The Rahlves' Banzai Tour begins this weekend (Feb. 22-23) at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
Due to low snow totals, the Banzai was delayed this year. But the wait was worth it. Kirkwood now has 9 feet of fresh snow.
“Mother Nature has been incredibly kind to Kirkwood over the past two weeks – 9 feet of new snow has filled in the Wall and we are ready to run this amazing event,” Kirkwood spokesperson Kevin “Coop” Cooper said. “The Banzai is pure, fast, and furious, and Kirkwood’s Wall is the perfect venue and course for these world class adrenaline athletes, where four men enter and (only) two men leave! If you’re not rubbing you aren’t racing.”
The 2014 Rahlves’ Banzai Tour, presented by Bank of the West, will span four weekends at Lake Tahoe resorts – Feb. 8 through March 16. The ski venues will be Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and the Finals and Super Finals at Sugar Bowl Resort on March 15-16.
Banzai founder Olympian Daron Rahlves
The race founder and still a dynamic skier is former World Champion, X-Games Champ, four-time Olympian, Daron Rahlves, a Sugar Bowl Resort Ambassador and Super Final competitor.
“There is no other race like this in the world,” Rahlves said. “What's so unique about the Banzai is that every-day rippers line up against pro-level athletes to find out what they’re made of, battle for Rahlves' Banzai titles and an $80,000 purse. When the gate drops, it's on as four competitors go head-to-head in a top to bottom race over natural terrain."
Banzai Tour Schedule
• Feb. 22-23: Kirkwood Mountain Resort
• March 1-2: Squaw Valley
• March 8-9: Alpine Meadows
• March 15-16: Sugar Bowl Resort
A look back at last year’s Banzai
The 2013 Banzai tour was filled with as many highlights as the challenging Banzai races. The tour kicked off with an amazing start dropping into the Wall at Kirkwood, followed by a Men’s Ski Final win by inches at Alpine Meadows.
The Squaw Valley tour stop tested the Banzai spirit when the Sunday finals were eliminated by weather, but rebounded strong with new snow and bluebird conditions at Sugar Bowl, culminating in a spirited weekend of competition on a technically challenging course.
This year’s Banzai honors Chelone Miller
Chelone “Chilly” Miller from Franconia, NH won the Overall Men’s Snowboard title as spectators witnessed his “live free and send it” approach that produced an exciting wrap up to his notorious come from behind wins on the 2013 tour.
Miller, a competitive snowboarder known for his progressive style, was found dead in his van from a seizure in April 2013, the cause thought to be long-term damage from a motorcycle accident in 2005 that had left him in a coma for 11 days.
Chilly, the younger brother of Olympic Gold Medalist Bode Miller, had hopes of making the Olympic team, with a recent fourth place finish at the 2013 Spring U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix at Canyons, Utah, and an overall victory in the Rahlves Banzai Tour.
This year Rahlves has chosen to honor the competitive spirit of Miller by introducing the “Live Free and Send It” award.
“The award will go to the competitor who embodies the free-spirit, skill and love of competition Chilly brought to the Banzai. It will be a yearly tribute passed on at the finals of the RBT,” Rahlves said.
Tough field once again
This year’s tour promises to be one of the most exciting thus far. 2013 Overall Champs Johnny Bochenek, Shannon Rahlves, Casey Lucas and $5,000 Super Final winner Kyle Coxon will have tough competition in defending their titles.
It’s quite a mixture of skiers and riders of all levels, including every-day rippers representing their home resorts, to skiers/boarders of all levels coming out for a fun and competitive experience, to competitors making a name for themselves on other tours in racing, ski cross and big mountain.
New addition for 2014 are tour sponsors GoPro and Alaska Airlines along with adding a Men’s Snowboard Super Final with Nate Holland for same Super Final as Men’s Ski of a winner takes all $5,000 purse. Holland is a seven-time X-Games Champ and U.S. Olympic Snowboarder, who signed on as Rahlves' Banzai Tour Snowboard Ambassador.
GoPro capturing all the action and Alaska Airlines awarding four round-trip flights to any Alaska Airlines destination to each of the four overall Tour winners. They will also offer the “Alaska Airlines Long Flight Award” of $100 Alaska Airlines bucks for best air during the Sunday finals at each Tour stop.
Rahlves’ Banzai Tour Presented by Bank of the West is proud to be associated with Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl Resort, Red Bull, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., CEP Compression, Wend Wax, Lake Tahoe North, Tahoe Center for Orthopedics, Jagermeister and our newest partners Alaska Airlines and GoPro.
Banzai Tour broadcast live
The 2014 Tour will once again be broadcast live on Truckee and Lake Tahoe’s own radio 101.5 FM, which has also partnered with Alaska Airlines to send two winners with round-trip airfare to Cordova as part of station’s annual Points North Heli Ski Giveaway.
If you’re wondering about the tour’s name, Banzai is a Japanese term expressed as an exuberant cheer meaning, “Long Life!” or “Hurray!”
Banzai has historic background
An apt name for a high-spirited downhill ski and snowboard competition, the Silver Belt Race first took place in the 1940s at Sugar Bowl ski resort, ran strong through the 1970s, and was re-introduced with the head-to-head action by Daron Rahlves and Sugar Bowl in 2009.
The race continued with one event for another year, and then Rahlves decided to take the show on the road, officially launching Rahlves’ Banzai Tour and expanding to stops at four of Lake Tahoe's premier resorts, finishing the tour where it all began at Sugar Bowl.
For more information, check out previous race results, videos and register for events, at www.rahlvesbanzai.com.