Snowmass fired up over NASTAR |

Snowmass fired up over NASTAR

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Aspen, CO, Colorado

SNOWMASS – The NASTAR National Championships are returning to the Spider Sabich Race Arena at Snowmass this week, 15 years after they first took place on the same course.

The National Standard Race began in 1968, according to its website. Then, just 100 participants could qualify for the recreational skiing organization’s championship, said Bill Madsen, director of NASTAR operations.

In 1998, NASTAR allowed more people to qualify for the top competition, on the Spider Sabich race course at Snowmass. This year, more than 1,000 racers have registered for the event that will be here next year, as well.

Madsen, a Snowmass Village resident, said he’s wanted to bring the championships back here for some time, especially since parts of Base Village were completed.

“We’ve been to a lot of resorts over the years,” he said. “I’ve really been eager to bring it here.”

Aspen Skiing Co. was building the race courses this week leading up to the racers’ arrival Wednesday. The Snowmass Ski School is helping to offer race clinics for competitors and their friends and families, said John Rigney, Skico vice president of sales and events.

“We’re trying to treat everyone that comes as part of it,” he said.

There’s also a lot of entertainment programming surrounding the event. Bud Light Spring Jam begins Thursday, which will include a free concert by Brett Dennen in Base Village.

There also will be a showing of “Flow State,” a recent film by Warren Miller, an awards ceremony, music by Jes’ Grew and lunch at the Spider Sabich Picnic Palace on Friday.

“We have a full schedule on the mountain and off,” Madsen said.

A special treat for racers is the chance to bump elbows with some of the best in winter sports. Olympic champion Julia Mancuso, three-time World Cup grand slalom champion Ted Ligety and World Cup racers Nolan Kasper and Stacey Cook will be pace-setting for the event.

“We’ve got this great stable of racers who are really passionate about promoting the sport,” Madsen said.

NASTAR is an organization that cultivates young athletes.

“If you ask anyone on the U.S. Ski Team, almost every single one of them will say ‘I got my start in NASTAR,'” Madsen said.

The current crop of competitors ranges from 3 years old to 90.

“Some of the older folks that come out are just so inspirational,” Madsen said. “(And) it’s really fun to see those little guys.”

Hosting the championships in the valley has motivated many local athletes to participate. Twenty-eight racers connected with the Snowmass ski area are registered, and there are many more from the Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands teams.

Although most of the competitors are alpine skiers, there also are events for telemarking and snowboarding.

Watching the races and most events in Base Village are open to the public. The race course also is open to the public before competition begins Friday. For a full schedule, pick up a copy of In Snowmass or go to and click on “nationals.”