In 2010, Jeanette Saylor a 54-year-old mother of two from Colorado was the NASTAR National Champion. At the NASTAR Nationals in Winter Park, Colorado, Saylor first won her age class, the Ladies 50-54 Platinum Division. Then in the Race of Champions, she posted the fastest time and was the overall winner.
In 2010, about 30% of NASTAR racers were women. While NASTAR doesn’t keep track of how many were moms, I think its a fair bet that many of the moms at NASTAR Nationals weren’t like Jeanette. They weren’t racing. They were schlepping skis for their kids and husbands.
Where Are The Moms?
In 2009, I qualified for NASTAR Nationals. I made exactly one run through the NASTAR gates that season, at Aspen Mountain, and got a silver. Because I’d only made one run (I thought three were needed to qualify), I was totally surprised when I received my invitation. I’m pretty sure I didn’t qualify with skill or speed. But rather because there weren’t very many female racers in my age group.
Granted, Aspen Mountain isn’t a big NASTAR hill. Of 120 participating resorts, the most active, in terms of participation, is Vail. Last year, Vail had 6,849 racers with 29,310 starts! Aspen Mountain was in 23rd place with only 1,655 racers and 7,059 starts. Still, out of about 1,500 racers at Aspen Mountain in 2009, you would think there would be some faster and more deserving female racers than me. Where are the women their 30s and 40s? Where are the moms?
This past fall, still wondering about moms and NASTAR, I posted a query on one of the forums at TheSkiDiva.com. I was looking for stories of NASTAR moms. Over 3,000 women are online at TheSkiDiva.com, and it’s a great community of super-active women who are stoked about skiing. I figured that I would come up with many good stories of moms who race.
Wrong. Only three women responded to my query (and I really appreciate that they did). One mom, Sherry, started running gates with her son. In 2009, her son qualified and participated in the NASTAR Nationals. The next year, Sherry qualified. As she tells it, “I qualified, only because there were not too many ladies in my age category. But I didn’t go to Nationals.”
Why Not Compete?
Like Sherry, I didn’t go to Nationals either. Why? Because I thought it was silly. How could I, a mom, who hadn’t raced seriously since age 15, compete? More importantly, how could I take myself seriously? Would I wear a speed suit? Where would I get one? Would I have to get new skis? At what point does NASTAR change from recreational family fun to competition? Did I want to go to that point?
Apparently not. Aside from a fleeting feeling of pride in having qualified, and the enjoyable shock value I got from telling my sons and husband (although the biggest shock came when I jokingly told them I was going — and wearing my 12-year-old son’s speed suit), I was afraid. Ski racing puts it all on the line — pride, ego, and safety. I wasn’t ready.
That’s why I love the story of Jeanette Saylor. Now in all fairness Jeanette is an amazing athlete and has an extensive background in ski racing. As reported by RealVail.com in September 2010, Saylor, a Canadian by birth, spent her teenage years racing in Aspen. In 1976, she won a Canadian downhill title and raced for the Canadian national team until injuries forced her out in the late 1970s. Back in Colorado, Saylor raised two ski racing children, and schlepped their skis. Then when they left for college, she started ski racing again as a USSA Masters racer out of Copper Mountain, Colorado. And what did Jeanette Saylor get for winning the NASTAR Nationals? A trip to Valle Nevado, Chile to train with the Women’s US Ski Team. Not bad, not bad at all.
Moms: NASTAR Want YOU!
Most of us moms aren’t going to have results like Jeanette Saylor. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay on the sidelines. A NASTAR goal is to provide a variety of experiences that build enthusiasm for ski racing among men and women, boys and girls.
In late October, I spoke with NASTAR Director of Operations Bill Madsen about the NASTAR’s evolution from an adult, beer league program sponsored by Schlitz to today’s family-oriented program sponsored by Nature Valley. “We didn’t invite kids to Nationals until 2002.” Bill told me. “Today the gap between kids and adults has narrowed. There are more kids at nationals and this is really encouraging. More and more moms are also getting involved with the sport.”
We talked about schlepping moms versus racing moms. “Moms love to watch their kids race, just like they love to watch them play soccer and lacrosse. But soccer and lacrosse are ‘sit on the sidelines and watch sports’. Ski racing is not. NASTAR encourages participation by the entire family. The mom is the family decision maker and it’s our job to make sure she’s embraced and not intimidated,” Bill added.
NASTAR Family Race Challenge
The Family Team concept is an important part of embracing the entire family, moms, and grandmas, included. Family teams are made up of as many family members as you want, but only the top three scores are counted. As with any NASTAR race, the results are handicapped against the course par time. So because fewer moms and grandmas race (as opposed to kids of both sexes, dads and grandpas), female racers can actually be a family’s secret weapon! Families can form teams online and don’t even have to ski at the same resort. Family teams do not qualify for Nationals, but there is a Family Challenge Team Race during Nationals on March 26, 2012 at Winter Park.
So moms, if you’ve been thinking that NASTAR looks fun, a Family Team is an easy way to join in without any pressure. And then next year, maybe your kids will be schlepping your skis.
And please moms, if you’ve got stories about your NASTAR racing, share them. I know you’re out there! Thanks.
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