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post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
A couple of friends who live in the NE Land of Snows have suggested that when we head skiing this year I should give NASTAR a go. So, how is it? Fun? Hard? Easy?

I hear that you run the course for medals. If that's the game, is it difficult to achieve one? (And do you really have to wear one of those bibs? That would look sort of silly over my old-man ski jacket.)
post #2 of 18
No bibs, you get an adhesive numeral. I usually put it on a pole. I raced for the forst time last year at three different resorts and got bronze medals at all three. I was never very close to a silver. I think it's a good experience if you've never tried it. I'm glad I did.
post #3 of 18
NASTAR courses are generally pretty easy on steep-green easy-blue type terrain. I've watched people in snowplows make it through one without a problem (obviously they weren't going very fast...) , so anybody who can ski parallel competently can make it through. I think the courses are usually about 30, 40 seconds long.

Making it through fast, on the other hand, is a different matter. As another poster mentioned, getting a bronze isn't too terribly difficult. Your medal is based off of your handicap, which is computed through some formula that is at least partially dependent on your age. So, the older you get, the slower you can go and still medal. Getting a silver means you're skiing pretty well. Getting a gold takes some true skill.
post #4 of 18
2 years ago I raced NASTAR for the first time in 25 years. I was a little nervous at first but once on the course focused on looking ahead and timing my turns to the gates. Went on to compete in the National Finals in P.C., Utah. Saw AJ Kitt, Eric Schlopy, Bodie Miller and other ski racers set the pace setters times. If you want the low down on NASTAR racing check out this site.
post #5 of 18
I started NASTAR last year and had a blast. If you ski on a small hill, it is the best way to challenge yourself. It is also very addictive. Your times improve as your technique improves. It is also the one place where no one is going to tell you to slow down.
post #6 of 18
Nastar is definitely a good idea. you can learn more in a day of gates about your skiing than in a week of normal skiing.
my .02
post #7 of 18
From what I've seen so far, Nastar courses are normally pretty easy to go through but can be a bit challenging to master. It's usually a fun course for any age -- even munchkins on short little skis. You set your own pace.

Speaking of Nationals, we got invited to it because my daughter came in top 3 in her catagory in our home mountain. There were a total of 4 in her gender and age catagory. Obviously, we didn't go.
post #8 of 18
I'd highly recommend NASTAR. Like others have said, beginners can get through the course w/o too much difficulty. But to get a silver or above, usually takes at least a decent skier. Course times will vary, I think most are around ~12 gates.

The best thing is with the handicap system you can, theoretically, compare your times against someone else skiing NASTAR across the country, or even against (again, theoretically) this year's pacesetter, Daron Rahlves (last year was Bode, I believe). A 20 handicap means you are, theoretically, 20% slower than Daron down the same course that you just ran. No, Daron didn't visit every NASTAR resort in the US, but all of the resort pacesetters skied against Daron to fix their own handicaps which they then use to backwards-figure Daron's time down the course they set.
post #9 of 18
I've been fairly interested in giving this a go once or twice just for the entertainment value and bragging rights with some buddies.

How expensive is it to run a course? What is typically involved?
post #10 of 18
Price to enter (which usually gets you two runs) is aroung $5. Reruns usually are $1. The first time you enter at a given area, you need to fill out some papers. Info should be in their computer after that. Theoretically, you can go elsewhere and they should be able to get your info off the Nastar system. You can see your results on the Nastar website a day or two after you compete.
post #11 of 18
Just to try gates, some areas have non-NASTAR courses and/or "coin-op" courses, which are not affiliated with NASTAR but are set up the same. Some of the larger ski resorts have side-by-side coin-op courses, so you can try to beat your buddy.

My ski area stopped subscribing to NASTAR a few years ago because of the costs to the NASTAR organization, and the fact that we don't have the terrain and conditions to have a course set all the time. We still set courses and have a handicapped pacesetter, but the races aren't official and we don't have medals. However it is cheaper: $3=1 run, $5=3 runs, $8=all day unlimited.
post #12 of 18
I regularly run NASTAR and I am hooked. There have been one or two significant changes this year. Primarily in medal qualification. It is still easy to get a bronze, but levels for a Gold or Silver medal have been raised significantly. Using the nastar website to track your results and the results of buddies will develop into some real bragging rights competition between friends. I and my daughter have been to Nationals the last 3 years, and even if you are not very competitive, it is a great family experience. Being around such a large group of like minded families of skiers is really fun. Most of all, a great excuse to visit Park City, Deer Valley and the Canyons.
post #13 of 18
I used to work at the NASTAR course at Breckenridge and really liked it. It's a great program for all ages. Some people are WAY into it to the point of being obsessed. However, for most recreational skiers it's a great thing. If you've never raced before, it can be a real ego deflater to realize just how hard running gates can be. It'll also make you appreciate ski racing a lot more.

