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Nick Paulino, Senior Accountant at Spyder and, in his words, ‘quasi ski racer’ at the Alpine Meadows stop of the Rahlves Banzai Tour.

Video, pictures, and words just don’t do it justice. Without experiencing it first hand, one cannot grasp the magnitude of gnarly that is the Rahlves Banzai Tour.  The steep and unforgiving terrain, variable snow conditions, and head-to-head racing action make it unlike any other ski race this side of the Atlantic. To say that it is an “extreme” ski race is a gross understatement.

I like to ski fast.  After growing up in Texas and getting a late start on my skiing experience, my enjoyment of speed and desire to push the limit on the slopes tends to get me in a bit of trouble from time to time.  I crash a lot.  So much so, I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  So I figured, why not take my ski wipeouts to the next level? 

That’s where the Rahlves Banzai Tour comes in to play.  Out here, it’s all about riding that thin line between skiing barely in control and exploding the most epic yard sale of your life.  As the famed snow sports announcer Uncle E put it,  it’s a “Risk vs. Reward” formula.  If you’ve never pushed yourself to crash so hard that your skis exploded off your feet in a violent tornado of snow, equipment, and limbs, then you my friend aren’t living.  Sorry Mom.

As a weekend warrior, I knew that I didn’t stand a chance against anyone with a bona fide goggle tan at Alpine Meadows.  But this race was really just about challenging myself. That being said, as I saw the other competitors straight line the on-course mogul field at high speed, and then watched Daron do it even faster while in a tuck, I have to admit I underestimated the difficulty level of the task at hand because of how easy they make it look.  The moguls didn’t seem all that big until the moment I found myself in the middle of them with way too much speed.  Let me tell you, what happened next wasn’t pretty. Wham!  Double eject-o out of both bindings on a 14 DIN setting. Again, sorry Mom.

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A look at the upper section of the course.

Three ligaments in my ankle that were seemingly protected by my hard ski boot will never be the same after a grade II sprain, and it was totally worth it. People have hurt themselves worse getting out of the shower—at least I was doing something cool.  Something really cool. Right?  Parenthetically, I was showing off my shiny new air cast to fellow coworker and Banzai Tour logo designer Matt Strackbein, and he pointed out that any injury sustained on the RBT is a lucky one because it always could have been worse.  Well said Matt; I do feel lucky.

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Yes, folks, this is a race course.

Ligaments heal and bruised egos fade away.  But my memory will always remain vivid of the first time I ever tried a race on the Rahlves Banzai Tour.  That feeling of realizing I am totally in over my head and then pushing through that fear is something I will always be proud of.  It will make every other race I participate in this season seem like child’s play, and I can’t wait to be back to Tahoe next year in much better shape and with some sort of idea about what I am getting myself into.

If you are planning to be in Tahoe this week, be sure to check the schedule on rahlvesbanzai.com and make a point to go watch this race because it’s unlike anything else you have ever seen. There is one stop left this season at Sugar Bowl this weekend on March 9th & 10th.   Practice & time trials take place on Saturday and the crazy head-to-head action goes down on Sunday.  The best race to watch will be the super final at Sugar Bowl where the winners from each tour stop get to take on the undefeated banzai master himself, Daron Rahlves. (ed. note: Daron Rahlves, himself, suffered an injury in last week’s Banzai race and will not be competing in the Sugar Bowl Final.)

Look for me on the crash highlight reel next year!  I should at least save it for the cameras next time around.

-Nick Paulino

Quasi-ski-racer and accountant for Spyder Active Sports

PS - I’ll leave you with a video of Daron’s perspective while charging down last year’s course at Sugar Bowl.