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Nastar Should Be Abolished

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
I hate to be negative about anything to do with racing in the US but Nastar is an abomination that's dragging the sport down into a sea of mediocrity and irrelevance.

I think it's just time for Nastar to go. Get rid of it just like that. There's just no point in it anymore. What is the point of Nastar anyway? To compare your times with those of other people around the country? This might be a good idea if it wasn't so utterly meaningless. O.k., the time compares to those on other Nastar courses but it has little to do with the skill of racing. Isn't that the point of it? To compare your skill? Do you even need such a system? I mean doing Master's races or whatever, you get an idea of where you stand. Who cares if your some percentage of Chad Fleischer's time when he'd never even ski such a course? The percentage has no relevance to the FIS courses he actually skis.

National Standard? How about the Hahnenkahm (sp?) Downhill in Kitzbuel, Austria? There's a standard for you. O.k., so almost no one can do it and even those who can have no problem admitting they're scared of it. At least that represents the very top level. Why is our National Standard something a five year old can do?
Do golfers travel the country looking for easy golf courses and then brag about it when they get a good score? They wouldn't even be taken seriously.
Yet with Nastar we give out gold medals to make people feel good. Why not have them feel good because they accomplished something?
The problem is ski areas devote space to Nastar which eliminates the chance to have regular public racing on good courses. Let the ski areas make their own courses. They could still be skied by skiers of widely varying abilities but it would not be possible without some skill to get a good time. More importantly the courses would be interesting. Nastar courses for the most part simply are incredibly bland. A good race course is interesting and it's sequence stays in your mind long after you're finished with it. Nastar is an abomination because it eliminates the art of course setting and settles on the lowest common denominator.

Why not have ski areas make their own courses? Then it might end up a little like golf- with different ski areas harder than others and with different characteristics.

Give me a good reason to keep it. Nastar is the presliced, prewrapped cheese of the cheese world and it's moldy. Let's just put it in the trash compactor and be done with it.
post #2 of 67
MAN thats some strong opinion!! I meant to ask you to elaborate on the "abomination" thing earlier in another thread but I get the point now!!!

Im going to start racing this season. (if I dont chicken out...) and it seems there are ALOT of people I've spoken with who hold similar opinions of Nastar...although I've also heard its "getting better". Im not sure what they meant by that. anyone know?

even as a beginner, the courses appear to me kinda, well, reeeaaally easy....
post #3 of 67
Thread Starter 
Yeah I'm having fun here. How can the house of Nastar get better? Give me a can of gas and a match!

As for your interest in racing...It shouldn't be so much a question of "chickening out". A big misconception is that to start racing you'll be dragged out to some hideously steep, solid ice sheet with poles sticking out in the worst possible places and you'll be forced to "go fast". This is the educational equivalent of taking someone who's never skied before to the top of the mountain, pointing them down a black diamond and saying "just ski it!".

While it won't be completely without fear, there's just no reason it should be so painful. Putting people into a defensive position (ie. trail too steep) just doesn't help them. You should make your concerns known beforehand and then if this situation happens you should leave.

This gives me a good reason to keep ranting about Nastar! See you've done Nastar but you don't feel like you've done anything!!
It's "Nastar" on the one hand and "racing" on the other. Nastar is supposed to be racing but even someone without experience knows it's not!

What do you think of Nastar?
post #4 of 67
OK Tog. You're such an experienced hard core racer, public racing like NASTAR is a big bore. Good for you. We're so impressed. I'm sure you can just blow the skis off anyone who steps into a Nastar start, right? Get real. I'll look for you next season at the Nationals. I'm sure you'll be on the podium.

If you don't like it, stay away. Leave the cupcake Nastar stuff to us wannabees.
post #5 of 67
Thread Starter 

Not the point at all. Hardly consider myself a hardcore racer and not even that good... Look at LindaA's post above. She has close to zero experience and yet she doesn't even consider Nastar "racing". Why?

How come one has to wait until the Nationals to get a decent course?

