By Jake Bright
On the seventh and final day of NASTAR Nationals at Steamboat Resort, racers are changing up disciplines and competing in slalom, as GS courses with longer radius turns give way to stubby gates skied in rapid succession.
Slalom is a relatively recent addition in NASTAR’s 48-year-history. The most technical of all alpine racing formats, it made its debut at Nationals in 2013. “We wanted to add another discipline,” said NASTAR Director Bill Madsen. “We saw advantages to adding slalom for hills that don’t have a lot of vertical. The idea is also to incorporate more high school and masters racing so we can integrate both groups into a national scoring system.” Though slalom courses are not yet set up at all NASTAR resorts, Madsen confirmed the availability would expand over the next several years.
Among the racers at NASTAR Nationals prepping to race slalom were the members of “the Maniacs” squad, who participated in Saturday’s Friends Team Race. It’s led by NASTAR pacesetter and former U.S. Ski Team member Casey Puckett and includes Lola Marston (7), Ashley Matthews (12), Frankie Marston (10), and Riley Puckett (12). The group, which trains and races at Aspen and Vail, shared their common goals to “ski fast, have fun, and win.”
After competing in GS earlier in the week, father and daughter Brandon and Caitlin McCrea of Missouri’s Hidden Valley Ski Area are also switching over to slalom. Brandon, who’s a ski coach, too, said he was happy NASTAR had added the format. “We practice slalom about 75 percent of the time for our ski team so it’s a major focus for us,” he said.
“I love slalom,” said Caitlin (age 14). “It’s my favorite discipline. And I want to win.” Joining the McCreas is Hidden Valley Resort teammate Adeline Lage (10). On her fourth NASTAR Nationals, she competed in the slalom championships for the first time last year and won her division. “I like that they added it and that the awards are done so quickly after the races,” she said. “I hope to place in top three.”
Lou Horwitz, 56, from Austin, Texas, is competing in his second slalom event at Nationals. He skis NASTAR regularly at Copper Mountain and tried slalom through Copper’s masters training program. Horwitz won a gold medal in the slalom championship in 2015 and hopes to repeat at Steamboat. “I like the quickness of slalom and I look forward to more resorts having it,” he said. “It also provides the chance to run more gates. For GS we normally have 14 gates but last year for slalom they had 29.”
He noted the separate discipline championships offered a bit of a second chance from NASTAR’s GS racing. “I was happy they added it,” he said. “I tried it the first time last year. I didn’t have the results I wanted in GS, but knowing my racing wasn’t over and I could do the team race and slalom — that psyched me up again.”
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