Generally, NASTAR costs $5 - $15 depending on what the ski area wants to charge . Your ski area may offer an "Unlimited" pass that lets you run the course all day long, or it may not. Usually there's two sets of gates set up so you can race your friend. How a NASTAR course is set up and run can be quite different from resort to resort, and that's part of the fun.

NASTAR has a neat handicapping system. It's quite complicated, but if you read the documentation it seems to make sense. In fact, if you're one of the aforementioned obsessed people (any you know who you are...) then I'd suggest asking the NASTAR people at your course if you can get a copy of the documentation that comes with the NASTAR software - it's all spelled out in there. Ultimately what you get after doing two runs is a "handicap" number. Your number will probably be something like 30 or 40. What that means is, you're 30% or 40% slower than the pacesetter on the US Olympic team. (Hence, ego deflation.)

How is that actually figured out though? Well, at the beginning of a ski season someone at your resort gets to race against former US ski team member who, in turn, have raced against someone on the US Olympic team. I'm not sure how many runs they get to do, but it's enough to figure how they compare to the US Olympic team. Generally, they'll get a handicap ranging from 8 - 15. In turn, more people at your resort race against this pacesetter and get their own handicap. This group of people generally runs your NASTAR course. Each day they set it up, and each day they're the first ones down it to set the pace for the day.

At that point, things get a little complicated. Since we know how your pacesetter compares to the Olympian, we can figure out what time the Olympian would theoretically have had. When each individual skier runs the course the time can be directly compared. Then different factors are figured in to actually get your handicap score - such as how old you are, if you're skiing, snowboarding, telemarking, etc, etc. When you initially register for the day, you should be able to get a unique identifier that will let you log into the NASTAR website and see all the times for all the people on the day you competed. It's a statistics junkies dream. (Not getting that identifier is a good sign the people at your resort have no clue how to use the NASTAR system.)

Of course, all this probably falls apart regularly because I suspect a lot of ski areas don't have pacesetters set up correctly or don't know how to use the NASTAR software right. Plus, your local pacesetter may have an awesome day and set the bar on the course way too high. Or, your pacesetter may show up hungover and not perform as well as they normally would. So, take it with a grain of salt and remember it's recreational racing.

Now, one thing I thought was awesome at Breck was they set up a boarder-cross/skier-cross course and people could run it for $1. It was a killer idea and I'm shocked it never caught on. I had a blast running that on tele's. We used to let 4 people run it at once, so you could really have a lot of fun bashing into your friends. I think they stopped having that though and reverted back to just a traditional NASTAR.
post #14 of 18
I skied a Nastar course for the first time in my life last season (while taking a lesson with Vail Sno Pro) Great fun and great learning experience. Your results are posted on a national website so you can see how you did against all the others in your handicap and range.

my scores

Part of my motivation was that for our level III exam, we were supposed to run a race course. (don't know what passing scores would require) but we had to be able to teach an intro to racing, So I talked Ric into taking me and my cousin into the course.

Couple of things I found.

The short race takes a lot of work. after 4-5 runs, if you have not gotten up to speed, the times start getting longer again. (if you are in real good shape maybe 6-7 runs) It doesn't look like much but pushing your self that hard takes it out of you.

Practice getting close to those poles. At the speed most of us ski, the poles don't hurt (too much)

Find a buddy that skis about the same speed as you. It makes the run a whole lot more fun.

Work on your start. It makes a huge difference.

Don't beat your self up. Just go have fun.
post #15 of 18
Don't get TOO close. I have a souvenir chunk of a gate that I *exploded* in a collision.
post #16 of 18
I was down to a single digit handycap. What is tough, especially in the east is when the pacesetter was certified. Example, if the pacesetter is certfied early in the year and say teh "base setter" has 30+ days on the snow and our eastern "pacer" is only only on his 3rd day...and at 75% gets a 8 Handycap, by the time he gets up to 100% and is still a "8", but is really a 4, your runs are still based against that 8 until he gets recertified.
post #17 of 18
Nastar is a blast!! My daughter is a USSA racer but still runs Nastar as often as she can. Last year she placed 8th in the girls 9-10 expert division at Nationals. The nationals competition was extremely well run especially given the terrible weather. Greg Lewis was in the starting gate for the girls giving them tips and cheering them on!! If you have a chance to run Nastar give it a shot. It's harder than it looks!!
post #18 of 18
A quick tip on how to get one up on your buddies. Learn to read the course. A few course have a few "tricks" built into each course and those little details will often mean the difference between "pin or no pin".

When you can see the course from an adjoining trail take a careful look at the gates and the finish and examine the sequence. Choose "your line" carefully. You don't get to slip the course and do a real inspection like in the USSA events but before you run check it out.
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