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Park City NASTAR Review, December, 2007

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#1 Gary Dranow

Gary Dranow
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Posted 24 December 2007 - 04:01 PM


Describe yourself:
Racing background, best NASTAR NATIONALS Finish, LAST Year Ending Handicap/Class/Division

Past NASTAR Certified Pacesetter, National Champion, many time Nationals participant, Master Racer

Self Assessed Skiing performance level:

Broken ankle/torn ligaments healing.  Skiing at 50-60%.  Platinum Racer.

Describe General First Impressions of Venue:

Accessibility:  Excellent

Signage:  Excellent

Registration Process:  Very good.  Racers can ski up anytime during the day, fill out a quick form, get entered right on site to the computer, which is updated nightly to NASTAR as the venue has direct Internet access.  The sign up shack is well positioned and usually they have a table with forms and pencils out front to handle multiple sign ups quickly.  Good process and having the sign up right at the venue is best option.  Having sign up during the entire racing day and not just limited to certain hours keeps the venue accessible for the entire hours of operation.  Very good.

How were you greeted by the Staff:

Today my first day at the venue.  Ben, the NASTAR manager/Pacesetter was manning the sign up station.  He was extremely pleasant, had us in the computer, even remembered my NASTAR ID.  He was very eager to get my feed back on a few issues which I appreciate very much.  We discussed Par Times, finish area fencing and his responses were all positive and leads me to believe they are looking to make the operation work smoothly this year.  I was quite pleased.  In the past there has been issues with volunteer and staff attitude but this year has started out on a very good note, I'm encouraged.

Staging Area, Line Up:

Its quite well organized and groomed.  Can handle 30 - 40 racers within the start area easily with more room outside of the control gates for larger crowds.

Well organized, roped, barriers, Start house:

PCMR has always had one of the best start shacks, one starter can easily handle both courses and can see the entire top of the course.  The timing shack picks up visual on the entire rest of the course past what the starter can see.  Again, good use of movable metal railings controlling entrance to the staging area.

Did you have to wear a number or could you just know it and run:

Being a regular they just gave me a number, SOP.  

Was the Starter enthusiastic?

Good guy.  From Germany with a racing background.  He remembered my name and number second time through.  Was an upbeat guy, like to see his times on the hill.  I encouraged him to come out and run Masters with us.  Hope he does.

Dual Course or Single: Dual
Start Hill:
Steep, too flat, good platform, pole supports

Covered below

General comments on the track/hill itself:
Pitch, terrain changes, length, width, visibility, grooming, finish area, safety fencing

I believe I hit the hill on its 5th day of timed operation.  The hill itself was very well groomed.  Fencing on the racer's left (B Fencing) was in place and well positioned to give the track adequate room for various setting options.  In years past the south fencing (Racer's left) was pinched in a bit which limited course setting options.  As we've had over 70 inches of natural snow and PCMR spent a good deal of snow making on the NASTAR venue itself there is plenty of slope to open up the fencing and give the free skiers on Blanche plenty of room as well.  Today and clearly the last few nights PCMR put a good snow making effort on the area below the current finish and down Heckler which should lengthen both the course options and elongate the finish area another 10 - 20 feet, which is need at the moment.  

The PCMR venue has a good start area, well marked and good traffic control rails.  Signage if VERY good.  They have a separate sign up shack and Starting shack making flow for both racers and sign ups logical and well managed.  

The start has a real nice pitch to it and the current crew has built very level start areas with appropriate height to the wand.  In the past they have used pole platforms and as the snow is soft I would recommend they invest in some good quality WCS start blocks.  In years past they have used a plywood with AstroTurf and large nails, while better than nothing they usually fell out of place and didn't provide a great platform to pole off of.  The start blocks would provide a consistent start for all guests and avoid the dropped or stuck pole as well as poles being too low for proper start motions.

The hilll is okay, as I said, real good start hill then into a 3 - 4 gate flat pitch with a bending right aspect leading to a small break over, mild pitch then to a progressive flat to a well groomed finish area.  As I said, as they get the new snow making snow they can increase the distance to the end fencing of the finish are and lengthen the course by 1 gate.  Generally it is a 13 - 15 gate affair which is appropriate for 19 - 22 meter turns.  

I do have one suggestion, which is a bit ambitions but feel its worth PCMR considering.  

