SNOWMASS VILLAGE—They’ll come from Seven Springs, Spirit Mountain and Sun Valley, Little Switzerland, Perfect North, Bogus Basin and all kinds of hills, knobs and mega-resorts in-between to challenge one another on the NASTAR courses at Snowmass ski area.
And when an estimated 1,400 alpine skiers, snowboarders and telemarkers who could range in age from 2 to 92 flock here during late March for the Nature Valley NASTAR National Championships, the financial impact to the resort community could be quite substantial, indeed.
“We hosted the NASTAR Nationals the last two years and the impact was tremendous,” said Steve Hurlbert, Communications Manager for Winter Park Resort. While Winter Park’s event included a tie-in that Snowmass does not have (the U.S. National Alpine Championships), Hurlbert said the races “ended up being a great showcase for the diverse capabilities of Winter Park Resort on a national stage.”
In addition to putting heads-on-beds in Snowmass, the NASTAR Championships may also introduce the resort to a new and more youthful audience. “It exposes a lot of young folks to Snowmass, some for the first time, which influences return visitation,” noted Susan Hamley, Director of Snowmass Tourism.
Bringing the nationals to Snowmass, the business’ home base, has been a long-term goal of Bill Madsen, NASTAR’s Director of Operations. Based upon past events, he estimates the championships, which run March 19-24, will likely be responsible for more than 4,000 people coming to the Village.
Some may visit for just the racing and ancillary events while others could choose to book for a week or more. “We’re telling people you’ve got to ski Aspen Mountain, you’ve got to try out Highland Bowl,” Madsen said.
Madsen added that he expects a cross-section of lodging properties to benefit; package deals are being offered from the Pokolodi, the Wildwood and other hotel and condo units. “We also have people who drive in looking for a place for the camper. And other people who will stay at the Viceroy,” he said.
Fred Brodsky, Group Sales Director for Snowmass Tourism, said the number of room nights booked won’t be known until after the race qualification deadline, which is mid-February. However, he does predict that “The impact on Snowmass will be significant.”
The guests will need more than a place to sleep and a lift ticket. According to the 2004 Competitive Resort Case Study conducted by EPS, the average winter overnight guest spends approximately $110 per day in retail (non-lodging, lift tickets and rentals).
“So we’re pretty safe to say this program should generate at least half-a-million dollars in revenue for Snowmass businesses,” Hamley said.
The Spider Sabich Race Arena is home to most of the NASTAR racers, with children and the oldest competitors being directed to the Scooper trail and the gold and platinum finalists racing on Velvet Falls.
“I’m excited about it. We have all of the race venues in one area. Everything is close by,” Madsen said.
The conference center in Base Village (where the Denver Museum of Nature and Science held its mammoth and mastodon bone viewing sessions) will be home to registration, results processing, the Saturday evening get-together and Warren Miller movie.
A stage and screen will be erected in the Base Village plaza, near the fire pit. There, guests may enjoy daily live music that is highlighted by a live performance March 22 featuring singer/songwriter Brett Dennen.
This week, Madsen is in Okemo, Vt., promoting the NASTAR brand and cheering on racers attempting to qualify for the March finals. NASTAR employs a generous handicap system that takes into consideration age and gender.
Locally, NASTAR is run on three of the four area mountains (Ajax, Highlands and Snowmass). On Sunday, Feb. 3, there’s a special event at Highlands, “NASTAR for Ulfar,” in honor of the late Ulfar Skaeringsson, a ski instructor who came to Aspen from Iceland in 1960 and made his mark as co-director of the Aspen Mountain Ski School. A true Aspen character, Skaeringsson passed away in 2011.
From 11-1 p.m. that day, pay $1 per NASTAR run and try to qualify for the nationals in Snowmass. All proceeds will be used to build a memorial bench outside Four Mountain Sports at Highlands. Advance registration, at NASTAR.com, is recommended.
Skaeringsson’s daughter, Aslaug Wright, suggests that racers wear ascots in honor of her dad. There will also be coffee and doughnuts served at the event, again, because that’s what Ulfar really enjoyed.
Family remains key to the success of NASTAR. Open to individuals of all ages, the NASTAR finals typically attract plenty of parents and their offspring who have either qualified separately or as part of a Family Team.
According to Snowmass Tourism’s Hamley: “One of my favorite notions is parents getting to know more about their kids in one chairlift ride than in a month of the usual activities at home like driving to school and sports, doing homework,” that kind of thing, she said.
Madsen said Snowmass has locked up the NASTAR finals for the next two seasons and has an option to bring the event back in 2015.