Glad someone wants to defend it. Tell us why you like it. Convince me! Maybe there's hope (I doubt it)

It's not a comment on the people who race it and take it seriously. I think these people would be way better served if they had decent courses. That's the point- Nastar takes up the space of a course that would much more interesting.

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[This message has been edited by Tog (edited August 02, 2001).]</FONT>
post #6 of 67
As a race coach who frequently denigrates FLATSTAR, I am actually going to come to the defense of NASTAR as a concept, even if it is often a poorly executed concept. Its standardized scoring system is actually just an implicit adaptation of the FIS/national points system, and winning a NASTAR gold (at least for a male in his prime) is reasonably challenging (even if bronze might be too easy, especially in older age groups).

I see the big NASTAR problem as being the lack of standards for course and couresetting. Some NASTAR courses are ridiculously flat (e.g., Loon) and/or short (e.g., Stratton). But some courses are surprisingly good (e.g., Vail, Balsams), offering a fun course for accomplished racers and a challenging but still managable course for newbies. And then some courses are messed up by coursesetters who quite simply do not know what they are doing (e.g., once at Winter Park).

I think if NASTAR set FIS-type homologation requirements for its courses, and periodically checked to see who was setting, then NASTAR would do much better for itself and the sport.
post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 
Love the term "FLATSTAR"...

The question is, is it a concept that can be saved? I think it's just too polluted.

Didn't Ski or Skiing start NASTAR or were influential in the start? There's a problem nowadays since they show mimimal interest or support of racing.

really got to go...
post #8 of 67
OK, let me explain.

The couses do not have to be super hard to be a challenge. The idea is to see how clean one can turn and thus get a fast time. I've skied easy Nastar and very challenging Nastar. I've never beat the pacesetter. I guess I'm not as good as him (or her). That's the idea. See how you compare to others on the same course. Some people, like me, find it fun and addictive. You still need to know how to race. It's not as easy as it looks.

Many Nastar runs I ski on are the same runs used for Masters and other race events. Smaller areas don't have a huge variety of race runs to choose from.

Sun Valley, Boyne Mountain and Vail are a couple of the more challenging ones that come to mind. But like I said, more challenging doesn't necessarily mean better. They're all a challenge if you're trying to be fast.

LindaA, hone you racing skills on the local Nastar course. When you're consistantly in the top 3 in your age group, you're ready for the next level.
post #9 of 67
Just to clarify...tog mentioned i had next to zero experience, he wasn't kidding. I paid my seven dollars on a couple of different mountains to take a run because I was curious. my thoughts at the bottom..."how do you go fast going uphill? must have one hell of a wax job..." (stratton and sunapee...)

more opinions! I want to know if i should get involved with this this year...couple of people i mentioned it to just snickered at me....
post #10 of 67
Yes, one of those two mags started it. I believe that it was John Fry (sp?) who takes the credit.

I think they should concentrate of setting higher standards for courses. Some of them are such a joke that you can't really work on anything. But the good NASTAR courses can serve as a stepping stone to USSA racing, plus provide a fun diversion for slumming racers.
post #11 of 67

sorry, you slipped that post in while i was typing mine...that sounds like a reasonable plan....
post #12 of 67
No disrespect to NASTAR, but I like the idea of ski areas setting their own courses.
However they could do that now if they wanted to.

The liabilty issues don't seem to be any different from half pipes or terrain parks.
So why don't they? I have to assume that they don't feel its worth their while because people rather free ski than race.

Ski areas are clamping down more than
ever on skiers that are skiing "too fast".
Yet the sensation of speed is still much of the essence of skiing. Maybe its time for ski areas to rethink their approach to contoling speed on the mountain.

Maaybe trying redirect it into more challenging but organizationally unstructured race courses is the answer.
post #13 of 67
Thread Starter 
Arby, you wrote:
>> I've skied easy Nastar and very challenging Nastar. I've never beat the pacesetter. I guess I'm not as good as him (or her). That's the idea. <<

That's the idea of Nastar but where does this get anybody? Who cares about the "pacesetter" ? What about you? Is it developing you as a racer? Yes, but...not like it could. If you go to a really easy golf course of course a pro will still beat you.

