The Brief History of NASTAR

Historically, the NASTAR program had its roots in France where ski instructors were rated by the percentage they lagged behind the time recorded by the fastest French  instructor. To gain certification, an instructor had to perform well enough in the Ecole National de Ski's annual Challenge -- at the time (1967) a two-run classic slalom course with hairpins and flushes -- to earn a silver medal – that is, be less than 25 percent behind the time recorded by the fastest instructor. A certified instructor, back at his home area, could set the pace for local participants in Chamois races.       

So began an unwitting, unintended collaboration between a French program, little known in North America, and an American program that would blossom into something much bigger, imitated in other countries, enabling tens of thousands of recreational skiers to measure their ability, and glimpse into what it might feel like to a racer in the Olympics.

John Fry, who was editor-in-chief of SKI Magazine, and who in 1969 became editorial director of Golf Magazine as well as SKI, was driven by the idea of creating in skiing the equivalent of par in golf. He adapted the French percentage-of-time system to a program he called the 'National Standard Race', using the acronym NASTAR. As in France, instructors from around the country would come together at the beginning of the season to rate their performance. Then they would return to their home resorts as pacesetters. The difference, though, was that in Nastar the local pacesetter’s time would be adjusted by the percentage it lagged behind the fastest time of the top U.S. Ski Team alpine racer of the year. (Twenty years later, in the winter of 1987-88, France adopted Nastar's system of re-calibrating the local pacesetter's time.) A Nastar course would be a simple open-gated giant slalom on intermediate terrain, inviting to recreational skiers. 

In  Fry's mind, it would work as follows. If pacesetter Klaus at Mount Snow was originally three percent slower than the nation’s fastest racer, and a Mount Snow guest was 20 percent slower than Klaus, then he or she would be about 23 percent slower than America’s fastest skier would have been if he’d skied the Mt. Snow course that day. Presto! The skier would have a 23 handicap. The sport of skiing could enjoy the equivalent of golf’s par! A skier would know that on any slope anywhere, through a couple of dozen gates, on a surface that could be sticky or icy, it didn’t matter, the rating would be valid. If he had a 23 Nastar handicap, he was seven percentage points better than a guy with a 30 rating.  A recreational skier could have a competitive experience on a 300-foot vertical Michigan hill equivalent to one at a Rocky Mountain resort.