Pacesetting is the glue that holds the NASTAR program together.

NASTAR stands for the NAtional STAndard Race and the National Standard or zero handicap is the Par Time that all participants compete against when they race NASTAR. Each time a participant races NASTAR they earn a handicap which represents the difference between their race time and Par Time expressed as a percentage. It's easier than it sounds - if a participant earns a 15 handicap, they are 15% behind the National Standard, Par Time or Zero handicap.

A handicap is a gauge that represents each participant's ability and racers can watch their rankings advance as their skills improve and their handicap gets lower throughout the season.

Each NASTAR resort must have a staff of pacesetters that earn certified pacesetting handicaps. It is the pacesetters' job to accurately represent the National Standard or Par Time for each NASTAR race. When a pacesetter sets the Par Time on a NASTAR racecourse, participants can then race and earn a NASTAR handicap that represents their ability.

Handicapping Resort Pacesetters

Each NASTAR resort must have pacesetters that have earned certified pacesetting handicaps. To become certified, pacesetters must do one of the following:

  • Race against the National Pacesetter at the NASTAR National Championships
  • Race against a competitor that earned a handicap of 30 or lower at the National Championships
  • Race against a pacesetter with a certified pacesetting handicap

NASTAR resorts must contact NASTAR to schedule Pacesetting Trial and send the Names and NASTAR ID numbers for their pacesetters. Resort pacesetters must take a minimum of three race runs but they can take as many race runs as allowed by the host resort. The three lowest handicaps are averaged to establish each pacesetters certified pacesetting handicap.

All results must be posted to and handicapping requests MUST be approved by NASTAR. Once approved, resort pacesetters are added to the Pacesetter Database.

In addition, race staff can become certified after racing against a certified pacesetter during three separate NASTAR race days. After three race days participants earn a National Average Handicap and that handicap can be used for pacesetting. A request must be sent to NASTAR to have the competitor's handicap reviewed for certification.


Pacesetter Handicaps

Pacesetters can earn three certified NASTAR Handicaps. Handicaps differ depending on what the pacesetter is wearing and the discipline.

  • GS Suit: Pacesetters that race wearing a race suit earn a "Suit" handicap. When the pacesetters set the Par Time at their resort wearing a racing suit, they use their "Suit" handicap (suit handicaps are generally 4% faster than "coat" handicaps).

  • GS Coat: Pacesetters that race wearing their coat & warm-ups earn a "Coat" handicap. When pacesetters set the Par Time at their resort wearing their regular work clothes, they use their "Coat" handicap.

  • Slalom: NASTAR slalom is an additional option for NASTAR resorts. Pacesetters earn a slalom handicap when they race against a certified pacesetter with a slalom handicap. Because speeds are slower in slalom races and aerodynamics play less of a roll, there are not coat and suit handicaps for slalom.


Re-handicapping Pacesetters

It is not uncommon for new race staff to get faster as their skills improve. Pacesetters can "re-handicap" if they feel they are skiing faster than they did when they earned their certified pacesetting handicap. Pacesetters should compete in NASTAR races and when their National Average Handicap drops below their certified pacesetting handicap, pacesetters can have their handicap reviewed for an update.

Pacesetters that need to re-handicap on one day need to take a minimum of three race runs against a certified pacesetter. More runs can be taken, but the three lowest handicaps are added and divided by three to establish a new pacesetting handicap. If pacesetters would like to update their suit and coat handicap, they must take a minimum of three runs in a suit and three runs in a coat.

All re-handicapping requests MUST be approved by NASTAR. The pacesetter or their NASTAR Coordinator can request to have their handicap reviewed for an update.

Pacesetters cannot lower their handicap by racing against a par time that they set.

Negative Handicaps

Negative handicaps are not accepted within the NASTAR Handicap System because it is generally accepted that NASTAR participants are not capable of beating the National Pacesetter. If a racer beats the Par Time the NASTAR Coordinator has three options.

  1. The Pacesetter can race the course again and attempt to lower the Par Time by skiing the course faster.

  2. If the Pacesetter cannot lower the Par Time to eliminate the negative handicap, the racer that beat the Par Time must be inserted as the pacesetter. The racer's name and handicap must be looked up online at and the racer is inserted manually as the pacesetter in the timing software.

  3. If options 1 & 2 are not possible, the race can be posted to with the negative handicap and the coordinator tells their guests that NASTAR will make an adjustment to the results. If a race is posted on with a negative handicap the race will be recalculated using the fastest racer as the pacesetter for the race. The racer that beat the Par Time is inserted as the pacesetter and his/her NASTAR National Average Handicap is used to set the Par Time. If the participant does not have a National Average Handicap, the racer's Resort Ranking Handicap will be used to set the Par Time. If the racer does not have a national or resort handicap, the second fastest racer will be inserted as the pacesetter and if the second fastest racer does not have a handicap the third fastest person is used, etc.

This process must be followed to maintain the integrity of the National Standard, the National Pacesetter and the NASTAR program. The pacesetter that set the original par time is entered into the race as a participant to show the handicap earned. The handicap earned can be reviewed to adjust the pacesetters handicap.


Proactive Pacesetting

Pacesetters must set the Par Time on their course by racing at the same pace as they did when they earned their pacesetting handicap. Handicaps should not be announced until the Par Time is set accurately. If the Pacesetter makes a mistake while racing to set the Par Time, he/she must race again to accurately set the Par Time.

Public NASTAR courses that are open for long periods of time can experience diverse course conditions. When course conditions are variable, pacesetters should continually test the Par Time. If a pacesetter can earn a handicap that is two points lower than their pacesetting handicap, the course is getting faster and a new Par Time should be set. In addition, if the course gets slower and the pacesetter cannot earn a handicap that is within two points of their pacesetting handicap, a new Par Time should be set.

Example: Joe Fast is a pacesetter with a handicap of 10. Six inches of new snow fell the night before the race, and even though the hill has been groomed the course is still soft. Joe Fast pacesets the course and posts a time of 25.00 seconds. With his handicap of 10, the Par Time is 22.72. After 30 people race the course Joe Fast slides into the start to test the Par Time. Joe feels his skis sliding much faster across the snow and posts a time of 24.25, which earns him a handicap of 6.73. The timer writes down Joe's time and deletes his time from the race. The timer opens a new race and enters Joe as the Pacesetter on the Race Header with a time of 24.25. The entrants from the first race can be copied into the new race file without their times so that they don't need to be reentered in the new race. In the timing software click on the Competitors tab, click the Other button and select, "Copy Competitors from Another Race" and continue with your race. Multiple races can be posted for the same day if necessary. 

Later in the day the course is rutted and icy but the race is only scheduled to run for 45 minutes more so resetting doesn't make sense. Joe Fast races again but he can only post a time of 26.00 seconds with a handicap of 17.96. The timer creates a new race and enters Joe as the Pacesetter with a time of 26.00.

Participants will be more likely to take reruns when they feel they have a fair chance at winning earning an accurate handicap and medal. It is the race staff's responsibility to keep the guests informed and to let them know why the pacesetter is racing again.