Snowmass resident sets course for NASTAR |

Snowmass resident sets course for NASTAR

Bill Madsen
Aubree Dallas |

Have you done anything for 26 years?

That’s how long Bill Madsen has been involved with NASTAR, the National Standard ski race that’s returning to Snowmass Village for its national championships this week.

Now the organization’s director of operations, Madsen started out as an intern for Bob Beattie, whose promotional company was running NASTAR for Ski Magazine. Born and raised in Aspen, Madsen was a ski racer in college and for the United States Junior World team, so working in the industry was a natural fit.

“I really have a Ph.D. in ski racing, because that’s really what I spent my time doing,” he says.

At that time, the national championships were invitation only. The company would cover participants flights and lodging, and only adults could participate because it was sponsored by Bud Light, Madsen said.

Over time, the cost of running the event became too high and participation was dwindling. The Beatties were losing interest, but Madsen still saw potential for the event.

He convinced a team to alter the tournament to allow anyone who qualified to come if they paid their own way. The first tournament to run with that format was in 1998 in Snowmass, and 200 people attended. The next year, attendance doubled, and the same thing happened the year after that.

“We just went, ‘well maybe there’s something to this,’” Madsen said.

Now, people from 45 states participate in the national championships, which are back in Snowmass for the third year in a row this week.

Racing in NASTAR

NASTAR standardizes racers’ ability level by giving each participant a handicap, the equivalent of the percentage of the national standard for best time on the course. Racers then compete against others across the country in similar age and ability levels.

Currently, that standard is set by U.S. Ski Team member and Olympic medalist Ted Ligety, who came out to the national championships last year. This year, celebrity pacesetters include Daron Rahlves, A.J. Kitt, Casey Puckett and Heidi Voelker.

Something new to the championships is team racing, which any group of friends or family can participate in. That has been a fun addition, as people get more fired up when they’re rooting for their teammates, Madsen said.

And brand new this year is an opportunity to race a slalom course on the last day of the championships. Using “stubby gates” rather than standard ones, the event will introduce NASTAR racers to slalom without them having to worry about blocking gates, Madsen said.

There will be live music in Base Village every night during the championships, as well as an awards party on March 20. National title winners can compete in the Race of Champions on March 21. There’s no way of knowing who will end up on the podium in that event, Madsen said, since the handicapping system levels the playing field across all divisions.

Overall, NASTAR is an opportunity for skiers of any ability level to be successful, Madsen said.

“Some are really experienced, and some aren’t at all,” Madsen said. “But the stoke level’s all the same.”

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