2022 NASTAR National Champs Review
04.20.2022 |Bill Madsen
2022 NASTAR National Championship Review
Great racing, close competition, "ski-lebrity" pacesetters, prize money and amazing weather made for an exciting championships event. Participants from 40 states and four countries converged on Snowmass Village, CO to chase national titles and to experience dual, head-to-head racing for prize money, but most importantly in was a celebration of the sport of alpine racing.
Monday, April 4th
The week kick off with a slalom race that got 250 racers into the swing of the action. SPM Hero gates, aka stubies, were used for the race so no special protective gear was needed but that didn't mean the pace was any slower. Paula Moltzan, fresh off a National Championship win at Sugarloaf, ME was eager to see how she stacked up against Aspen local and U.S. Ski Team standout, Bridger Gile. Bridger did just enough to hold off Paula but the former NASTAR National Champions had a blast racing together. Paula was a 2004 NASTAR National Champion and Bridger earned five NASTAR National Championship titles starting in 2004.
The tighter turns of the slalom race challenged the competitors but the smiles and the enthusiasm were contagious.
Tuesday, April 5th
The Bronze Division races met the most challenging weather of the week as high winds battered the race venue the night before the race. Fortunately, the wind back off for the races and the race crew picked up the pieces and put everything back together to get the races rolling on time. The Challenge Aspen athletes were well represented in the adaptive divisions and they launched out of the start gates first followed by the adult bronze division racers. There were seven adults and seven juniors that earned a handicap above the bronze level and they bumped up to the silver division race and competed the next day.
Wednesday, April 6th
The Bronze Division racers and the Adaptive Division racers had the opportunity to race head-to-head in the Finals and the Silver Division participants took to the racecourses to compete for a national title and a spot in the Silver Division Finals on Thursday. The weather was clear and cold and the race courses were fast. Two junior racers and three adults bumped up to the Gold Division race on Thursday after earning handicaps above the silver medal level as the competition ramped up a notch.
The Bronze Division Finals were hotly contested. The defending Bronze Division champion, Jerry Leisher, was skiing fast but seven year old Enzo Hensley skied fast enough to knock off the champ to take the win. Cab Gilbreath took third place. Susie Rose had a challenging trip to final as she had to race 17 year old Evelyn Hergenhan in final. Susie was able to hold on for the win and Kylie O'Connor took third place.
Thursday, April 7th
Perfect racing condition greeted the Silver Division finalists and the Gold Division racers competing for National Titles. It was exciting to see our pacesetters hitting stride with the NASTAR format as they seemed to ski faster every race run they took to set the Par Time. No adults bumped up to the platinum division from the gold division races and only two juniors bumped up to the platinum race.
The intensity during the Silver Division Finals increased but the competitors were excited to take on the challenge of racing head-to-head. Seven year old Savannah Straub was not intimidated by racing side by side and she carried her momentum all the way to the finals and the top of the podium. Madeline Pacola worked hard to earn the silver medal and Kay Roberts took home the bronze medal and third place prize money.
Friday, April 8th
The busiest day of racing took place on Friday as the Platinum Division competed for national titles and the Gold Division competed for prize money. Marco Sullivan and Alice McGennis set the pace for the races as the speed of the competition increased again. David Mackown won the Jerry Taylor trophy by winning the very competitive 75-79 age group which is always a huge honor and Carla Bouthillier won Pauline's Cup for being the fastest most veteran female racer.
The Gold Division Finals were exciting and fast and it was the young girls that dominated the podium. Smith Stearns held off a hard charging Serafina Micheli to take the win and Pearce Lembitz earned third place ahead of Carly Rebeiz.
The sponsor village was buzzing when Bode Miller showed up at the Revo tent to sign autograph. Bode met Outside+ members early at the gondola to make first tracks before the lifts opened to the public and he spent the day talking with NASTAR racers and meeting the NASTAR Nation.
Saturday, April 9th
The final competition of the NASTAR National Championships was the Platinum Division Finals. The women's race was hotly contested but only junior racers made it to the final. Zaria Smith took the win ahead of Katherine Campian in a very close race. Melanie Schwartz took home third place prize money racing with outriggers. The tree track racer held off a hard charging Isabelle Ratcliff as both racers recorded their best handicaps in the small final.
Chris Berns came into the final race as the defending champion but he knew he would have to dig deep to repeat. Chris races with a prosthetic and he has been very inventive in developing a leg that mimics natural leg motion when racing. It is difficult to explain how challenging it is to take multiple head-to-head race runs and to ski consistently with a prosthetic but Chris was determined. At 65 years young, it's a challenge for any competitor to race five runs consistently but Chris put run after run together and forced his competition into mistakes. Chris faced nine year old Ryland Murphy in the final and the two racers were evenly matched. Ryland carried a 26 handicap into the match-up and Chris' handicap of 29 gave him a .6 of a second head start out of the gate. Ryland kept the race close but made a mistake before the finish handing Chris a second NASTAR National Championship title. The small final saw Mark Blakely go head-to-head against Ivan Unkovskoy. Sixteen-year-old Mark had to makeup a 1.6 second deficit to Ivan and the two were neck and neck at the finish, but by .13 hundredths of a second, Ivan held on to take third place.
It was a glorious week of racing in the Spider Sabich Race Arena and it was exciting to have the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame induct Spider into the Hall during the event. Accepting the award was Spider's daughter, Missy Greis. The event was a who is who of the alpine racing community as Spider family, his teammates, friends and fans showed up in force. A documentary produced by the Bob Beattie Foundation, "Spider Lives", was shown before the induction ceremony.
(left to right: Spider Sabich, Grace Greis (Missy's daughter), Marty Sabich (Spider's Sister), Hank Kashiwa, Kiki Cutter, Billy Kidd, Bill Marolt and Moose Barrows)
The 2022 NASTAR National Championships was an amazing event. Thank you to the participants, race supporters, guests, sponsors, volunteers, race staff, the Aspen Skiing Company, the Town of Snowmass Village and Outside for making the event possible. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this young girl expresses how the NASTAR Nation felt about the event.