Rahlves set to defend skiercross crown at Aspen Winter X | AspenTimes.com

Rahlves set to defend skiercross crown at Aspen Winter X

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
A three-time Olympian, Daron Rahlves of Truckee, Calif. crosses his fingers during a news conference in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, in hopes to winning the Ski Cross competition and defend his gold medal at the Winter X Games during this weekend's competition . (AP Photo/Nathan Bilow)
AP | FR37383 AP

ASPEN ” Daron Rahlves is used to skiing on the verge of recklessness. He’s accustomed to navigating sharp turns on steep, icy slopes.

His background in the downhill and the super G has prepared him well for skiercross, an event that combines speed, jumps and guts as skiers scuffle for position going 40-plus mph.

Or did it?

“There’s no preparation for this,” Rahlves said, smiling.

Rahlves has grown enamored with the sport, becoming quite good in a short amount of time. He’s the defending Winter X champion in the discipline, winning last season as he battled from behind to make up ground.

He simply zips down the mountain like it was a downhill course, passing skiers as if they were gates on a giant slalom setup.

That’s the style he knows.

Rahlves was an accomplished alpine ski racer before retiring after the 2006 season. He won 12 times on the World Cup circuit, including on the famous downhill course in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in 2003.

But that was then.

He’s started a new chapter.

“I want to be known as a skier more than just a ski racer,” the Truckee, Calif., resident said. “It’s fun to change it up a little bit, getting into something that’s a new challenge.”

Rahlves made three Olympic teams in his skiing career, never coming home with a medal. His best finish was seventh in the super G at the Winter Olympics in Nagano in 1998.

He may get another chance to make an Olympic team at 35 years old. He’s hoping to earn his way onto the roster for the inaugural skiercross competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

“That would be great, the opportunity to keep the competitive dream alive,” he said.

An elite ski cross racer needs a strategic mind, no fear and a daredevil streak.

That’s Rahlves.

Just like his skiing career, he’s not afraid to take chances, going for risky passes when he feels the time is right.

“You’ve got to be mentally strong,” Rahlves said. “You have to think about what the guys behind you are doing, getting in your draft, maybe setting you up for a pass. You’ve got to protect that. It’s a whole different thing ” instead of chasing the clock, you’re trying to beat the guy next to you.”

He still keeps tabs on skiing, frequently checking out the results on the computer.

“Unfortunately, it’s not on TV more,” he said.

Rahlves is impressed with the depth of talent on the U.S. ski team, stoked to see Bode Miller and Marco Sullivan go second and third, respectively, at a downhill competition in Switzerland last week.

“That was a huge step right there,” he said.

When Rahlves isn’t careening down the slopes, he’s dabbling in motocross, competing in local races on his hauling Honda.

He said that helps with his ski cross racing more than anything.

“But the only way to really prepare is to show up at these events and go head-to-head,” said Rahlves, who will compete in the finals of skiercross on Sunday.

For as tough as his new endeavor is, he said it’s nowhere near as challenging as keeping up with his twins, Miley and Dreyson, who are now 18 months old.

“It’s relentless,” he said, laughing. “But I always like challenges.”

That’s why he took up skiercross.

“It’s perfect to have a great race career and move into this sort of atmosphere,” he said. “It’s like a wild circus.”

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