Skiing & Snowboarding in Utah

Pickled Think

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Confessions of a Nastar Junkie

Ohhh Nooo - Not More Snow

The Plight of PSIA

Why Skiing Isn't Like Sex

Refresh Your Mountain Etiquette

They're Only Whim'in

How Do You Make A Girl Happy On Valentine's Day?

Orrin Hatch and the Cask of Amontillado

Bow to the Kings and Queens of World Cup


Wild Utah



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It is 9:00 am on a Tuesday morning, December something, 2004. It's 5 degrees above zero (this sounds way more impressive at -15 Celsius) and I am stripping down to my race suit.

"Bully!" I hear my Masters coach yell at me. Bobby Skinner skis by with his group, and points his steely finger at me-as he and I both know I should be out doing my drills with the Park City Masters racers (arguably, where I really belong). The only problem is I am a Nastar Junkie: a gate-bashing, pro-style sprint racer. I AM the beast. Number 1. The Drainiator! In the small pond of the 17-second course, I reign supreme. Now to add a fair and balanced tilt to this rant, I should say that once I'm dragged off to the vertical ice rink that is CB's race run, land of the Master Racer, my dominance quickly fades to top 20 (on my good days, when I'm not tearing my ligaments out of my knees).

NASTAR is an acronym for [the] National Standard Race-a concept that was started some 40-plus years ago in France (yah, I said France, and I ski on Rossignols, and NO I WON'T BUY FRENCH WINE!!) to measure their instructors' competence against the French National Team members (and yes, at least their instructors can race over there). Well as with the French Fry, it took an American entrepreneur (a French word?) to figure out the incredible value of this system that ostensibly allows any skier or snowboarder of any level to see what percentage they are off from the best in the US. Like golf, a Nastar Racer gets a "Handicap" that levels the playing field between the best and the worst of us. The handicap is based on age, sex, type of snow sliding device (telemark, snowboard, three-track), and there are adjustments for most physical impairments, like blindness.

So what is the attraction of this format of racing? Well for starters, it's safer than Free-Style Motocross, Skier-Cross, jumping off of 500-foot cornices, etc. But the real attraction is this: Nastar racing is wildly fun! It is the only format that you can take as many runs a day as you want for $10 bucks plus a lift ticket. Each year, Nastar keeps improving their system and making their program more accessible to ski resorts by letting them actually turn a profit (something unheard of ski racing).

This thing is so fun that Dr. Liz (Elizabeth Marshall, soon to be Dr. Dranow, poor thing) and I are writing a book called "The Modern Ski Racing Turn" (or The MSRT for short), "Recreational Racing to Win." Are we writing this to make money? Well, uh, sure. Dumb question. It was started, however, simply out of wanting to share our passion for the sport of alpine ski racing with as many people as possible. We intend to make this sport easier and more accessible for folks to step into the starting gate and just keep coming back, again and again.

In 1998 (don't quote me on the date, but I'm close) Nastar came out with their first iteration of their Website scoring system. Today every recreational racer logs onto WWW.NASTAR.COM as soon as they get home to see how they have faired against their friends, family, the other guy in the other course and the area "Bullies" like me.

Nastar is not just for those who like two boards nailed to the bottom of their feet. The Snowboarder division is growing fast. Whether you ride a carving board or love Slope Style, you can jump in the course and beat the pants off the Alpine Dude running next to you; you're handicap adjustments will make it a level playing field. It isn't who gets through the finish first (though that is always fun); it's who has the lowest handicap. And since Nastar is all about feedback, you'll know it in the finish area as the announcer gives you your time AND handicap! The medal you win (Gold, Silver, or Bronze) is based on your handicap.

Nastar is growing faster than a tick on a dog. With over 100,000 individual racers jumping in the gate each of the last two years and over 1,000 participants at the Nationals here at Park City each of the last two years, there is undeniable proof that recreational racing is alive and well.

So as I slink into the starting gate, knowing I am unbeatable, I look to my left and there stands Mitt Coats, a 17-year-old, fire breathing dragon, and member of the Park City Ski Team. I think about backing out, but Scott Vennis is eyeballing me and blocking my exit. On this run, I'm .40 seconds behind Scott and .30 behind Mitt-a veritable mile on a 17 second spring course (we have lobbied and lobbied for a measly 10 seconds more, but our collective, plaintive voices are simply not heard by the powers that be at Park City Mountain). Of course, I'm just about to turn 50 in a couple of months, so I skate off to make another lap, muttering "fleeb-flarbing kids" under my breath.

Later in the day-after my 15th run-out come the Masters racers to see if they can knock off old man Dranow. One by one they try, and one by one they skate off shaking their heads, having fallen well short of my low handicap of the day. Even my dear friend Harold DeBlanc, a Masters top 10 (good days top 5 OVERALL) comes out and falls short by a few hundredths of a second. A real thrashing for my buddy's ego, heh, heh.

I know, I know. I swore off Nastar last season after having enough titanium put in my neck to return to my Masters addiction. But I know I'm weak, I'll be back. Besides, I just moved up to pick on the 50 year olds, the AARP Class in both Nastar and Masters. Being the bully that I am, how could I pass this up?

If you want a real good time, forget that number on the bathroom wall, go to WWW.NASTAR.COM and find out where to race, jump in the gate and see where you stand in the Big Pond.

Gary Dranow
Nastar #DRA160
Men's 2002, 03 Expert 45 - 49 National Ranking Number 1
Men's 2004 Expert 45 - 49 National Ranking Number 3 (here is where the excuses start over a beer or two).

Oh Yeah, Tommy, I'm calling YOU out!

tk ring
Confessions of a Nastar Junkie