Promoting the sport: NASTAR, U.S. tech championships to overlap at Snowmass
Editor’s Note: This story was written and published in the March 11 edition of the Snowmass Sun prior the NASTAR National Championships, originally scheduled to take place in Snowmass on March 24-28, being canceled.
In less than two weeks, hundreds of skiers of all ages will take to the Snowmass slopes for the NASTAR National Championships.
NASTAR, which stands for National Standard Race, is the world’s largest and most accessible grassroots ski-racing program. It aims to allow racers of all ages and abilities a means to compare their race results to other competitors across the country through a handicapping system, regardless of when and where they race, according to the program website.
The national championships, which will take place March 24 to 28 and include a Race of Champions Finals for the top championship competitors, will celebrate this ski-racing accessibility, as young kids will race alongside grandparents and high-level athletes.
But what’s special about this year’s NASTAR National Championships isn’t only that they’re back in Snowmass this year after five years away. The championships also will line up with the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships, set to take place at Snowmass and Highlands from March 28 to 31, allowing amateur and World Cup-level racers to compete on courses right next to each other for a day, and for some of the biggest fans to cheer on their favorite elite ski-racing athletes.
“Having all of the athletes here with the NASTAR athletes racing right next door to the U.S. Ski Team is how we promote the sport I think,” said Bill Madsen, longtime NASTAR director, noting this side-by-side racing will take place March 28 at Snowmass.
Madsen, who has been the NASTAR race director for 30 years and also serves on Snowmass Town Council, said he first proposed the concept of hosting the NASTAR and U.S. Alpine Tech Championships at the same venue over an overlapping time frame about four years ago.
At that time, many stakeholders were excited about the idea as a way to promote ski racing and build support for the U.S. Ski Team but no resorts were up for the challenge of taking both championship events on at the same time.
About a year ago, Madsen said Aspen Skiing Co., U.S. Ski Team and NASTAR (owned by the U.S. Ski Team) started talking about the potential of being the first to host both events and made it a reality this season.
“Skico is so dedicated to promoting the sport and has the right venues, so it just made sense,” Madsen said. “With the World Cup now in the east, I think this gives the skiing company an opportunity to stay at the forefront of ski racing.”
Deric Gunshor, events development director for Skico, echoed Madsen’s thoughts. He said hosting both championships aligns with Aspen-Snowmass’ long ski racing history and is exciting to take on.
“For us this is a great way to celebrate one of the pillars of ski heritage here, a pillar much of our ski history was built on,” Gunshor said of hosting the elite and amateur ski racing events.
“Having the NASTAR public racing exist in tandem with one of the best ski races in the U.S. provides a really cool overlap of racing and watching racing at the same time.”
Both Gunshor and Madsen said the next few weeks will be full of preparations for both championship events, which as of March 10 are still on track to take place despite growing COVID-19 concerns.
Gunshor also is working closely with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, who will head the racing management of the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships at Highlands, and said there’s still plenty of opportunity for locals to get involved as NASTAR competitors (must qualify by March 20) or volunteers.
“This is going to be a really exciting week of racing for the entire community,” Gunshor said. “We hope people come out, participate and rally around it.”
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More trails will open for the season on Sunday for mountain bikers in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs.