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Recreational racing

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Arc talks about how PSIA doesn't prepare instructors to teach recreational racing. I wonder if other ski areas are dropping recreational racing from the area menu of public offerings, as Bridger Bowl did several years ago.

I was hoping to move my classes into gates this year, only to find that I will have to work something out with the local junior or college race team to use their training courses.
post #2 of 20
I think several factors have influenced the decline of recreational ski racing.

First and foremost, the rise of the snowboarding culture and the change in overall lifestyle really impacted racing. We have a smaller pool of people trying skiing, so naturally there will be fewer moving into racing. Of the skiers, a lot choose the relaxed attitude of the park or the big mountain over the discipline of racing. The amount of time, money, and effort it takes to be marginal is more than a lot of people are willing to spend. Add in a real or perceived dose of "snob culture", and you further turn off the new kids before they ever get in the door.

I'd think you'd agree that most of the best skiers on any given mountain have some sort of racing background. The continuous coaching and focus on fundamentals puts those people in a class by themselves. It isn't about gates, it's about skiing.

If your resort doesn't have a NASTAR or coin-op course, perhaps setting cone or feather duster drills would suit your goals. I find that people new to racing are often intimidated by gates, and will slow down before going through the "door", almost like they are peeking around the corner to see what's inside. They're used to turning where and when they choose, and could probably make perfectly nice turns of the same size and shape if the gates weren't there. Something about the panels being there just throws them.

From my own veiwpoint, my skiing has improved vastly since I started racing. For me it isn't about the speed, but how efficiently I can ski.
post #3 of 20
I'd add a curious note to Nolo's opener.

USSCA, the ski coaches organization, requires at least PSIA Level-II certification to advance to their upper levels of certification.

PSIA requires no coaching training at all, much less certification, to achieve it's highest top rung, Level-III. Or to advance into Trainer, DCL or Examiner roles.

post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Mike. I'd forgotten about all those tennis balls I cut in half years ago. I could set some very temporary courses with them.
post #5 of 20
Camelback in Pennsylvania still has a fairly strong program. In addition to NASTAR, they have a good J-5 through J-1 team, a development team, a "bar league" and a weak but accounted for "masters" group.

Elk, Big Boulder and a few others like Montage seem to have good clubs for the J's.

It's a fight for "real estate" on constricted space.

NASTAR will be allowing boarders now so that may keep it alive for a bit longer.

Will racing be alive 20 years from now? I personally doubt it. The XXXXX mentality is taking over and has even found it's way into the Olympics.

My "prediction" is that DH to SL will become like the luge and other obscure events. Training will be done in "specialized" places where these "vestigal remnants" are kept alive. Face it, how many sledders have you ever bellied up to the bar with?

Damned .... now I'm depressed .... : ....

[ January 06, 2003, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: yuki ]
post #6 of 20
The military intramural league I compete in has actually tripled in size over the last two years, mainly due to a few of us enthusiastic enough to beg, plead, and bribe others to come up to the hill with us to race. Once they're up there, we'd compare their times with racers of similar abilities on other teams to create a little more competition. Throw in a little tip here and there to give them an edge, and keep it fun. Week after week they'd come back, and from the looks of it we should have a great season this year with even more teams.

I haven't raced NASTAR in more than a few years (not available in Alaska), but from what I remember the marketing was pretty lax. It was more like, "uh there's some gates on the hill. I guess you could, like, go through them or something". Sometimes you need a cheerleader to create enthusiasm in others- to make it an "event". Masters programs are similar in a lot of ways. Relatively few people know they exist (compared to the overall skiing population), and a lot of those that do are intimidated by the suits and other race gear. There is a general ignorance to the different levels of ski racing and the organizations that promote it. I honestly believe that more people would participate if they knew what was available. Racing communities tend to be a little isolated from the general population, figuring that if they held a race, people would come. It isn't necessarily so anymore.

If it wasn't for a casual mention of Masters racing a few years back, I would have never heard of the program. I always thought those old guys running gates were some kind of pros, an offshoot of the World Cup or something. As a recreational skier, I pretty much thought NASTAR was the extent of recreational racing. I just didn't know there were other outlets available.
post #7 of 20
Well, tomorrow night is my first night of racing in the local "beer league". I run Nastar at every mountain I visit which offers it, but that's the extent of my racing backround. I'll try and add comments after tomorrow.
post #8 of 20
My 2 cents worth and you get what you pay for. Recreational racing is one of the best ways for overall promotion of our sport. And IMHO we are our own worst enemy. How nastar works is promoted poorly at local resorts and, people don't know how the program works. Though not out loud, better skiers snicker at the people that "think they are racing", and lesser skiers are intimidated by the gates and the lack of help in knowing "how to participate".

