Photo: Jonathan Selkowitz

Pro explains course

5 questions with Daron Rahlves, the American with the fastest time ever on Beaver Creek course known for being a risk taker who loves speed

It’s about time to sharpen the edges and wax the boards. To get ready for the upcoming Xfinity Birds of Prey Audi FIS Ski World Cup in Beaver Creek Dec. 2-4, we connected with one of the legends of international ski racing, two-time event champion, and course record holder at Birds of Prey: the USA’s Daron Rahlves.

What was it like racing the course for the first time at the 1999 Alpine World Ski Championships?  

I was intimidated the first time, but that has always played in my favor to ramp up the focus. I always felt a bit on edge with the stacked terrain, jumps and fast turns. That race hill is a beast, and a blast to go at it full send! 

American Daron Rahlves celebrates in 2003 after racing to first place in the Birds of Prey  Downhill race at Beaver Creek. Photo by Jonathan Selkowitz.
What makes it unique compared to other World Cup courses?  

As an American, racing in the USA has historically only happened once a season. So that was a unique aspect and special opportunity for me and the U.S. Ski Team. Ultimately though, the demands of looking for speed on this hill and the consequences woke up all World Cup athletes on the first day of inspection and training. It’s a big price to pay if you’re off the timing into a turn or jump.   

In 2004, it was the site of your 1-2 finish with Bode Miller and the first-ever 1-2 finish for American men in downhill. What was it like being part of that historic finish? 

That was an amazing day except for me finishing second to my teammate (ha ha) … all in all it was a showcase of domination on our home turf. That was our focus, individually and as the team. I won there the year before and established the fastest time ever down BOP so second place stung, but to share the podium with Bode was a cool experience.  Lots of American pride that day! Not just the two of us, either. Bryon Friedman finished sixth and we had three Americans in the top six. That’s what Austrians or Norwegians or Swiss usually do, not Americans! 

And what was it like to return the next year for a third podium in a row? 

Nothing better than winning! Three years in a row first, second, and then first again. That was my last race down Birds of Prey and a perfect ending. I called it days before the race at the press conference that this was my last season racing. That put more focus on my will, and all-out effort to take back the title that year. And, of course, Bode made it exciting once again. 

What’s the most difficult feature on the course to nail?  

The flats on top. That’s where I lost the most time and it cost me the win in 2004. Second most difficult feature would be timing the exit off the Brink, taking it up to the fence at the right place and heading into a blind Talon turn. The beauty of this race hill is you need to deal with one feature after another. It doesn’t let up. 


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