Most Dedicated Athletes: By The Numbers
03.12.2018 | Megan Ganim
The Midwest may not have the distractions of massive mountains in the backdrop or long, never-ending runs but this seems to foster an even deeper reason to jump into racing programs, gates and NASTAR. For many on that side of our nation, racing is what makes the terrain worthwhile. From here, some of the most competitive NASTAR racers take their training to the next level and shall we say, get competitive with it.
Karl Landl, who’s 81 and from Illinois, has skied over 80 resorts in his lifetime, 41 of which were NASTAR resorts. Dick Wagner from Michigan has been skiing with NASTAR virtually every year for the last 50 years and Matt Dubois is a 59-year-old dentist also from Michigan has made it his goal (and succeeded) to race at over 20 NASTAR resorts in one season.
You might not yet be catching on to where the competitive drive plays a role, but just wait. These men are not driven to tackle race course challenges just because they look fun. It’s much more than that.
With Karl Landl’s Austrian roots, it’s only natural that competing is in his nature. As the longest standing participant of the Chicago Metropolitan Ski Council, he often raced at Brule Mountain in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, Devils Head, Wisconsin and still races at Wilmot Mtn., Wisconsin. He packs up every weekend in the winter and heads to the hills to get his ski turns in, coming back home and records each place that he visited in his scrapbook. Landl keeps notes of all areas he’s skied in dating back to 1970 right after NASTAR’s beginning. He records each hill in alphabetical order and includes all medals and awards organized by date.
“Back when I heard they were going to implement the Platinum system, I wanted to go back to all of the resorts I’ve raced gold in and make sure I raced platinum instead,” Landl said. “I have 50 resorts in my mind as a goal and the best part of it is that I simply get to discover new areas.”
Landl has been to three NASTAR Nationals, taking home gold in 2013 for the Men’s 75-79 Gold Division. His next trip this winter is to Aspen, Colorado where he plans to ski Aspen and Snowmass adding more marks to his goal of 50-lifetime resorts.
“Another one of the best parts of going to all these different NASTAR resorts is that you always see the same folks coming up and I like to send out an email and say ‘let’s go ski NASTAR,’ to round up everybody” said Landl. “Sometimes you get close to the pacesetter’s times and we want to beat them.”
For Dick Wagner, 1968 was his first year racing NASTAR (yes, that was NASTAR’s very first year of existence 50 years ago) and the only year he hasn’t carried out a full season, with the exception of attending Nationals that year, was in 2009 when he underwent heart surgery. His home mountain is Boyne Mountain and Nubs Nob, located very close to each other and featuring some of the best NASTAR courses in the nation. Returning to snow healthy, Wagner hasn’t missed a beat since his surgery.
“I swear I’ve raced every year after that, I mean, I have all the pins and stuff to prove it,” laughed Wagner. “People ask me all the time why I love to race and it’s really just a way I get to gauge my ability against others who have been racing for as long as I have.”
Wagner explained that after every year and every day spent on snow he’s still seeking the perfect run and it never occurs. He’s forever dialing in the details of his racing technique and has a love/hate relationship with the idea that you can be a tenth of a second late in a gate and that little movement can throw off your entire line.
“I love going first in a course so that I can get to the bottom and look back up and see my tracks in order to be able to understand where I can improve,” said Wagner.
Improving was also a goal of Matt Dubois of South East Lower Michigan when he set out to break the record for number of NASTAR resorts raced in one season. Dubois drove a total of 7,413 miles, averaging a handicap of 14.02 over 20 resorts, and hitting all 13 Michigan lower peninsula resorts, both of Ohio’s and both of Indiana’s NASTAR resorts amongst others. His dedication to the project was unlike many others. He decided to take it on early season when he read about the new badge system NASTAR now has in place.
“I honestly felt like I owed this to NASTAR to give it a try and take this personal challenge on,” said Dubois. “I started in December and kept on going, I planned everything out per weekend and weather dependent I pretty much stuck with it as much as I could.”
Dubois planned his trips around which NASTAR resorts ran courses on Wednesdays or Thursdays and figured out if he could drive out to a certain resort after work and make it in time to hit the course before they closed that night sometimes. He mapped out his weekends based around trips to resorts. One weekend he even drove down to a resort on a Thursday, raced their course Thursday night and drove over to another state to race a different NASTAR course on Friday. On one occasion he raced at two different resorts in one day. He made it to Paoli Peaks, Indiana just in time for their last day of NASTAR before they closed for the season. Swain Mountain in upstate New York, recognized Dubois’ dedication and opened up their course just for him in the fog, rain and 55 degree mush.
“My average for the 21 resorts was within 0.15 handicap points of my pacesetter handicap, which was scored against Daron Rahlves at Mt Holly in December,” explained Dubois. “In my mind, this validates the NASTAR system. Although NASTAR does favor racers who race all the time at one resort, and then have the ability to score low handicaps on days when they catch the pacesetter on a slow day, I had to take what I got; random days, not knowing if the pacesetter was having a good or bad day. In spite of this randomness, my results stayed in the teens for all but one resort (which ended up being a slalom race), and for the other 20 resorts, 15 of the 20 results were platinum, and the golds were all within 0.20 seconds of a platinum result. To me, this validates the system, and shows that for the most part, the pacesetters are running an accurate time.”
As the season was drawing closer to an end in February, Dubois was one away from 20 resorts and the Midwest was having a rough time getting snow so he hit the airliners to Colorado. Skiing Aspen and Steamboat to make 20 and 21 total skied NASTAR resorts this season.
These three men are dedicated, loyal NASTAR racers and help put an exclamation point on what’s been one great season.