A super small resort in New Mexico, Red River Ski Area set up five or six gates at the bottom of the beginner slope and called it the "Coca Cola Kids race". Kids could run the gates free and a guy with a stop watch stood there, flagged kids down told them what to do and clocked their time. At the end of a couple or three hours the best 3 times in two age groups won a medal. Simple and noncomplicated, and every kid that won a medal was hooked for life. It didn't matter he had been on skis twice in his life and barely knew what to do, he was a good skier, begging mom and dad to take him skiing again and ready to pursue the sport the rest of his life.
post #9 of 20
That small program in New Mexico is exactly what recreational racing needs. You put up some gates for people to try with someone there to offer encouragement, and once they're hooked you let them know there are other outlets for their racing urges (NASTAR, ski clubs, Masters, town leagues...). Getting the word out is the big thing. The only posters advertising the race programs at Alyeska are in the Race Training Center- not exactly targeting the general public. If there isn't a cultural change within recreational racing, it won't exist in 30 years.
post #10 of 20
Our little ski area in southern PA has already made the poor decision to just forget about it. Talk about people with no plan for the future... They have decided that it's not worth the money to be an actual NASTAR ski area. So if someone does want to run a NASTAR course, they'll have to go somewhere else, and noone will be able to get the gratification of winning one of those silly little pins. Last season, I don't think we set up gates for the public even once. We set up a course for a race event last saturday. When it was over, they let the public run it, even though the couse was trashed. In one place there was a rut down to the dirt. The rest was rutted up so bad it looked like a luge run. I ran it once, but couldn't keep my skis in it.

I think it would be worth it to have a free, timed race couse. I bet they'd generate lessons out of it because people would want to improve their times. If they were able to set it up exactly the same every time, people would be able to judge their improvement over the season by loweing thier times. Of course, I seem to have lots of ideas that they have lots of resons to not try.
post #11 of 20
Maybe it is the "what are you gonna do with a small hill" perspective but around Milwaukee, with 1/2 hour drive access to 7 local ski areas (two are private clubs areas), there is a hot bed of JR racing programs. WJR (Wisconsin JR Racing) has weekly races for kids (belonging to several metro Jr race clubs) from ages 6 to 18. This acts as a feeder system for regional USSA competition (some clubs offer both). Overlapping is High School ski racing which has appox 25 schools in metro Milw confrence. (there are several confrences throuout state with a state meet at end of season). Talk about creatitive scheduling, they all race each other at least once during season, but not more that twice, one race a week on one of three nights at one of three areas with each race grouping 4-6 HS teams. A local shop that does a pretty fair high end race gear business estimates 400-500 kids are out there racing in one program or another.

For adults there are no longer any Nastar areas local to Milwaukee, I guess cost/income ratio couldn't keep them going. There are a few Nastar areas scattered around the state tho. However, there has been adult club racing (MMSC) in Milw area for decades, I've been racing in it since 1970. Six metro clubs, 11 races a season with 80-100 racers competing in 14 different age/ability/gender classes. Metro Chicago and Minniapolis/St Paul have similar programs that are even bigger.

My ski area is a busy racing/training center for Jr/HS teams with races or training every week night, and many weekends. All clubs/teams have their own coaches, some with PSIA and/or USCCA training, some without any(?). My ski school had weekly adult club night race training for many seasons, but lost it to an other area with a more social bar scene for the non-racers in the clubs (priorities?). But half of my private lessons are Jr/HS/adult racers who are really fun to work with. And it keeps me sharp in that I've retired from team coaching after 30 seasons of chasing the circuit around all winter.

There is interest out there, a way for skiers to raise the level of their skiing (lacking big mt terrain), and a market to be further tapped into. But there is no central focus or promotional entity.
post #12 of 20
My area dropped NASTAR/ coin-op racing three years ago. Boy was there lots of bitching because of that. Last year they re-upped with NASTAR. They hired a guy that’s fast with bad equipment to be the pacesetter. The course is rented sometimes now by ski clubs and companies. It appears to be successful. I take my groups through the course each weekend. They love it. Folks with new skis like to see their times drop and improve their handicaps. I know masters racers that ski the course to keep their timing. They don’t pooh-pooh it.

We host the Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge Finals each season. You wouldn’t know rec-racing is dead by the turn out. There are about 1500 racers at the event each year. They take over the West Basin area and lodge. You can’t even get close without a bib.

