America's best speed-event racer ever and a three-time Olympian, Rahlves stood on 28 World Cup podiums before migrating to skiercross (Think: Chinese Downhill meets motocross) and winning an X-Games gold in the event.
I grew up in the Bay Area, 45 minutes east of San Francisco and spent my weekends as a skier at Tahoe. Then it was two years at Tahoe full time, then on to the ski academy, GMVS, in Vermont, then to Boulder, then 13 years on the national team. When I moved back to Tahoe I pretty much had to find new friends because all my friends I grew up with had left. Now I have two kids, twins, a boy and a girl, Dreyson and Miley, you can't be like "I'm going to be gone all day."
Since the twins arrived in July, 2007 skiing has taken a secondary role. It's made me appreciate even an hour on the ski hill. I'm not able to pull bell-to-bell days on the skis anymore. I have a huge appetite for skiing and it╒s difficult to fill myself up these days. But seeing how quickly our kids progress and learn is worth it. Those simple pleasures are priceless.
The Dubai ski dome is impressive. There's 1,200 feet of vertical. I saw some headcam footage of a guy going over a roller halfway down. Somehow the snow falls from the ceiling. It looks authentic. I'm going to ask them to leave it on for a couple of days. Get a powder day when it's 120 degrees out.
I grew up riding dirt bikes and got more involved in motocross for fun. The [U.S.] Ski Team didn╒t want me to do it, but it's similar to ski racing. Tactically you're running lines and being aggressive. Trying to figure out how to keep your momentum going. For skiercross it's even more relative because now I'm going head to head with guys on the mountain. You need that open vision where you can react to guys around you but still see your line.
I get more nauseous in the gate of skiercross than I did in World Cups. The morning of this past X Games I was like "Damn. Why am I still doing this? I can't eat my breakfast."
In racing you have one game plan. But there are so many variables in skiercross that you can only use a game plan if you're in front. You have to know when to attack. Some guys aren't as good at turning, others aren't good jumpers. That was the hardest thing for me to learn. I was trying to pass all the time and I was running up on skis and crashing.
In the early days skiercross was fully renegade and they didn't think of safety. They'd send the racers over bumps and then funnel them into a big right-hander. They were just asking for it. Now the courses are built better. The jumps and the speed are in the right spots. But, regardless, when you add other racers in the mix, things change. People are always bumping and riding up on each other.
You're pretty much a ghost as a ski racer in the U.S. Coming home to Truckee after winning the X Games people were coming up and congratulating me. I was laughing to myself. I won World Cups and people didn't even know.
During the last summer Olympics I heard people saying that Michael Phelps would get the country excited about swimming. But people aren't going to start swimming just because he won all these gold medals. People don't look at swimming and skiing all year every year.
I never grew up thinking 'I'm going to get famous as a ski racer.' Racing the world's best downhill tracks was enough reward for me. Ski racing in Europe is like football in the U.S. Every race is on live TV. Europeans are star-struck by ski racers. It gets out of hand at times. Autographing everything from pictures, hats, clothes, skis, cars, faces, on and on. Your food and drinks at restaurants are covered. Audi gave me their fastest cars to drive all winter. I was always hooking up with locals to ski all the secret powder stashes. It was as close to living as a rock star as I could imagine. But then you have to perform every week.
Every Saturday night after the Hahnenkamm DH race from 2000 to 2006, I drank and served behind the bar at The Londoner. I always had good reason to. Either I had a big crash and I had to blow off some steam like in 2002, or I had wins and podiums. You can let it all hang out at The Londoner. It's been a long-standing tradition for U.S. Downhillers to run the show for the crowd. Besides the U.S. boys, there were racers from Switzerland and Norway serving drinks. There are no rules in Austria that night.
We're setting up a permanent skiercross at Sugarbowl. It'll be the only one in the country. People are like, 'Oh that's dangerous,' but you have cliffs and everything else around here. That kills me. Nobody assumes any risk.
I do the Rocky program in the yard. I'm committed to skiercross in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. The last two seasons I just skied myself into shape. Now I'm training. I don't want to get smoked because I'm weak. I have weights in the garage, and I go run with the dogs. Part of the reason I retired from racing was because I wanted to explore more of life and not be a gym rat five days a week.
I want to see skiercross progress where the courses get more challenging so the best guys can succeed. Most courses are under a minute long. I'd like to see two-minute-long courses. There should be rollers on turns and step-ups you need to enter on edge.
My dream is to mix skiercross with all-mountain skiing in the spirit of a Chinese downhill. I created an event last winter with Red Bull and Sugarbowl called the Silverbelt Red Bull Bonzai. There's all natural terrain with only a few directional gates. Then you send it all the way to the bottom. Cliffs, chutes, trees, gullies. There are amazing skiers around here. They just bomb everything. We're going to bring back the Hot Dog days.
From the Early Winter 2009 issue