That would be putting a Finish shack at the bottom of Heckler/Payday.  As PCMR runs many races and training on Payday an permanent well placed timing shack would allow PCMR to run a "SuperNASTAR" once a month or so or for special events.  The timing shack would also be serve as an equipment storage area and service the Junior, Masters and NASTAR program.  I know they have a timing shack on sleds they move to the area for major events but a permanent shack would make the area more likely to be used and might encourage developing a more substantial recreational racing program making more efficient use of Heckler which is typically only skied by NASTAR racers anyway.

Another idea, on busier weekends or when special events are running they can run two separate courses, the original course for lower levels and Heckler for a more advanced and challenging course for the regulars.  On many days special events closes the NASTAR course to season pass holders and destination skiers alike, this would solve that issue of course closures, which is an aggravation for racers who have traveled, buy their tickets only to find the venue closed and the only option to go to Deer Valley, another $80 investment per guest.


I would highly recommend PCMR consider this idea.

Course Set:
Type course, Modified GS, GS, Slalom? Straight, Offsets, Vertical Distance, rhythmical, a- rhythmical, too close together, too close to the fences, challenging, other

The course was a bit too straight today.  This is fairly typical at PCMR.  I would suggest they pull up the vertical distance about 1 meter and increase the offset a meter, meter and half from the third gate to the third to last gate.  This would add 1 to 2 gates to the course based on the current finish line.  The first two gates and last three gates today were appropriate.  In the past there was a tendency to put too much of a cranker at the second gate and a cranker at the last or second to last gate.  This has been discussed with Ben quite a bit over the last few seasons so I'm betting that will not be an issue this year.  Crankers at the last gate are very dangerous for both the experienced racer as well as the public.  I believe they've got that and the course setter that used to do that frequently is no longer at the mountain.  

So shorten the vertical just a bit and add a bit more offset from the third gate to the third to last gate and they would have a perfect set.  The distance between the courses today was excellent.  In past years they notoriously had too little distance between the courses making it necessary to adjust the sets in the last few gates to get properly lined up for each courses finish.  This was very good to see and it seemed both courses were running very consistent showing the the course setter is figuring out how to adjust the offset (feathering) on the top for the right hand bend of the hill, the key to keeping the courses consistent in time.  Excellent.

Pacesetter’s handicap:

Ben was running as a 20 when I got there.  The par time was high 13's which is below the course's cap time.  He was very receptive when I suggested this needed to be changed one way or another.  Heidi Voekler (as I suspected she would) came over a day ago and ran a pacesetter trials for Ben and his crew.  HC's were very low due to soft snow and Heidi pulling a 3 HC at Keystone, a very flat course with 8" of new snow.  The combination of her low handicap and soft snow for the PC Trials resulted in extremely low HC's for Ben and his crew.  He is very aware that he is probably not a 7 HC so we worked off my first time and came up with a 15 HC as being appropriate for him at this time of the year.  Ben is skiing faster is now on full blown GS Skis than last year.   I pulled a 12 HC off of him (I believe that was after they adjusted him to a 15) on my Progressors skiing pretty conservative line based on my ankle.  I skied in Jacket and Pants so a 12 HC would be appropriate and I would consider a real good start for the season.  On that hill, top of my game, against FIS level skiers I have pulled 3 - 6's consistently over the years (I run my own program versus known FIS skiers like Scotty Venis, Nate Schwing, Picaboo, Heidi and so on, I'll assign 1 - 5 HC's depending the racers history, age, FIS points, etc., I'm usually very accurate with this).  Keep in mind this hill compresses handicaps due to its short length and very moderate terrain.  On a longer steeper hill the spread would increase quickly.

HQ must review Ben's HC so I had several of our Master Racers come out today to give Bill as much data to adjust Ben's HC appropriately.  Again, my opinion for this time in the season a 15 is right on the market based on my 12.  As the season progresses and the make the course just a little bit more technical (safer for the public and more separation for the better skiers) Ben will probably need to be adjusted down a point of two.

Your handicap:

12.8 last I heard, barely Platinum.  My first HC was a 19.  I believe Ben adjusted his HC to a 15 between my first and ensuing runs.  Again, a 12 would be appropriate for my current status and being fully dressed.   I'd like to see it pretty hard to pull high single digit HC's this year to keep it real.  Like to see the same thing over at Deer Valley.

