Dear Brave Ski Mom,
I have a 7-year-old who very much wants to start racing. I have no idea where to start. How can I find out about recreational racing programs? He skis everything on any mountain – favoring black moguls and double blacks. Any suggestions you have would be most appreciated. THANKS!
Thanks for asking! Your son is the perfect age to try ski racing. Here are some general options. After deciding what type of program you are looking for, please check your resort’s website, talk to other parents, and the directors of your local racing program to find out what will work best for your child.
Ski School Programs. Most resorts have a recreational racing program. At some resorts, the program runs through the ski school. These programs differ from regular lessons in that are usually multi-week or season-long. Kids are grouped by ability and area of interest. If they are interested in racing, the instructors will provide time in the gates. If they are interested in park and pipe, they’ll spend time in the terrain park. But the underlying focus will be on developing good, solid ski and ride skills.
Recreational Leagues. In Colorado, we’ve had generations of young racers come out of The Buddy Werner League. This league, which is found in other states, is not a learn-to-ski program, although your child will graduate with great skills. Racers train each week with a coach, and compete against one another in races throughout the season. The season culminates in a regional championship race against teams from other resorts. The competition is strong, but not intense, with a healthy emphasis on fun.
While your resort may not have the Buddy Werner League, chances are they have a similar program.
USSA. For kids, this is the big league. There is a 100% focus on racer development. The level of competition is high. The training commitment is intense and if your child dreams of competing in the Olympics, he or she may love it! Competitors are grouped by age level, with the youngest class being J5 (9 and 10 year olds). USSA programs are often run by racing clubs and the clubs travel to other resorts for races throughout the season.
NASTAR. NASTAR works closely with the US Ski Team (team members race to set the par time each year and act as ambassadors for NASTAR) and a goal of NASTAR is to promote junior ski racing. NASTAR races are standardized, so every time a child races they can see how their time stacks up against not only the previous run, but against kids their age throughout the U.S.
Many resorts use NASTAR in their ski school and recreational leagues. This makes sense, because NASTAR has a national program in place, with a huge payoff: The NASTAR National Championship race. Each year, top qualifiers from each resort are invited to Colorado to race against their peers from across the nation and rub shoulders with US Ski Team members.
It’s A Progression
Think of ski racing as a progression. Your kids start by taking lessons with the ski school. During lessons the instructors take them through the NASTAR course, which records a time for them. Having had some success with NASTAR, your kids join a recreational racing league. They have so much fun, and taste enough success, that after a season or two, they join a USSA program. From there, it takes only thousands of hours of training, many more thousands of dollars of coaching and equipment, skill, discipline and some good luck, too, and they’re on the US Ski Team.
But really, is that the goal of a seven-year-old? Probably not. My guess is he wants to run gates, hang out with a cool coach, laugh with his ski buddies and enjoy some fun competition.
The Brave Ski Mom
Need Some Inspiration?
I hear many stories of kids who are inspired to ski race while watching the Olympics. But inspiration need not be limited to once every four years! World Cup ski racing is televised throughout the season on NBC and Versus. Events also stream online at Universal Sports. While I couldn’t find the media schedule for 2011-12, the US Ski Team website should have a schedule up soon.
The US Ski Team will train at Vail and Copper Mountain this season during November and early December. If you are in Colorado, check out the action at the new US Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain. With a vertical rise of 2,300 feet and almost two miles of trail, Copper Mountain is home to the only full-length speed training course in the world. On November 26-27, 2011, the US Women’s Team will compete in a World Cup race at Aspen. The US Men compete at Beaver Creek on December 2-4, 2011.
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