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Pagosans race at NASTAR championship event

A trio of ski enthusiasts from Pagosa Springs qualified for and competed in the NASTAR (NAtional STAndard Race) National Championships in Winter Park March 25-28, vying against 1,400 racers in various age and competitive divisions.

Two of the Pagosa skiers, Joseph Jordan and Dean Sell, qualified for the first time, while Larry Fisher competed in the championship event for the fourth time.

NASTAR is a ski and snowboard race series in which competitors compete on any NASTAR course throughout the country at any time during the season. The season then culminates with the top athletes from each member resort earning a chance to compete at the national championships in one of four speed divisions — platinum, gold, silver and bronze (platinum being the fastest).

All three Pagosans competed representing Durango Mountain Resort, home of the closest NASTAR course to Pagosa.

Jordan raced in the gold division within the 45-49 age class and finished 20th.

Sell raced against other athletes within the platinum class of the 49-54 age class.

“Well, I didn’t win the national championship,” Sell said with a chuckle. “I got 10th in my division.”

This year Fisher, in his fourth appearance, raced in the gold division with others age 60-64, taking eighth. Previously, he has raced in the platinum division, he said.

While none brought home the top prize, all maintain that the experience was worthwhile and hope to return next year.

“It was all new for me, it was a blast, I learned a lot. I didn’t win, but it was cool,” Jordan said. “When you qualify for an event like that, you really need to go to see what you’re up against in terms of competition.”

Jordan continued, noting that he has only been racing two years and wants to learn and improve. “I wish I would have done better. Watch for that next year,” he said.

“It was neat, one of the neatest things I’ve done in ski racing,” Sell said.

“It’s kind of a little fun getaway” Fisher said. “It’s just kind of fun to watch people that are a level above you.”

In addition to the competition, all three Pagosa racers mentioned the highlights of visiting with and watching the likes of Phil Mahre, as well as a number of other U.S. Ski Team alumni and current members and Olympians, race as pacesetters (pacesetters set the world-class times all athletes race against).

Interestingly, Jordan and Sell never had a goal of qualifying for the national tournament.

According to Jordan, he and Sell race together at Wolf Creek Ski Area, as well as racing in the Purgatory Cup Series and training at DMR. At one of their practice days at DMR, the two decided to run the NASTAR course for practice. Neither checked their end result for the course.

Apparently the results were worth checking, since both men received an e-mail inviting them to Winter Park.

Similarly, Fisher, who competed for the fourth time, said his first year of qualifying was “purely accidental.”

Fisher recounts that, four years ago, he and a friend were skiing in Utah, when a challenge of a friendly race on the NASTAR course was set. At the end of the season, Fisher was alerted to his qualification for the championship.

Since then, Fisher has strived to return to the championship each year, using the program as a benchmark for judging his own improvement.

“(The first year) I found that I really wasn’t doing very well,” Fisher said, adding, “The last few years I’ve been on a quest to improve. Over the last three years I’ve been gradually improving and doing better and better.”

Participants can race on any NASTAR course throughout the country, at any time, as many times as they please, without the need for other competitors to be present.

“It kind of gives you a virtual comparison to a bunch of other skiers,” Jordan explained.

Pacesetters race on each NASTAR course, setting a world-class time for racers to compare themselves to. The time difference between the pacesetter’s and the participant’s run is the racer’s handicap, which allows for the comparison to other racers at other resorts. In turn, the handicap determines which of the four speed divisions the racer qualifies for.

Only the participant’s best time is used in determining national championship qualification.

Jordan explained that the courses are typically between 15-20 gates and can be completed in 20-40 seconds, putting them on par with the Wolf Creek Fun Race series.

randi@pagosasun.com