Truckee, CA (March 16, 2014)—"I've been to a lot of races and it doesn't get better than the Banzai Tour," snowboarder finalist Lucas Dehmlow said, looking up the hill following his practice run for the Silver Belt Banzai finals Sunday at Sugar Bowl. Sunday's finals were the climax of four back-to-back weekends of racing, starting with Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and then ending at Sugar Bowl with the Silver Belt Banzai and Super Finals.
Competitors agreed that this year's Silver Belt Banzai was the most technical and rowdy to date—"This was the gnarliest race so far!" said local snowboarder Iris Lazzareschi. Low snow levels made for abrupt terrain features that challenged those looking for speed, contributing to disqualifications of a few top competitors. Spectators lined the course and a large crowd of wild fans enjoyed sunny skies, beer (the bar had to restock via snowmobile before the Super Finals), music, and a barbecue as they leaned in to watch competitors fly into view and then race down through the Red Bull finish line arches.
Jayson Hale took the victory in the Men Snowboard Silver Belt final, shooting out of the gate and leading the entire way. Hale had been battling Sylvain Duclos for the title, with Duclos ahead by 20 in overall points after he won the first two tour stops and then a close second to Hale at Alpine in a GoPro photo finish. Dehmlow took 2nd place in the Silver Belt, with Bobby Minghini in 3rd and Duclos finishing in 4th after a fall. Hale's win also gave him enough points to earn the overall snowboard title and a $3,000 prize. Squaw Valley snowboarder Ronnie Schoff pulled a backflip through the keyhole notch of the Alaska Airlines "Flight Deck," which was a highlight of the races and earned Schoff the title of "Best Air" and $100 Alaska Airlines bucks.
With so much talent and intensely raw conditions, anything can happen in Banzai racing, as evidenced by the Women Snowboard Silver Belt Banzai finals. Tour leaders Casey Lucas and Iris Lazzareschi were bumped out in the semi-finals; Lazzareschi in a GoPro photo finish against Beth Weissman, who saw an opening and blasted through to the finish, blind-siding Lazzareschi, who had led right up to the finish line. Audrey Hebert, a Banzai Tour newcomer from Montreal, went into the Sugar Bowl finals 2nd overall after Lucas and won the Silver Belt Banzai and the overall title. Hebert assured us that she'll be back next year, saying, "I've never done anything this awesome!" Mariah Dugan, Kiana Putman, and Beth Weissman took 2nd-4th respectively.
The intensity was high for the Snowboard Super Final: a one-run race with $5,000 on the line, pitting Nate Holland, Olympic snowboardcross racer, 8-time X Games Champion and Banzai Snowboard Ambassador against the top finalists, including Holland's former Olympic teammate Hale, Olympian Duclos (France), Minghini and Demhlow. Holland shot through the keyhole first with Hale right on his tail; they were elbow to elbow with the other racers close behind when Hale charged through on a banked turn section but caught too much air and tumbled. Holland prevailed, yelling, "Banzai!" as he raced through the Red Bull finish chute, followed by Dehmlow, Minghini and Duclos.
Here's the race from Rahlves' view:
"I enjoyed watching the heats and all-out performances, but came in with a higher level of focus than the last three events as a spectator with the Super Final approaching. At the top when the Men Snowboard Super Final loaded the gate, they yelled out a loud “Yeah, Chilly!”—a call out to our Live Free & Send It friend and that fired me up!
When the time came for us to load the gate, I was sandwiched between tour leader Kyle Coxon and our second ranked skier “SP” Shawn McGee. I felt the pressure to pull a holeshot. To the right of McGee was Ben Paciotti and then Cory Zila; a five-man gate ready to pin it. RBT starter Robby Jah iced us with a longer than normal hold. Tension was maxing out as Coxon, McGee and I barged the start twice before it dropped. I had a great pull and worked the terrain for all the speed and pulled the GoPro holeshot. I could feel them on me dropping into Elevator Shaft into the CEP Compression and see shadows on the backlit airs up top. Off the Keyhole Alaska Airlines Flight Deck I took the skier's left option into the lower gully. From there I had a good flow through the bottom and took speed onto the Steilhang and pointed it for the Red Bull finish through the Bank of the West Money Zone. Crossing the line I saw the crowd and my buddy Nate Holland who just won the Men Snowboard Super Final greeting me with a big celebratory hug. What a ride! That’s Banzai!" -Daron Rahlves
Although the lifts had closed, a big crowd stayed to congratulate all of the racers near the finish corral and for the awards. Along with the Silver Belt Banzai podium, the top overall finishers and Super Final champions took the podium as well. Sugar Bowl athlete Hale was visibly touched as Rahlves awarded him the first annual Chelone "Chilly" Miller "Live Free and Send It" Memorial Award for embodying the spirit of Miller throughout the Tour. Said Hale, "Chilly was a great guy and a good friend; this really means a lot to me, Chill—lllly!"
The 2014 Tour was once again broadcast live on Truckee and Lake Tahoe's own KTKE 101.5FM. Special thanks to JD Hoss and guest emcees Greg Buchheister of Coffeebar and Roy Tuscany of the High Fives Foundation. KTKE and the RBT also partnered with Alaska Airlines to send two lucky winners with round-trip airfare to Cordova as part of the station's annual Points North Heli Ski Giveaway. Tune in to find out who wins.
The 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, GoPro, Alaska Airlines, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., CEP, North Lake Tahoe, Jagermeister, COAL, Wend Wax, Squaw Valley Electric, World Cup Supply, Sports Insurance, Resort at Squaw Creek, SnowFest, Zinka, Tahoe Center for Orthopedics, CRUX, Bar Effect, KTKE 101.5FM, TahoeTV, and Powder Magazine.
For more information, race results, and videos, go to www.rahlvesbanzai.com.