Are country clubs making their golf courses easier for everyone?
Why is golf taken seriously but not ski racing?

If Nastar is standardized, then they're shouldn't be such a wide variation of courses. Are you telling me the Masters races use the exact same gates as Nastar or just the same trail? Why not leave the Master's course up? (assuming it's different)

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[This message has been edited by Tog (edited August 02, 2001).]</FONT>
post #14 of 67
Thread Starter 
Wow, several posts while I made mine.

LindaA, yes of course do Nastar courses- this will help with the "chickening out" thing. However, DO NOT wait to become more involved. Who cares if you're "in the top 3". This is the problem with Nastar- it's all about the times instead of the skill. You may never be in the "top 3" but can develop way beyond where you started.

Just practicing on Nastar (or any course) with no instruction at all you can develop bad habits- but don't worry about this too much, just get thee to a race camp! Maybe Jonathan can comment better on the habits part.

Lost boy -good idea about using race courses to let people go fast.

A lot of Nastar courses can be tucked the whole way. What's the point of that?
post #15 of 67
The pacesetters are typically very good racers. I know if I can get close to their time, I must be pretty good too. The challenge for me is trying to better my previous time. Just like golf, trying to better my previous score. I don't have to play a pga level course to know if I'm getting better.

I think Nastar is fairly tame overall because everyone from young kids to 80+ seniors are skiing the same course. If it was Masters level racing, recreational skiers would not do it. It is intended to be entry level. That does not mean it's not challenging.

The Masters and USSA races I've seen have been on (some) Nastar trails. Different gate panels and slightly different course sets, but not radically different.

Here in the midwest, recreational racing is getting hard to do. Some of the ski areas my race league goes to are trying to get out of racing altogether. They are really jacking up the price to hold our events. The equipment they have to invest in is expensive, they don't want to staff the course and dedicate a trail for the day. It's not a big moneymaker for them so they don't want to mess with it. Half pipes and terrain parks bring in the money, not ski racers.
post #16 of 67
Oh, no...I just took a couple of runs out of curiosity...I am to much of a perfectionist-freak to do anything without an instructors watchful eye!! I hire an instructor to take me through the cafeteria, and show me the right way to put the crackers in my chili, im certainly not going to start racing without knowing how...
ive already cleaned Barnes & Noble out of every race book they had

Not afraid of speed or steepness..more afraid of a really bad time and looking like a, well, newbie.
post #17 of 67
Thread Starter 
>>Here in the midwest, recreational racing is getting hard to do. Some of the ski areas my race league goes to are trying to get out of racing altogether<< -Arby

There's the catch 22 of the situation. I'm proposing that if we get rid of Nastar and make ski racing more interesting we get more people involved. However get rid of Nastar and we might have nothing at all and no one will get involved.

I think ski schools and psia have dropped this ball too. hmmm....

It's so odd. I've recently seen the Italian magazine "Sciare" (to ski). It is so utterly, completely, tied with racing that to take racing out of it would make it a completely different magazine. But then again maybe that's how the Europeans think. To take ski racing out of skiing would make skiing something else.

Well, at least we get good Jeep ads...

alright, I can't miss the 12:40 train...
post #18 of 67
Tog, nice to have you back...out taking a troll!
Nastar was a SKI Mag. World Wide Sports (Bob Beatty...argh) enterprise and has now reemerged this past season with better structure, website postings etc. I had a good talk with Bill Madson at NSAA in P.Springs and he is excited about the changes.
I have been involved in racing my whole life from both sides of the radio. Nastar has played a pivotal role in introducing thousands of kids and interested adult to "introductory racing", it never was intended to be more than that. It was designed for your weekend warrior, Walter Mitty types, yet has inspired countless kids to go on to USSA and FIS careers, from itty bitty midwestern ski area, from under the lights where the novelty of 200 vert is soon lost.
I agree with Jonathon that homologation and standards be met...but it is still 16-20 gates set rythmically for gliding (incidently where alot of races are lost)...BFD! If you want to relive your lost olympic dreams, enter masters races.
There are plenty of Anthill-Alps ski areas that are flat par-threes with snow on them that have created millions of skiers too...to you they are probably an abomination as well, but it is were we all start.
You will probably get your way though, there are only 70% of the nastar areas there were 5 years ago. Most venues are being converted into terrain parks and halfpipes...now there's a meaningful use of skiing real estate!
post #19 of 67
Many years ago, Mtn. High had a buck per run course.......
post #20 of 67