Today's Race Results, Ben did re-adjust his HC, Good Man, Fair results and I hope the HQ supports this good decision on his part.  I think his willingness to step out and make his own decisions is a very good indication for how the year is going to develop.  I do hope the old atmosphere/management style doesn't slap him down for doing the right thing.  Good job Ben, you know me, I wouldn't say so unless it was earned  thumbsup.gif  thumbsup.gif

BTW, the Progressors are AWESOME, review coming later wink.gif

Final comments:

I was very pleased with how things went today and Ben's openness to suggestion.  He appeared eager and upbeat, which is past seasons was not evident, even early on with other crews.  Ben has learned to get along with the manager of the race department, Karen Korfanta, who is very difficult to work with and quite hostile to most of her employees and sometimes even her guests.  Hopefully this environment has been addresses and we are seeing an improvement in the area or Ben has just figured out how to make it work - if so, good for him.  That is VERY good for NASTAR at Park City.

Would you recommend this venue to others?

At this point, absolutely.  May change as the season goes on but if Ben and his crew utilize input from their more experienced guests, like myself, the program has real potential.  I would love to seem them to take the recreational racing program on weekends to another level.  With Park City Masters in place it would be an easy operation to implement (I'm talking about racing clinics, video, fun races, so on) and makes total sense for the amount of guests that frequent their venue.  I have made the proposal for many years but stopped doing so for the last several as the current management just doesn't seem interested in expanding the program.  With us at Wolf Mountain, Deer Valley adding NASTAR, the Mahre Race Program still going at Deer Valley maybe the light will come on and Park City will get this market serviced.  If you read this and feel this would be a good thing at Park City meaning weekend racing clinics, video analysis, SuperNASTAR, and even two course options, write an e-mail to the mountain supporting or requesting the idea.  

Here's their contact information if you visit the area fairly regularly and want to support a program like this taking root.  Peter Curtis is their Mountain Manager, Tom Pettigrew is the Ski School Director and Karen Korfanta is the Race Department Director (I wouldn't recommend emailing her as the primary contact, Peter would be optimal, but Cc'ing her wouldn't hurt).

Rating: 5 Stars Best, 0 Stars Worst

Early Season rating 4 Stars

"Developing Faster Racers is MY Passion"


NASTAR Race Record / MASTERS Race Record

#2 Gary Dranow

Gary Dranow
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Posted 26 December 2007 - 04:18 PM

Just wanted to correct some of my report.

They have orange ribbon with bamboo as the outside perimeter of the course (racer's left), which is quite visible and based on the orientation of the course is okay.  Fencing would be better but for grooming, the tape and bamboo will make it easier to groom the hill.

There IS, however, B fencing on the skier's right, between the course and the trees.  This was not up for the last few years and had been requested several times after a few skiers had gone into the trees, nobody seriously hurt.  This is a very good move by PCMR risk management and though long overdue, is completely the right thing to do.  Glad the fencing is up.  I pretty much refused to ski the "Yellow" course (Racer's right) most days due to the lack of fencing.

Good move!  With all the snow the issue it keeping the fence from getting buried and that is a PITA but for safety well worth the effort.  Again, with all the snow and the orientation of the course the tape is an adequate outside boundary but ultimately should be replaced with Pop Fencing when possible.

"Developing Faster Racers is MY Passion"


NASTAR Race Record / MASTERS Race Record

#3 Gary Dranow

Gary Dranow
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Posted 29 December 2007 - 04:45 PM

Today, December 29th, the guys nailed it with a perfect course set (best of the year).  

Right on the Cap Time Rule (Cap time X 1.05).  Sounds like they may have had two pacesetters run and took the best Par Times relative to the Cap Time Rule, not sure though on that, however, I may be wrong.  

I believe its going to be a very good year at PCMR this year.  I've run 6 days and they keep making good adjustments.  The attitude of the crew remains strong and receptive to input (especially Ben and Ian).  

If any of you PCMR NASTAR Staff are reading this and want to come in to promote special races/events, announce special event closures or whatever, please feel free.  We have a lot more readers than members (Like 100 to 1) or, just tell me what you need posted and I'll be glad to get it out there for you.

As of Today I'm giving them a full 5 Stars with the caveat that I still think the mountain should look at expanding their program and runs (Heckler).  With the hill they've got they are doing as good a job as can be done and as I said, making the right adjustments.

After the Holidays I'll travel around and get the other venue reviews up, they should all be watching what's going on at PCMR this year and what is being said.  Good stuff.

Note; Of course if this trend of excellence changes, you'll hear about it here first  biggrin.gif  ohmy.gif

"Developing Faster Racers is MY Passion"


NASTAR Race Record / MASTERS Race Record