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Don’t let the mellow surfer-boy looks fool you:Californian Daron Rahlves may be the toughest nut on the World Cup. The best U.S. male downhiller in history is also the only North American—Crazy Canucks included—to win the famed Hahnenkamm of Kitzbuhel in both downhill and super G. Last season, while Bode Miller stole the downhill show, Rahlves flexed his technical muscle, capturing a giant slalom bronze at the World Championships mere weeks after surviving an appalling GS crash that would have crushed lesser, saner, men.
SKI: Is it frustrating that you’re the best U.S. downhiller ever, yet Bode gets so much attention? RAHLVES: No, Bode had a damn good year. I can’t take anything away from him. There were a lot of close races, but it seemed like every single race, I was behind him by hundredths or a tenth or two. It was tough to suck up. This year…I have a lot of motivation, I’ll tell you that.
So you’re ready risk it all? Every year I’ve tried to do that. But this could be my last full season. I want to accomplish things I’ve never accomplished before.
In three events? Yeah. I need myself as ready and focused for a GS as I would be for a super G or downhill. This year, I’m going for broke. I want to go to the Olympics and take down three: GS, super G, downhill. I’ve never thought about the overall. But my (GS) performance last year inspired me to know that the overall is not out of the question. It’s tougher because I don’t do slalom.
Would you ever do slalom? I hate slalom.
Would it ever be worth your time? I don’t want to be holding back or skiing slalom just to earn a few more points for the overall—you know, like the Austrians and Euros are so concerned about. Like, s—, just go out there and ski your heart out every single race. I want to win it in three events.
What’s more important: Olympic gold or a downhill title? I can’t pick one. The downhill title shows consistency and that overall you’re the best guy. Olympic gold shows that when there’s huge pressure and a big audience, you can come out and step up and be The Man. I want both: I want consistency and the big one.
Do you and Bode help each other? Or are you at a level where you can’t give up secrets? Every other team is like that. But, especially in downhill, Bode and I really try to nail down a lot of stuff so that we can try different things. He’ll try a line, I’ll try a different line, because sometimes you only have one training run. If we work together we can narrow it down. In super G and GS, we discuss tactics and sections. We do work as a team that way.[NEXT]You both seem highly analytical. There’s no one that picks it apart more than Bode. He’s always thinking about different things to try. I don’t like to tweak too many things, but you have to have a good sense of what your equipment will do and try new things.
What’s the hardest part of racing? Traveling. I’m only home a week each winter. Last year I left on Nov. 8, came home on the 20th for one day, then was gone until March 17.
The motor home helps? The bus is the way to go. I have a new one. Bigger shell—14 meters long. Red Bull takes care of the bus and the driver. I just drive (an Audi RS6) between races, and it’s all set up.
What’s winning Kitzbuhel like? The most intense feeling I’ve ever had. Winning the World Championship super G was huge, but Kitzbuhel was bigger.
Is that the hairiest downhill? When conditions are good—and when I say “good, I mean typical (icy) World Cup conditions—it’s the toughest, mentally. There’s no way to test yourself for that except skiing it. I like downhills where you kick out of the start and it’s game on, boom, in your face, and you have to attack. That’s fun.
What’s your biggest challenge this season? The biggest thing is being healthy the whole season. When you ski three events, racing every weekend, it puts focus on what your body cann handle. You have to be smart. I’ve backed off a lot on partying and the fun activities. But I still freeski my brains out.
Where’s your favorite place to ski? Wherever there’s a ton of snow. I love Tahoe. The snow is better than anywhere else. It sticks to super steep rocky places.
Best moment of last year? Second run at Adelboden—the one GS run that I really let it all go and I didn’t hold anything back.
And crashed huge. Interesting pick. I’d rather ski like that than be careful and get second. In that one run, I learned my potential.
Other favorites? Tying Bode in the last super G. We both won, and he won the super G title. Bode deserved it. It’s great to have him as a teammate. It makes me foam at the mouth even more.