Well you went trolling and caught a lunker, me. I never thought I’d be defending NASTAR, but here goes. Any race program needs a constant influx of athletes. Some specialize only on upper level, mature racers. Others, such as the Loveland program are broad based, moving younger racers through a process that we hope keeps them interested in reaching JO and FIS levels. The program has a very strong young athletes program (ages 5-12). Racers who come through this program feed our true race team. If I had to guess, I’d say that 30% of the kids that enter the beginning program came there because they entered a NASTAR or Coke Cup race and liked it. Equally as interesting, probably 50% of our upper ability racers once skied a NASTAR race. In other words, those that start out in NASTAR are more likely to stay in racing than those who didn’t. I wouldn’t read too much into this other than kids who start racing at a young age are more likely to remain in the sport compared to those who start their racing careers later. We also know that kids that ski NASTAR also have parents that will take an occasional run which gets them interested in supporting their kids’ racing. The current Loveland Masters/Post Grad program really isn’t really geared to the recreational parent who wants to learn something about racing; its pretty hard core. Because of this, I’m trying to figure out if there is support for an adult racing lite program which might be attractive to NASTAR adults, and won’t compete with the ski school which is something I have to worry about. I think I may be able to pull this off since the mountain removed its coin op course and put in a terrain park.

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[This message has been edited by edgreen (edited August 03, 2001).]</FONT>
post #21 of 67
Interesting discussion....

I believe that NASTAR has its place under the sun. I absolutely agree that NASTAR course has little resemblance of what the actual race course is, but that does not mean that NASTAR type sets should be banned. It is all about how you look at it....

Do not think about it as a Race, 'cause (except for Nationals and Regionals) its not. And here is why. I'll give a free full day coaching to anyone who inspects NASTAR set before running it. I'll tune the pair of skis for anyone who scrapes and brushes his/her skis before taking every NASTAR run. I'll look up a shrink phone number for anyone who strips down to the race suit for every NASTAR run. Any takers? Do not think, so. If you do not do everything you can to be fast that is NOT a race.

Think about NASTAR as an opportunity to take timed TRAINING runs on section of a race course that is simple enough so you can concentrate on technique fundamentals without worrying about tactics.
Think about the quote from "Athletic Skier" - Pick a slow line and ski it fast
Yes you can not become a good racer if NASTAR is all you do. But you got to be a good racer to be fast even on a NASTAR set.

Linda, when did you ski the race arena at Sunapee? Last year they had their Race Arena set on decent hill with a varied terrain. I do remember a section before the last drop which had basically no slope, but if you felt like you were coming to a stop there, that is pretty much an indication of how poorly the top section was skied.

What you can learn on NASTAR course is how it feels to make a clean arc, letting your skis run, so you can bring that instinct to the real race. And that is basically what separates fast ones from the rest of the crowd on any course.


Speed does not kill, the difference in it does...
post #22 of 67

I'm going to Hood in mid month to see the Tichy's. How were the conditions?
post #23 of 67
I've never done any ski racing - last season we had about a dozen friends sign up for a corporate league racing team at our local hill (yes, there were other teams so maybe 80 participants..) . It was set up for Wednesday nights - perfect opportunity to leave work early, run some gates and do a little night skiing with friends.

The mountain jerked us around so badly, racing was cancelled for 3 straight weeks until they finally realized they had run out of season and scrapped the whole plan. Really left us sour on the whole Nastar scene. Wish I could add something to the discussion, but we never had our Nastar season….
post #24 of 67
ok, sunapee was better than stratton, but it certainly didn't meet my expectations of what a race course was. Without having any experience, maybe it was GREAT and i didn't know it! who knows.

