The Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships is more than a ski race; it is a gathering that brings recreational racers and professionals together to connect the alpine racing community. The event hosted by Snowmass March 25-30 was universally regarded as the best Nationals yet. Participants were able to meet and compete with their heroes and heroines, rock out to world class artists, ski powder and make lifelong friends.
There were more than 900 racers and about the same number of guests that were anxious to see Olympic Gold medal winner, Ted Ligety, set the par time for the NASTAR Nation. It was no surprise that Ted was the fastest racer, but it was a surprise to see Casey Puckett consistently posting the second fastest time. The five-time Olympian and two time X-games skiercross champion had a great time racing against Olympians Steve Nyman, Erik Fisher, Stacey Cook and alumni AJ Kitt and Kaylin Richardson.
There were nearly 2000 starts before awards were presented to the winners in each age and ability class. The victors were then invited to compete in the Race of Champions for the opportunity to become the Overall Nature Valley NASTAR National Champion. Each champion carried their handicap into the race so that every competitor had a chance to go for the win. The highest handicapped racers took to the course first and when they came to a stop in the finish they would climb on top of the podium until a racer with a faster discouted time bumped them off and that racer would climb onto the podium and into the hot seat. The format is fun and exciting and those racers that could ski faster than they did to win their NASTAR National Championship title saw the most success.
It is very rare to have a competitor win the Race of Champions with the fastest discounted time and the fastest raw time, but Ellie Peine did just that and she became only the second racer to ever accomplish the feat. Ellie won the ladies U16 platinum division to punch her ticket to the Race of Champions and she took full advantage of the opportunity to win both races. Lacie Greenwald, the U14 Gold Division Champion, skied a great race to take second place representing the state of Florida and seven year old Eva Young hung on to take home the bronze medal to North Carolina. The race for the fastest raw time was also very close but Ellie Peine edged out Heidi Butler of Buck Hill, MN by one-tenth of a second. The third fastest time was posted by the 55-59 Platinum Division champion, Jeanette Saylor, who showed that she can still mix it up with the kids.
The guys race came down to a battle between Hidden Valley, MO racers Adam Adkins and Steven Coulter and Adam came away with the win. Aspen local Mike Maple recorded the third fastest discounted time but Mike also posted the fastest raw time to take the overall win. Mike is the father of U.S. Ski Team member, Wiley Maple, and another shining example that fifty year old racers can compete against the youngsters. The U14 Platinum Division Champion, Henry Heaydon, recorded the second fastest raw time and Steve Jones earned the bronze.
For posting the fastest raw times, Mike and Ellie each won a VIP trip for two to a U.S. Ski Team race in 2014 including airfare, lodging, lift tickets and VIP access compliments of Nature Valley.
The combined division brings telemarkers, snowboarders and adaptive racers together to compete for men’s and women’s overall titles. The ladies race was won by seven-year-old telemarker Adelaide Ryerson, with Lyta Foulk taking second and Lauren Jackson earning the bronze medal. The race for the fastest raw time was dominated by telemark racers. Lyta Foulk recorded the fast time ahead of Chantelle Jordan in second and Adelaide Ryerson in third.
The guys combined division was also dominated by telemark racers. Tom DeGroff took the win ahead of Frank Becker and Larry Fisher. Telemarker Joshua Poper had the fastest raw time followed by Jeff Cole but the third and fourth fastest raw times were snowboarders Mark Hogan and Arne Carlson.
The Family Team Race took place after the Race of Champions and Ellie Peine joined brothers Adam and Jacob to win the Family title with 9.786 Team Points out of a possible 10 points. Second place went to the Riniker family with 9.363 team points and the Matthews family took third place less than two hundredths of a point ahead of the Fast Fosters family team.
The Friends Team Race saw a lot of posturing and trash talking as teams angled to stack their rosters with fast racers, but in the end Team Fuxi posted a perfect score of 10 to take the win ahead of Team Welch Kids, 9.932. Third place went to the kids team called, Nutten To It with a team score of 9.757.
There was live music on the Base Village stage daily but it was Lucas Nelson, son of Willy Nelson, that really rocked Snowmass on Saturday evening. If you like great guitar talent check out a Lucas and Promise of the Real when you have the chance. He is very humble and really appreciates his fans. He was also excited to share the stage with our Team Race winners.
The final race of the weekend was a new event, the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships slalom. The slalom course was set using SPM Hero Gates or stubby gates. The soft rubber gates allow racers to ski close to the gates without special protective equipment. The pacesetters had a great time battling back a forth as they set the par time for the adult race and the junior race. Steve Nyman and Casey Puckett tied during the first race but Steve pulled ahead on the second course. During the junior race Erik Fisher scorched the green course and Nyman charged the yellow course to again post the fastest time. Everyone agreed that NASTAR slalom was a great addition to the event and they are already looking forward to the race again next spring.
Stay tuned for annoucements about the 2015 Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships.