The Liberty Mutual Insurance NASTAR National Championships are set to touch down in Aspen-Snowmass March 24-28. The annual event, held for the first time in Snowmass, is expected to draw as many as 1,000 racers, aged five to 100, who will descend on the Colorado resort from places as far as Florida and Alaska.
NASTAR, the largest, most accessible grassroots ski-racing program in the world, has long been celebrated for providing racing opportunities to a wide range of athletes. It’s an event where youngsters and grandparents race alongside former Olympians and U.S. Ski Team members to share in competition and celebrate the love of ski racing in a season-culminating event.
“I am excited to race in Snowmass because I have actually never skied there before,” said pacesetter Marco Sullivan. “Also, I have been less involved in NASTAR this year as Andrew Weibrecht has taken over some of the pacesetting duties, so it will be great to reconnect with the NASTAR family out in Colorado.”
Racers are grouped on the basis of age, gender, skill level and discipline. Every participant will take two runs on Thursday and two runs on Friday. The best handicap from each day will be averaged to decide the participant’s final results. The 32 men and 32 women who accumulate the most NASTAR team points during the preceding two days will get a chance to qualify for finals and contend for the overall title.
With parallel giant slalom now included on the World Cup, NASTAR is looking to capitalize on this new trend in the sport with head-to-head competition at the championships this season. For the first time this year, all races will be held in this format, including the final event, the Race of Champions, where the top 32 men and women compete side by side.
The four male and female racers who survive elimination and climb up the bracket will advance to the finals and compete for cash prizes: $1,000 for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third and $250 for fourth. Prize money is equal for men and women, so if you have what it takes to make it to the final four, the spoils are plentiful.
“The NASTAR National Championships are one of my favorite weeks of the year,” said NASTAR pacesetter and Denver University alum Claire Brown. “It’s a great way to connect with the ski racing community and close out the season with a fun and competitive week in the mountains.”
Prior to the main event, the NASTAR Slalom Championship are scheduled for Tuesday with adults racing in the morning and juniors in the afternoon. Competitors do not have to qualify for the slalom championships, only register by Monday, March 23 at 6 p.m. The action continues on Wednesday with the Family Team Race and Friends Team Race. Participants are encouraged to rally their friends and family — or make new pals on the chairlift — to compete in a fun team environment. No qualification is necessary, only registration as NASTAR racers.
At the NASTAR National Championships, racing is just part of the fun. Between Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass, the area boasts 5,524 acres of skiable terrain. The week’s highlights will also include free concerts, raffles, giveaways, race clinics, autograph signings by U.S. Ski Team athletes and alumni, and award ceremonies.
For spectators, the event is a great opportunity to explore Snowmass Village’s restaurants and stores, imbibe at the Limelight Hotel’s 3-7 happy hour, stop for a cup of hearty soup at Snowmass’ oldest restaurant, the Stew Pot, or lace up the skates for a spin on village’s brand-new ice rink.
Beyond Snowmass, the town of Aspen is filled with gems, new and old. Stop by the true Aspen classics of the Hotel Jerome or the Wheeler Opera House — both were erected in the late 1880s. Check out Aspen’s only microbrewery, Aspen Tap, in the center of town for award-winning craft beers and pub food. And for the more romantic and adventurous experience, splurge on a trip to Cloud Nine Bistro, a swiss-style cabin nestled in the mountains accessed by snowcat.
Participants and paid guests receive discounted lodging and lift tickets, in addition to special deals at many of Aspen-Snowmass’ restaurants and stores. If qualified, be sure to check out these options with NASTAR.
Want more ski racing? The action continues into weekend with the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships, which will be held March 28-31 at Aspen Highlands and feature the top racers from around the country competing in the final big event of the season.
“To have such a fun, grassroots event followed by the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships makes this year particularly special. Inspiration flows both ways between beginners and professionals, and having these two events back to back presents an incredibly special opportunity,” said Megan Ganim with NASTAR and Ski Racing Media.
Still need to qualify? It’s not too late. You have until March 20 to win a medal at one of the many NASTAR locations around the country. If March 20 slips by, racers can make late qualifications by racing at Snowmass or Aspen Mountain prior to the National Championships from March 21-25. Be sure to check the NASTAR website for news and updates.