I never claimed to be World cup material...but Im not SO BAD as to grind to a stop in the middle of a course, no matter how flat the section was! I was bieng facetious when I said "uphill"!

Perhaps I was just expecting a death-defying plunge...I certainly wasn't expecting to be able to let my six year old on it!
post #25 of 67
hey, im a "supreme" big mountain member now...when did that happen?
post #26 of 67
Racing is racing, NASTAR courses vary widly from mountain to mountain. I was the Race Director on a mountain at one point, and the course was short but as steep as many masters courses are. And I and my course setters actually often set some pretty harsh turns into the course (usually also putting up with complaints when we did this!)

Anyways - old race saying "it takes a lot more skill to generate speed on a flat course than a steep one". No matter how flat or steep the course it is still an equal test of skill for all competitors.
post #27 of 67
here's an intersting thought,
I don't think I've ever done a nastar race more because I never felt the "need" to know how fast I was and being typical "chinese" in this area (cheapskate) I never wanted to pay $2-3 just so I can go through the gates. on a very flat hill (most of the courses I've seen) I would love to ski some gates with an instructor but everytime I ask, we are told that the course set up "over there" is for the race camp or "special training" and we are not allowed. So the only time we can do "gates" is the good old "chinese slalom" or get a group of about 6 friends and make a human slalom.

Why not make a well laid out free course (real courses, separated from the other areas by nets) maybe an easy course and a harder course. pay a much smaller amount for all day use, or free and avail for ski-schools or after a class. sign a waiver to get access and let us play. no timers but just a practice area.
post #28 of 67
slllooooww day at work.

Dchan- good idea, especially about the 2-3 dollar runs, more frightening than the thought of looking really bad or even crashing is the price tag on race training, camps, and equipment!

Todd - so you get complaints when they are too steep, and when they arent steep enough. Cant win?!
post #29 of 67
Linda -

The course on that mountain was always set on the same run - but how you set the course changes it radically. You can make a mellow pitch so difficult to navigate than even a World Cupper would have trouble making the turn - or you can make a steep pitch an easy traversing turn that even a low intermediate can handle. Its all about how the gates are set. Its definately an artform learning how to set gates by 'eyeball', its very easy to make a turn to flat or to radical. A fun way to set a course when you have time is to ski it fast and carved hard all the way down . . . and then just set the gates to the turns you made. Gives the course-setter quite an advantage in the race too since they are his/her natural turns!
post #30 of 67

Palmer is low on snow this year. As of two weeks ago:
- you could not ski off the Mile
- there was not much left on the right side (facing down) of the Palmer. Few teams were still training there, but they had 6-8 GS gates per section before they had to break the set to avoid rocks.
- there were rocks at the top of the middle lanes (those that have the steepest pitch off the road), that made the beans look as long
- most reps were packing, so if you planned to rely on demos there, call ahead....
- other than these minor details it was really great to get some turns in the middle of the damn summer.


I did not mean to refer to your ability when saying that one's speed at the flat section is the indication of how they skied the steep part before it.
You may be surprised to hear that most races are won or lost on the flat part of the course. Reason is simple: if you make mistake on a steep part it is easier to regain your speed than when you screw up on the flats (or a few gates before the flat section). The very common tactical mistake on a course with a varying pitch is not planning transitions. Beginner racers once on the steep section would try to go as fast as they can and end up screwing up on of the last turns on that steep section because they can not control their speed. As the result they crawl through the flats ending quite a few seconds behind. More experienced racers would judge their ability and check their speed at the top of the steep section so they can ski the bottom part of it to their best and carry on the gained speed through the flats.

Tactical planning is what makes real race course much more exciting compared to an average NASTAR set.

If you would like to experience a death-defying plunge (and I got to tell you, it feels damn good to realize that you are still alive when you cross the finish line) plan on trying Masters GS at Middlebury. There is one section on the course, which will make you gasp, but once you are over it, bottom section is pretty much enjoyable cruising (still more challenging than any NASTAR course though), so you won't be WAY over your head there.


Speed does not kill, the difference in it does...
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