Did you qualify for the Nastar Nationals this year? If so, you got an invitation to one of the best parties ever for those who like to race on snow. This year, the big event is once again at Snowmass, Colo., just down the road from Aspen. It's the Olympics for the rest of us.
If you paid to run a recreational race course at any of the more than 100 resorts that have a Nastar venue, and you were in the top five in your age and gender category by the cut-off date of Feb. 17, you qualified. Your official invitation has already been mailed.
The Nationals start on March 25, with racer check-in. There are two race days; Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th. The ROC, or Race of Champions (those who won in their age/gender category), is Saturday. There's a new event for Sunday: the National Championships Slalom, a tighter, more technical course than regular Nastar.
Snowmass expects about 1,000 racers to attend. That's not counting the friends, family and significant others those racers will bring with them. Even though the resort has plenty of lodging in its massive base area, there probably won't be an empty room to be found once the championships get under way.
If you don't live at the high altitude of the Colorado resorts, plan on getting there a few days in advance to allow your body to adjust. The entry fee, as always, is rather hefty: $199 for racers over 12 years old, $170 for those who are younger.
Much of the entry fee is balanced out by the discounts being offered by the resort. For example, lift tickets at Snowmass are normally $124, but Nastar Nationals racers can buy them for $49, less than half price. Lodging is also discounted, with single rooms starting at $140.
Jess Hanle, the resort's PR honcho, is totally relaxed about the oncoming horde of racers. "We can pull it together pretty quickly. It will be held in the Spider Sabich Race Arena, in the mid-mountain area, and where we have our daily Nastar. That whole area is set up for racing."
Those who attended last year were surprised by the massive rebuilding of the base area. There are more hotels and condos, and a wide variety of eateries, ranging from fine dining to Asian noodle shops to hot dog and burger stands.
Hanle suggests exploring the Community Recreation Center. "It has a hot tub, exercise equipment, plus a swimming pool with lazy river that you can float along," he said.
While there are at least five shops in the base area where you can get your skis or snowboard tuned and waxed, experienced racers have learned to get their gear race ready before they leave their home town. It's tough to arrive and find that every shop is backed up and every bar of wax is sold out.
In fact, it's a good idea to bring an overlay, or rub-on race wax, with you. That way, if you need an extra shot of speed, you can apply it yourself. If the line isn't too long, get a quick and free wax at the base area from Saucer Wax. The company will be setting up its usual booth, and many Nastar ROC winners swear by their product.
Many families schedule their annual vacation for the Nastar Nationals. It's easy to see why. Where else can you walk around in a speed suit for nearly a week, where competitors as young as 3 years old - or as old as 90 - prepare for their own races? The Nationals really do make participants feel like Olympians.
For the complete schedule, and to see if you or anyone you know qualified, go to http://www.nastar.com/articles/2014-championships-schedule.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.