National Ski Competitions come to Winter Park!

March 1st is usually highlighted on my calendar for a variety of reasons. Not because it is the anniversary of Yahoo!’s incorporation (1995), or the birthday of The Who’s Roger Daltrey (67 this year) but because it signifies the start of the busiest month of the year for reservations, a month which historically provides the most amount of snow in any one month of the year, the first “sniff” of the end of the season (albeit just under 8 weeks still to go), and if it coincides with sunshine and warmer temperatures, the definite feeling of spring.

Winter Park Ski Resort plays host to two major National competitions at the end of March which should help boost not just occupancy numbers, but media attention as well.

The first is the Nature Valley NASTAR Nationals, from March 24th to March 27th, and is actually the second year of two that it is being held at Winter Park Resort. Last year’s event was hugely successful, with an estimated 1,500 competitors and 5,000 incremental visitors staying in the valley at that time, purely for the event. If you want to know what NASTAR is all about, I wrote two blog posts last year on the subject covering 25 facts about the event itself and its history.  Go to our website, type in NASTAR in the “Search Our Site” box, and it will take you to the appropriate links.

The second competition is the U.S. Alpine Championships, held over March 31st through April 3rd. This is the first time the event has returned to Winter Park since 1992, which was actually my first season in the valley (after arriving on a slow train from Chicago)! And there’s a mildly amusing story to go with it.

It was my first year in the U.S, and I was “traveling” on a 6-month entry visa – back in the days when you could get such a thing without being photographed, finger-printed, body-searched, x-rayed and interrogated, and I had wound up in Winter Park working for a lodging establishment that paid me $2.50/hour with room and board and a half-price season pass which still cost me more than if I had paid 100% of a season pass this year!

Anyway, working an evening job, I was already in excess of 100 days for the season when the US Nationals rolled into town and I even helped out the Chamber on a couple of events in order to get some free swag (I still have my head-band in cold storage to prove it). Being fresh out of England and more intent on honing my mogul skills than following the US race scene, I didn’t really know who was who, only that the top racers came fully clad in body-hugging Spyder spandex race gear and curved poles for extra streamlining!

And it was one such female racer that joined a friend and I as we were going up the Zephyr Express lift for the first or second time that day. The conversation went something like this:

Me:        How are you doing?

Her:       Great, how about you guys?

Me:        Wonderful, thanks. I’m Brian and this is Dave.

Her:       I’m Hilary.

Me:        Nice to meet you. (Pause…….) So – are you having a good season so far?

Her:       Yes, not bad thanks.

And we chatted for the remainder of the 7-minute chairlift ride and she went on her speedy way and we went on ours, although considerably less speedy. We found out later in the day that Hilary was none other than Hilary Lindh, who the previous month had won Silver Medal for the US in the Women’s Downhill at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France.

Anyway, even though we were ignorant, at least we were polite!

If truth be told, not all the Alpine disciplines are featured, because the US downhill championships were held in Aspen, CO on February 16 “in order to ensure solid winter snow conditions and maximize use of the already prepared speed track”. The reason may have more to do with the true lack of vertical on any one mountain at Winter Park than anything else.

Consequently, the three disciplines of giant slalom, super G and slalom will be up for grabs, and without question Lindsey Vonn will be at the center of attention, especially as she has run into some decent form recently, winning the Downhill and then placing second in the Super G in Are, Sweden 2 days ago.

It’s great to have two such high-profile events at the resort this season with the attendant crowds and publicity they should bring. I’m a volunteer Mountain Host this season and two of my days on-mountain coincide with the NASTAR Nationals Saturday, and US Nationals Slalom event on Sunday. Maybe my chairlift ride up with a female downhill superstar might include a little more informed conversation! Ski vacations at Colorado’s Winter Park can be the perfect way to spend time doing what Coloradoans love to do best. Find Colorado vacation rentals in Winter Park here from Staywinterpark.!

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