It is refreshing to see people are still interested in ski racing. Current trend of "instant gratification" makes it pretty unpopular, since the sport is impossible to perfect. It may be frustrating at first, but once you see you results start improving (if you survive that long), there is no turning back ;^) .
Here is my overview of the race programs available in New England (you live in Nashua, right?)
NASTAR: recreational GS type courses set on a flat terrain. Average lengths are about 20 - 30 seconds. Depending on a resort difficulty ranges from not-worth-my-attention to cute-tuck-turns. Good way for beginner to get a feel for the gates. Handicap system allows you to easily gage your progress. Nice way to get introduced to ski racing, however do hang there for too long since easy flat courses can give you some bad habits, that will be hard to break later on. Once you get your first "gold medal" there consider graduating to more challenging programs
Race arenas: some resorts that do not hold NASTAR have their own NASTAR type race arenas. More often than not those courses are a bit more challenging than NASTAR and usually are not that expensive. (last year NASTAR was $5 for 2 runs, Race arena at Sunapee $1 a run or $10 for all day).
Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge: sponsored by Pepsi, the tour goes around NE resorts. NASTAR type set, often held on NASTAR course itself. You register in the morning that gives your one free run (you sill have to buy your own lift ticket). A lot of giveaways and prizes, but mostly a waste of time as far as racing experience goes. Still something fun to do for a change once in awhile.
Town leagues: usually are the night programs. Courses, again, are similar to NASTAR, some resorts (Pats Peak, Wachusetts) hold them on NASTAR sets. Good way to spend a couple of hours on skis after work. Usually it is a team competition, so you need to find some partners. I do the one at Nashoba (closest for me) - they tape both runs and then show the tape at the bar after the race - nice way to see what you are doing wrong, especially with someone knowledgeable by your side.
ASRA: A good step up from NASTAR and such. They hold SL, GS and SG events. The sets are pretty close to FIS standard (somewhat shorter and not as fast). Bunch of fun people to hang out with. Check out http://www.asra.org/
for more info. They usually hold a 5-day racing camp in December, which could be a good way for you to get started.
Sise Cup (NE Masters Series): The top level of adult ski racing. About 20 starts over the season. Visit www.nemasters.org
for more information. Almost full length SL, GS and SG courses. Great social atmosphere. If being among the slowest on the hill (for awhile) does not intimidate you, going against the best is certainly the fastest way to learn. Even the upcoming season I would recommend trying a couple of races (you can use temporary membership for that).
If you are serious about improving it is more important to find adequate training opportunities. For training you would want to find good coaching and, if you do a race camp, having a group of similar abilities helps as well. As I mentioned, ASRA camp can be a good start. During the season there are usually racing clinics associated with night racing leagues (I know of one at Wachusetts and one at Nashoba).
You can start getting ready right now. Roller blading is a great cross-training and there are some race specific drills on roller-blades. I live 20-30 minutes away from you, drop me a note at VK@epicski.com
, we can hook up and I can show you some things to work on.
Also, never forget that you need to be a good skier in order to be a good racer. However, I would avoid PSIA instructors (no offense to you guys), since PSIA (and such) instructions are designed to teach an average overweight couch-potato get down the slope safely, which has limited use in teaching how to get to the finish line of a race course in a shortest time possible. Stick with race coaches or at least make sure your instructor understands that your goal is learning racing technique.
Couple more things: you will need modern sidecut, race oriented skis to learn and do the right things on a race course. At certain level you would need different skis for SL and GS in order to progress. Be ready to spend some money.... If you go to Masters events, and you do not want to look out of place, get a race suit.
Hope that helps and see you in the gates,
------------------Speed does not kill, the difference in it does...