Nastar is the pay race held nationally at dozens of top resorts, including Utah’s Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort and Snowbasin. Racers of every age and ability pay about $7 for two runs on a dual course—one side yellow, one side green. As in golf, racers are handicapped based on their results.
Snowboarders and skiers can race against friends or family, or run single. A “par time” is set by the resort pacesetter every morning. Snowriders win medals—bronze, silver, gold or platinum—based on their time compared to the day’s par time. The medals are great souvenirs. They contain the name of the resort and can’t be purchased; racers have to earn that medal.
At the end of each season, the National Nastar Championships are held. This year, the Nationals are at Colorado’s Winter Park. Usually, only the top three in each age and gender category from participating resorts qualify for Nationals, but this season, it will be the top five in each category.
Nastar records each day’s results from participating resorts on Nastar.com, making the record another type of souvenir. No matter how long ago you raced, your results are there. All you have to do is type a name in the search bar. But if you raced this season, you may have a surprise waiting: a banner beside your name saying, “Congratulations, You Qualified!” Qualifiers were announced in late February.
This year’s Championships will be huge because the U.S. ski team will be there. Nastar Nationals will be March 23 to 25, followed by the U.S. Alpine Championships from March 28 to April 1. For the first time, Nastar racers will share slopes with U.S. team racers for what promises to be a fun and inspirational time for all.
Winter Park communications manager Mistalynn Meyeraan says, “We are the closest major resort to Denver, with over 3,000 acres and 3,000 vertical feet. We’re a very large mountain,” adding that people should reserve rooms now if they want to stay in a hotel or condo at the base of the resort. “We’re close to being booked up. There’s still plenty of lodging in town, but rooms at the resort are filling quickly,” she says.
For full disclosure, I’ve qualified for the Nationals every year. Two years ago, I won the women’s national title (via my handicap). After years of competing, I offer three very important tips: First, and most important, get there a few days early. Don’t arrive the night before race day. Give yourself time to obtain your race bib and goody bag, catch up on sleep, and check out the course you’ll be racing on and the snow conditions.
Next, have your skis or snowboard tuned here in Utah and purchase race wax and a race overlay from a local shop; race stuff for bases, as well as available technician time, will all be sold out in Winter Park. The right wax can make you a winning second or two faster.
Third, practice. Spend several days just running Nastar, experimenting with different waxes, overlays and body positions. Keep a notebook at the top of the course and write down how each difference affected your time. Were you a few hundredths faster by holding your hands out in front where you could see them? Did tightening or loosening your boots affect your time? Was it faster when you leaned forward through the finish to break the beam or when you stood up straight?
Stew Marsh, Snowbasin’s race director, is a fast pacesetter with a handicap of 12. Though the resort’s Nastar is usually only open on occasional weekends, Marsh says, “Because of the upcoming nationals, we’re going to try to be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday during March, weather dependent. It’ll be on our Website.”
Marsh offers advice for Nastar racers: “Always look ahead down the course, not just at the next gate. When making a turn, press on the big toe of your outside foot and tip your ankles to the inside, toward the gate.”
If you have any questions about Nastar race technique, wax or race overlay, gear technicians or the National Championships, ask them in the comment section below. I’ll find the best expert to answer your question.