Daron Rahlves announces Banzai series

The Silver Belt race originally started in 1940 at Sugar Bowl. Now, it's back with a modern twist. Court Leve

This winter, Daron Rahlves' ski-cross-style Silver Belt Banzai Race, previously a one-off event held at California's Sugar Bowl ski area, will become a three-series tour around Lake Tahoe.

Known as the Rahlves Banzai Series, the races will be held at Alpine Meadows (January 22-23), Kirkwood (February 5-6) and Sugar Bowl (March 12-13) and will feature skiers and snowboarders going head-to-head around gates set on big-mountain terrain.

"I thought, let's start a new tradition and build a tour off the success of the last two Silver Belt Banzais," Rahlves says, "and take it to other cool places like Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood."

The first-ever Silver Belt Race was held at Sugar Bowl toward the end of the resort's very first season, in April of 1940. The GS-style race ran skiers down the challenging natural terrain of Mt. Lincoln. In a time before World Cup competition, the race was widely considered to be one of the toughest of that era and often attracted the top American and European competitors. The Silver Belt Race was held for 35 seasons, the last in 1975.

After it ended, the race became something of a legend. A trail was named after it at Sugar Bowl and black and white pictures hung from the walls of the Belt Room Bar in the ski area's Disney Lodge.

In 2004, the Silver Belt was reintroduced, but with a twist. Modeled after the original Silver Belt race, it descended the same slopes of Sugar Bowl's Mt. Lincoln, but the new race featured a skier-cross style format with four skiers per heat racing at the same time.

The race then went on a five-year hiatus until 2009. In 2009 and 2010, four-time Olympian and 2008 X Games skier cross gold medalist Daron Rahlves won the men's division and his sister Shannon won for the women. (Click here for video from last year's race.)

This season, both the finals and the super final will still be held at Sugar Bowl. The series will take all comers, and its entry fee of $100 includes a lift ticket. Divisions will include men, women, youth, ski and snowboard. The race series offers a total prize purse of $50,000 with $10,000 in prizes for each tour stop and an additional $10,000 for the overall tour winners.

The race series is one its kind in North America and Rahlves hopes it'll attract top freeskiers. "It's a chance to rub elbows with local hot shots, the everyday skiers and the pros," he says.

And in case you're (legitimately) worried about Rahlves dominating the entire thing, know that he's opted out of the three tour stops this year and he'll only be on hand as a promoter, ambassador and coach. Rahlves will, however, be competing in the super final event.

"Rahlves will undoubtedly take full advantage of Alpine's challenging terrain when planning the Banzai course," says Alpine Meadows' Rachael Woods. "Competitors and spectators alike will definitely be stoked."

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