(Surprise surprise. I wrote a long winded post. I highlighted the questions I have below. You can skip to them or read all the background data too. Your choice.)
I work at Crotched Mountain and the last couple years have been involved in the NASTAR program. There are three of us; one runs the Adult League (ARL), I do Weekend NASTAR (Daily) and the third kinds of mentors us (or at least me since I'm new to this). The same three are in process NOW of getting a start on making the program stronger this year. My involvement has nothing to do with my racing ability and experience but my organizational skills and ability to get things done. I bring that up so you better understand why I'm posting here and have so many questions.
The mountain is at a sort of cross roads. They are installing a Hi Speed Quad (HSQ) that will bring folks to the true Summit, which is about another 150' higher elevation, gives another 25 acres and opens up all sorts of off piste opportunities. It will also bring back to life the trails that haven't been open since the "Old" Crotched closed down in the '90's. The progress can be followed at CM's facebook page http://www.facebook.com/CrotchedMountain?ref=ts
Since so many changes are happening, we have an opportunity to improve the NASTAR program by moving some things around and getting things set right. The past few years the ARL program has been growing but Daily has been decreasing. Some of this is just how we've been recording everything (i.e. 2 or 3 years ago we quit entering the younger kids in race programs into the system, even though they were using the course for training). I don't think anyone is counting last season in their numbers as we like most were chasing snow so we could get the gates in.
The Daily course has been a sprint course due to congestion at an intersection on the weekends. We had to lower the Start to get below the intersection, so it has been a 16+ second PAR. The ARL has been 23 + second PAR. Both on the same course but different Starts. Anyway, we think we have a plan to fix that so ARL and Daily will have the same PAR and will use the same Start and both will have the same 23+ PAR - this is still in the idea stage and hasn't been vetted with SAM but they have asked us how to fix this and have shown a willingness to support us.
My main concern is with the expense of the HSQ this year, I'm expecting all requests for additional funding to be scrutinized. So, that gets me to why I'm posting -
At your favorite NASTAR venue (ARL or Daily), what is it that makes it that? Mainly I'm talking about on the mountain and not in the lodge or pub.
We know we have a great course. Seasoned racers have told us what a hidden gem we have. This past season we put on an unplanned Master's race with about a week's notice when another mountain canceled last minute. The Master Racers all complimented us on the course (moved the Start further uphill for a 45 second course). We also put on a planned College Race from the Summit (not the new one) and that course was about 60 seconds for the really fast. The Masters and College Racers all loved the course and the snow. Couldn't believe the how great the grooming was and all said it was a fun course with a nice mix of challenges and the staff received tons of compliments.
So we have good snow, a good course and good people. What else do we need?
We have a Start House that is barely used because of the location. We are planning on moving it so it can be used for ARL and Daily. We have good Timing gear. Gates and the rest aren't an issue (at least for customers).
Is it the convenience of it all? We have been forced to use the main lodge for registration and with the changes are hoping to be able to register folks right at the start house. Not being able to do this has been a thorn in everyone's side; guest and staff.
Are Digital displays worth it or just a nicety? We've been announcing times over the PA. We're mostly heard but sometimes drowned out by the music.
Personally, I like the idea of the Pacesetter running once opened so people know their handicap/medal right away. It also lets us know if something has to be changed on the course for safety reasons. This way you can make your runs and go back to the Start and get you pin and granola bar.
Anything else? Crotched is a great place and people are always pleasantly surprised when they get there. Yes we're off the beaten path and you have to drive through some small towns that seem to live off of giving out speeding tickets in their 30mph zone, but once on the mountain, all 1000' of it, you get great grooming on great trails.
Might as well throw in what annoys you about some NASTAR venues so we can try to not do that.