32 Degrees: PROspective Daron Rahlves
This article, by Peter Kray, appears on page 20 in spring 2021 issue of 32 Degrees in the PROspective column.
Daron Rahlves is one of the most iconic U.S. skiers of the past 20 years. Beginning in 2001, he almost single-handedly led a resurgence in the international stature of U.S. ski racing, taking home three World Championships medals (including a gold in the Super-G in 2001) and a silver and bronze in 2005 in downhill and giant slalom. In 2003, he became only the second American ever to win the downhill in Kitzbuehel’s storied Hahnenkamm, 44 years after Buddy Werner became the first American to claim the top podium.
In 2010, Rahlves competed in ski cross at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, showcasing his ability to excel in a variety of disciplines and conditions. He can also be seen shredding big-mountain lines on film for everyone from Warren Miller to Teton Gravity Research to Matchstick Productions.
I’ve had the pleasure to watch Rahlves race everywhere from Austria to the U.S., twice while winning the downhill at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey. In person, he’s always been generous with his insight and his time. As a PSIA-AASI member, he was also a significant contributor to PSIA-AASI’s Fitness for Skiing and Snowboarding.
What are your first memories on snow?
Skiing with my grandmother Gigi; I stuck my tongue on a frozen chairlift and she yanked me back just before having to unload. Then, skiing with her through the trees on a jump line that she wasn’t as excited about as I was. She still had a blast following me around and asking why I was such a fast skier. I think my answer was something like, “It’s fun to ski fast.”
You’ve raced the Hahnenkamm, competed in Ski Cross, and skied fresh powder all over the world. How do all those different experiences continue to inform and shape your time on the snow?
That’s exactly why I love skiing so much. The variety of terrain and disciplines keeps the challenges coming with so much to learn. All those experiences have provided me with an endless passion for being on snow.
What are you working on in your skiing right now?
Skiing smooth and balanced by keeping my feet underneath me, searching out terrain to get creative with, and skiing top-to-bottom nonstops.
Your off-hill workouts are an important part of your regular training. What’s your favorite dryland technique for getting in ski shape?
My Mountain Warrior sessions I put on at a local fitness studio. I focus on mostly single-leg, complex athletic movements. The number-one strength exercises I like are full-range Pistol Squats with a one-arm thruster press using a kettlebell.
Who are the athletes and pioneers who continue to inspire you?
Those who are dedicated with a high level of work ethic; who are passionate, creative, and who calculate the risks and take chances. There are too many to list as I’m inspired by many athletes who ski race, free ski, snowboard, moto, mountain bike, snowmobile, and surf.
When working with other skiers, what are some of the coaching techniques you like to use?
I figure out what they want to improve by asking them first, then together we come up with a technique or skill to try. I like starting with imagery and then attaching a feeling to that. Then they can physically try it and see how it feels when doing the technique or skill correctly.
To improve or trying something new, I recommend associating a feeling when doing it correctly. Then, strive for that feeling. Skiing is all about how good it feels to turn and glide. We don’t ski to think about what to do.
As someone with a lot of coaching, what are the most effective ways you’re motivated that you use to help others reach their goals?
I’m internally motivated to push myself to improve, but I’ve benefited from coaches who put in the effort and were encouraging to give it a shot – the people who were not just blowing sunshine. When teaching, I try and really engage with others and make them own it to help motivate them. I especially connected with coaches who gave me a few different skills to try when working on the same outcome.
What’s next in terms of adventures and goals?
I love to share my experiences, my passion for life and being on snow with like-minded people. Whether it’s arcing turns down a racecourse, taking laps at the resort, ski touring for new terrain and fresh snow, skiing with my family and friends… it’s all a high priority in my life. I continue to thrive off challenges on snow, taking part in events either competing or filming and giving back to youth to adults making them better skiers. Skiing is a lifestyle, not just a sport.