Skico to offer free NASTAR racing on Ajax, Snowmass ahead of March nationals
While the return of the NASTAR National Championships to Snowmass is still a month away, Aspen Skiing Co. is ready to start the celebration a bit early. Beginning next week, there will be a brief window where guests can take to the area’s two NASTAR courses for free and see how they stand against the rest of the country.
Racing will be free for guests on Aspen Mountain beginning Monday and going through March 1. The NASTAR courses on Snowmass will be free for racers from Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 29.
The Aspen Mountain course is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the Snowmass course operates from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Racers are asked to register and create a NASTAR profile ahead of time.
“We are excited to open the NASTAR race courses for everyone to experience for free while they’re on the mountain,” Skico director of event development Deric Gunshor said in a statement. “We are excited to celebrate ski racing this spring at Aspen-Snowmass with two big events, and are looking forward to the energy it brings to our resort and the sport.”
Snowmass will host NASTAR Nationals from March 24 to 28, an event that is being paired with the return of the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships from March 28 to 31 at both Snowmass and Aspen Highlands.
NASTAR stands for National Standard Race and is a public, grassroots racing program that operates out of more than 100 resorts and clubs across the country. A handicapped system with numerous levels, it allows all kinds of different skiers to compete against each other regardless of location.
Originally founded in 1968, NASTAR’s current championship format began in 1998, with those races being held in Snowmass. Snowmass last hosted the NASTAR National Championships during a three-year stretch from 2013 to 2015.
“NASTAR is a social network,” NASTAR director Bill Madsen told The Aspen Times. “It’s a way to tie like-minded people together with a common scoring system so they can see where they stack up with their family, their friends, their peers, and then really how they are doing against people within their own ability group.”
This will be the first time in 60 years that Aspen has hosted a U.S. Alpine Tech Championship event. Aspen recently hosted the 2016 Nor-Am Cup finals, which was used as a test event for the 2017 World Cup Finals. Aspen also hosted the 1950 World Championships as well as numerous World Cup races over the decades.
Both events are free and open to the public, although a lift ticket will be required to access the race venue at Snowmass without hiking. The races at Aspen Highlands can be viewed from the base.
“When they came to us with an opportunity to bid on it, it was kind of in tandem with this discussion around the U.S. Ski Team tech championships,” Gunshor previously told The Aspen Times. “Their vision is really to bring the two sides of racing together and we were excited to be able to offer a unique combination of venues so the two events could overlap.”
Aspen-Snowmass also will be host to a few other racing opportunities next week, including the Mother of All Ascensions uphill race — a non-Skico event — on Tuesday and Skico’s annual Power of Four ski mountaineering race, which is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 29.
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Puckett was a five-time Olympian and World Cup skier