahlves is caught balancing family life and his new interests. Since retiring, Rahlves started to compete in skier-cross competitions.
Naturally, success came right away. Rahlves took home gold in skiercross at Winter X Games 12 in 2008. This past year, the California native learned what it takes to win at elite skiercross competitions.
“Skiing-wise, I don’t have a problem,” Rahlves said. “I have to learn a little more how to handle those big kickers. In downhill, you just drop off the jumps. It takes different skills for sure to come off those big lips.”
Rahlves’ competitive fire is keeping him going. Understandably, Rahlves has yet to devote himself to skiercross full-time. Instead, he just free skis at his home mountain, Suger Bowl Resort in California.
That will soon change. Rahlves is aiming for his first Olympic medal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Next year is going to be more of a focus,” Rahlves said. “I haven’t really focused a lot on just that. I’m not at that time in my life where I’m going all out for the quest. I’m trying to work hard. In October, I’d say that’s when I’ll kick into gear.”
In the meantime, don’t expect to see Rahlves standing around at any World Cup events. Though he was at the Birds of Prey in 2006, it drives him crazy to watch. When you’re used to being the main attraction, watching other skiers take on the Bird of Prey course is tough.
“I like the races, but I just sit there on the sidelines,” Rahlves said. “I’m not a watcher. I feel like I could do it. It’s hard to come back to Beaver Creek and watch everybody have that fun.”
Sure, Rahlves may be missing out at the Birds of Prey but he is making up for that by going on his own adventures. Famed extreme-skiing filmmaker Warren Miller and Rahlves have teamed up to create epic projects for ski bums to admire.
Recently, Rahlves and Miller shot powder scenes in out-of-bounds areas at Lake Tahoe, Calif.
“You’re looking at a fresh powder line and you just want to keep making laps,” Rahlves said. “It takes 30 minutes to get everything set up to film it. When you get to ski it, that’s when it’s fun. When the camera is on, it recruits a little more intensity.”
Speaking of intensity, Rahlves can’t help but admire what American Lindsey Vonn has accomplished. Vonn, a Vail native, is now a two-time World Cup overall champion and arguably the greatest U.S. skier of all-time.
Rahlves hopes Vonn’s aggressive skiing, confidence and outgoing personality can win over American sports fans.
“We’ve always talked about giving a shot in the arm to the American public,” Rahlves said. “It will for sure happen in an Olympic year. Still, unfortunately it’s so small in the U.S. In Europe, she’s the queen over there.”
It wasn’t long ago when Rahlves was king of the mountain. Even with his chaotic schedule, he isn’t competing in skiercross for fun. If Rahlves is on the podium at the 2010 Olympics, don’t be surprised. He was born to race.
“I’m not in the game just to participate,” Rahlves said. “I’m in the game to be on top.”
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.