By Jake Bright
Alpine racers around the country are prepping for the Nature Valley NASTAR Nationals Championships at Steamboat Resort March 22 to 27 — sharpening edges, waxing bases and visualizing race-day runs. Competitors, friends, and families aged 3 to 90-plus from many of NASTAR’s 115 resorts will soon pack up skis and boards to make the trek to Colorado from multiple points nationwide.
Thanks to the digital handicap system that directly compares each competitor to a U.S. Ski Team pacesetter, NASTAR’s one of the programs in which amateur racers can compare themselves simultaneously to world class athletes and their peers online.
At NASTAR’s National Championships, many of these virtual comparisons become reality. Racers who’ve qualified and tracked their progress compared to others online during the season get the chance to go head to head in person, after NASTAR’s world-class athletes serve as pacesetters.
Here’s a look at some of the NASTAR racers who’ll be skiing at Steamboat.
Kylee and Eryn Warren, ages 7 and 10, from Winchester, Calif., are regulars at Deer Valley Resort’s NASTAR course. Kylee’s goals for Nationals include “to get a silver or gold medal but mostly to ski my best,” she said. She’s been honing her race skills by “practicing at different [NASTAR] resorts sorta close to home,” such as Mammoth Mountain.
Eryn’s been prepping for Steamboat by riding her bike and joining her sister on the family’s Skier’s Edge machine. “My goal,” she said, “is to get a decent ranking in the platinum division and ski my best.”
Melanie Levin from Louisville, Ky., qualified for 2016 Nationals from Copper Mountain, Colorado’s NASTAR course. She’ll compete in the 55 to 59 bronze division in her ninth NASTAR championships. Levin discovered NASTAR in 2000 at a women’s clinic at Crested Butte hosted by former U.S. Ski Team member Kim Reichhelm. “She threw us into the gates as a drill,” said Levin, “teaching us that we can't always turn when and where we want to.”
Her kids have taken to NASTAR, too, and while a lack of snow in Kentucky has cut down on training time, she’s optimistic about Steamboat. “I used to want to reach platinum level or win golds,” she said, “but the older I get, the more I concentrate on the fun aspect of racing.”
A lucky father-son ski run that had them stumbling upon Okemo’s NASTAR course led to New Jersey brothers Ethan and Joshua Rosenberg’s involvement in NASTAR. Joshua, now 11, started when he was 4. “After my first run I was hooked,” said Joshua, who’ll compete in the platinum division at Steamboat and his brother Ethan (7) in gold. This is Joshua’s fifth Nationals; he won his GS division in 2014 and 2013 and also competed in slalom. He’s been training for 2016 through active participation in his Okemo Mountain U12 race team. For 2016, Joshua aims to climb the top of the podium not only once but two times at Steamboat. “I want to win in GS and SL,” he said.
Brother Ethan hopes for a top-three finish. “I really want to win a medal,” he said of his Steamboat goals. Ethan likes NASTAR for the race course action, “I like training in the gates,” he said.
Herbert Maierle, 80, comes to NASTAR via Austria, where he started skiing in the Alps when ski technology was much more leather and wood. “I started out when skis, boots, everything was totally different,” he said. “We had non-release bindings in those days. I progressed into the new technology very well and it’s definitely much better.”
Maierle started skiing NASTAR at Catamount Ski Area in the 1980s. “I saw the course, and asked questions,” he recalled. “They said, ‘Anyone can race; just pay your dues.’ and I did.” He’s continued to do NASTAR and compete with New York’s Edelweiss Ski Club. “Basically I like racing,” said Maierle. Steamboat will be his 11th time competing at Nationals, where he’s won his gold division five times. Maierle qualified at Windham Mountain and has been prepping this year by running Windham’s NASTAR course as much as he can. “It’s a good size slope and you can get good speed,” he said.
Maierle’s 2016 goals? “I hope to win again,” he said. “I like the prizes.”
He’ll travel to Steamboat alone but explained he will definitely not be alone in Colorado. “I have friends now from different resorts all over,” he said. “The camaraderie and the competition are my favorite things. After a while you start to become friends with people you’ve met from past Nationals.”
Providing the soundtrack for the camaraderie and the competition will be the 6 Million Dollar Band (http://www.6milliondollarband.com), playing Thursday, March 24 from 3 to 4 p.m.
On Saturday, March 26, the Bud Light Rocks the Boat Concert Series featuring Jakubi (http://www.wearejakubi.com) will entertain racers from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
One final note: NASTAR Nationals organizers are still seeking volunteers, who will earn a Steamboat lift ticket in return for their time. Register here: https://www.volunteerspot.com/login/entry/1198896394020
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