The on mountain race club seems to be expanding each season, J5-J1’s and “Rut-Rider’s”, these kids are too young to even be J5’s.

post #13 of 20
Tyrol Basin is another "small hill" that has a very active race program. Mondays there is High School League and Adult Race League(Fox I'm getting you a T shirt). Tuesday and Thursdays USSA M.A.R.T. trains and Wednsdays the Tyrol Junior Team trains for WIJARA racing. Weekends they have NASTAR, although that consists mostly of training for the adults.
The big entry level program is the Junior team with about 100 members. The NASTAR program is primarily to provide a format for the Adult Race League.
post #14 of 20

Brushies, or brush markers are available from: for $7.25 each. They just need a cordless drill and the specified size bit. They stick into the snow about 6 inches and stick up about 6 inches. The big advantage is they don't hurt when you staddle them. Also, there is no danger to the public.
post #15 of 20
A few weeks ago I watched Ryan run Giant Slalom around the snowboarders sitting in the snow.
post #16 of 20
I'd say the alpine racing community up here is strong as well, although perhaps not as healthy as it once was or could be in the future. Three feeder programs (SPYDER, Hillberg Ski Club, and the Alyeska Mighty Mites) channel talent into the Alyeska Ski Club junior program. From there, athletes feed university teams and some make it to the national team. We've been fairly successful turning out racers like Tommy Moe, Hillary Lindh, Megan Gerety, and a whole lot of others (we tend to make really good speed racers- big mountains). Adult racing options are the Alyeska Masters or town league racing. For military members, there's an intramural league and family fun races similar to a NASTAR format, but that's not available to the general public.

Overall, it's not bad considering Anchorage has a population of 260,000 (it's Alaska's largest city). However, it's almost a cradle-to-grave pipeline for racing, and can seem difficult to tap into from the outside. If you aren't associated with a program already, it's hard to see the options available. A lot of the members came through the pipeline or one similar, so they don't see the outside perspective. They've all known about this forever, so why doesn't everyone else?

What's lacking here is the casual racing format for those who don't own race skis and suits, or those of us that weren't fortunate enough to be raised in a ski town. Alaska has a pretty transient population, and a lot of people just don't have that background. NASTAR and similar programs are the hook that gets them in the door. Advertising what is already available to the general public and creating opportunies for the uninitiated helps to create more of a racing atmosphere- to make racing seem like the thing to do and make it easy to participate in for all levels.
post #17 of 20
I raced in the first "beer league" race on Wed. night and had training on Thursday morning. I...
Didn't fall...
Was quite a way from DFL in the time standings...
Improved my time by over a second on my 2nd run...
Had a blast doing it!
The Thursday training was very helpful also. The instructors pointers were things that will help my overall skiing plus improve my gate running.I expect to be a better skiier when the racing season is over.
Sometimes an old dog CAN learn a new trick or two!
post #18 of 20
Disgusted by my poor finish in the first run of this weekend's GS, I decided to go for it on the second. The result? I caught an inside edge, resulting in a perfect mid-air, 180 degree double ejection halfway down the course... right in front of the video guy. After I picked myself out of the alders that I slid head first into, the second thing I asked (after "what happened") was if the camera guy got it on film. He did.

I was the highlight of the video review that night. Good thing we're sponsored by the Alaskan Brewing Company. I needed a few adult beverages after that run. Fortunately, my confidence was the only thing that took a hit. Other DNFs that day weren't so fortunate.

Back to training...
post #19 of 20
Here in the east the eastern division offers race clinics. I obtained my USSCA level I coaching certification at one in order to add race coaching to my ski teaching skills. I never did get an opportunity to get any experience race coaching while ski teaching, however. In our area there are private ski clubs which hire professional coaches to coach aspiring racers. This is where the race coaching is done, not in ski schools. Some of these guys are really excellent. They are salaried etc. I have taken clinics from one of the local clubs and can attest to their excellence.

I sense that , as is the case with advanced ski instruction, ski schools, by and large, have discredited themselves with the knowlegeable public when it comes to race training. I'm sure there are bound to be some notable exceptions.
post #20 of 20
Yuki, don't get too depressed about the future of racing. From what I've seen in Europe it's fine, but maybe somebody living there may like to confirm this. I guess it's tempting to take what we see immediately around us and extrapolate that to the “world” at large. For example from what I’ve seen of ski jumping in North America it barely exists as a sport, exactly the scenario you fear. Yet in the Germanic regions of Europe it’s easily the most popular winter sport, shown every weekend on TV. I always find it frustrating to see the alpine events displaced on TV by “Skispringen”, but hey it’s what the public wants.


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