Letter: Bring back head-to-head ski racing in Aspen, Snowmass
January 20, 2019
I loved your story "Smoke Show at S'mass," (Jan. 16, the Snowmass Sun) recounting the fun of head-to-head racing in the old Marlboro-sponsored, $0.50 coin-op courses of the 1980s. Siblings, friends and even couples challenged one another for bragging rights in those gates, leading to run after run, and tall tales told at aprés ski.
We suggest we can and should bring back the fun and simplicity of head-to-head racing. It's not that hard. Look at the terrain park in Snowmass: filled with scores of skiers and snowboarders playing on dozens of obstacles. Travel slightly higher up the six-pack over the Spider Sabich Race Arena (anyone remember the go-go days of Spider representing Snowmass as a pro racer?) and there you find a similar-size hill dotted with one set of parallel gates, and very few takers. Why? NASTAR charges a fee to ski, and it is the only option for recreational racing.
Free in the park. Fee to race. Both fun and challenging. No surprise where utilization flows.
Why not set up several dual courses on that empty larger hill? Let friends and family come and challenge each other. Timing isn't needed. Just set up the gates and let people ski. Our guess is that NASTAR would grow, for those seeking medals, as we build better and more skiers who discover, for free, that racing is fun.
And why is there a fee for NASTAR anyhow? The program is now owned by the U.S. Ski Team. Isn't it in their interest that more people try racing — some seriously, building more competent competitors — but mostly for fun and improving technique, while building a ski racing fan base?
Let's level the playing field between race courses and terrain parks. Make it all free and expand the appeal of skiing overall. (And, who knows, we just might develop more and better ski racers in the process.)
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