Connecticut Ski Council (CSC) racers are gearing up for NASTAR Nationals. I recently had the good fortune of joining CSC's Monday night race league, where more than 120 competitors climbed the steps of Mt. Southington's one-story start house for dual GS action.
Interspersed among the racers were skiers and boarders sharpening up techniques and tactics on hard East Coast snow for NASTAR's National Championships later this month at Steamboat Resort in Colorado.
Mt. Southington, which runs evening races two times a week, has an enthusiastic NASTAR following. The 425-vertical drop resort, located 20 minutes from Hartford, regularly fields 50 to 100 competitors at its Monday and Wednesday night events; many later make the journey to Nationals.
One of CSC’s more passionate NASTAR enthusiasts is Pat Moore.
A 30-year Connecticut resident who now resides in Vermont, Moore both organizes and competes in Mt. Southington’s Monday race league and serves as Okemo’s NASTAR coordinator. He also doubles as a NASTAR ski and board competitor and has been to Nationals every year since 2004. “I watched people in NASTAR, then decided to try it, then got hooked on the competition,” said Moore. He’ll compete at Steamboat in NASTAR’s 65 to 69 alpine Platinum division and in his snowboard division. “In 2008, my 15 minutes of fame at Nationals was when I won both my skiing and boarding division. That was the first time it had been done,” said Moore. As for his goals this year, “I’d like to make the podium in Platinum [alpine] and win my age-group in snowboarding,” he said. Pat’s favorite thing about NASTAR Nationals? “I’ve met so many wonderful people," he said. "It’s a great organization. The pacesetters are absolutely engaging and open and encouraging and they give you all kinds of free advice.”
Another local NASTAR enthusiast who makes racing possible for everyone before jumping into the start gate himself is Rob Dexter.
A ski coach originally from Massachusetts, Dexter relocated to Connecticut to get more runs. “Southington has seven days a week of skiing so I came down so I could go skiing seven days a week,” he said. Rob teams up with Pat Moore to run CSC’s Monday night race league events. One of Dexter’s favorite things about NASTAR is tracking performance. “The regimented division and timing system goes all over the country," he said, "and allows you to see your progress by comparing yourself to the pacesetters, other racers nationally, and from season to season.” He’s competed in seven NASTAR Nationals and has gotten more and more competitive from year to year. “It started for the fun of competition and that’s still there, but I love going head to head from a Nationals standpoint with some of the other guys all over the country,” he said. Dexter will compete in Nationals in the 65 to 69 Platinum division, and his goal is to make the podium. “My favorite thing about Nationals is the camaraderie," he said. "It’s rare that people are in competition with each other but at the same time everyone is helping everybody else. It’s congenial, it’s a blast, and we get to go out West."
For Bill Nealon and Val Saltzman, NASTAR is truly a family affair. The husband-and-wife team from Monroe, Conn., met over a conversation around skiing. Bill (a former high school racer) encouraged Val (who has an ice-hockey background) to give NASTAR a try. Four years later, she competes in the Platinum division, and both are head to Steamboat for their first overall NASTAR Nationals. Bill and Val had planned to go last year but after having twins stayed closer to home and competed in NASTAR’s Eastern Championships at Okemo. The new kids must have brought some luck, as Val won her division and made the podium in Race of Champions.
Both Val and Bill will compete in Platinum in Steamboat. Val’s 2016 Nationals goal? “To win; there’s no other option,” she said with a laugh.