The Nature Valley NASTAR Regional Pacesetting Trials are always fun but this year we have dialed up the fun meter one more notch. This year pacesetters are earning slalom handicaps in addition to the standard modified GS handicaps. It was not easy to convince a downhill racer like AJ Kitt that slalom was going to be fun, but after the first race he was sold. "It's really just a smaller GS turn and you get to make more turns which is always more fun," says AJ.
The new NASTAR slalom format adds a new option for NASTAR resorts and the short and soft hero gates make slalom a blast. No special protection is needed for the soft rubber stubby gates and it is much easier to make a short radius turn when you don't need to cross block a full sized plastic gate. Some pacesetters were skeptical but once they got in the gates many saw the advantage of adding a new discipline. Some NASTAR venues are short and many resorts lack the vertical drop for a 23 second NASTAR GS course so the shorter radius turns of NASTAR slalom are a great option. In addition, many high school races in the Midwest are slalom races so we can provide a new training opportunity and separate rankings for slalom. During the pacesetting trials we saw different racers excel in the slalom format which was great because we were able to recognize different racers.
Still, the heart of the NASTAR program is the modified GS course and each resort hosted excellent races. Lean snow years often provide the best race conditions because man-made snow is the best for racing and since someone forgot to tell old man winter it was time to go skiing we raced on perfect man-made snow. Squaw's sister resort, Alpine Meadows, hosted the first stop on the tour and Daron Rahlves came out to show everyone that he still knows how to let'em run. Daron looked like he was straight off the World Cup as he easily recorded zero handicaps. The team from Squaw Valley took first place in the Resort Team competition followed by Sun Valley in second and Mammoth Mountain in third.
The next stop on the tour was Boyne Highlands, MI where NASTAR racing has a strong tradition. Boyne was one of the original eight resorts to join NASTAR 45 years ago and both Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands always field strong teams to compete for the team title. The team race was close but Boyne Mountain took home the team title ahead of Marquette Mountain and Mt. Brighton.
Spirit Mountain, MN hosted the third Regional Pacesetting Trial and competitors were fully tested on the Blue Ruin trail. Pacesetters from some of the most competitive race leagues in the country were on hand to represent their leagues and their resorts so the team competition was intense. Three time NASTAR National Champion and twice a runner up in the Race of Champions at the Nationals, Gavril Hristov, helped Cascade Mountain bring home the bronze medal in the team race. Buck Hill and Welch Village knew it would be a close race for the team title and in the end only one tenth of a point separated the two teams. Welch Village took the win and the bragging rights for now, but the rivalry will be rekindled at the National Championships.
The team race at the Rocky Mountain Regional Pacesetting Trial was even closer as Aspen Highlands beat out Copper Mountain by one-hundredth of a point and the team from Ski Cooper took home the bronze. Franz "Fuxi" Fuchsberger proved that age is not an obstacle as he recorded the lowest handicap at 54 years young, and Scott Nichols continued his streak as the longest running NASTAR pacesetter completing his 35th pacesetting trial.
AJ Kitt will be heading East next week for the Mid-Atlantic and New England Pacesetting Trials. If you have not registered for the event closest to you please do so by emailing your name, NASTAR Registration Number, Resort Name and the Event you will be attending to email@example.com. Each resorts is required to send a minimum of two pacesetters and not more than five. The Regional Pacesetting Trials are not open to the public.
Click Here to see a list of Certified Pacesetters and the Team Points they earned racing in the suit race and the new NASTAR slalom race.