Vail is top resort at Nastar Nationals
WINTER PARK, Colorado – At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, 5-year-old Abigail Murer had the chance to meet gold-medal skier Picabo Street, and her life was forever changed.On Sunday, after Murer won the Nastar Race of Champions in Winter Park for the second year in a row, the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail racer was reunited with Street, as the Olympian was a guest of honor at the event. When Street learned they had met before and she had become a source of inspiration to the young Murer, the tears began to flow.”(Street) has been Abigail’s role model since then,” Abigail’s grandmother Marcia Coulter said after the event. “When we think back to ’02, we think (Abigail) internalized being there as her goal for the future. “She actually thought she was supposed to ski in the (Olympic) events that day,” Coulter said with a laugh. “Picabo is the nicest person; she told Abigail you need to ski well, but also you need to keep your mind sharp and keep the other part of your life in order.”For the Coulter/Murer clan of ski racers, the annual Nastar National Championships is a family reunion to which they all look forward. In keeping up with family values, Murer, who’s now 15 years old and a student at the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy in Minturn, holds a certain degree of allegiance to the Hidden Valley Ski Club near St. Louis. Her grandfather and Marcia’s husband, David Coulter, is the head coach there, and that’s from where most of her family in town for nationals hails.Unless otherwise specified during the online registration process for the National Championships, competitors at this weekend’s Nastar National Championships were to represent the resort from which they qualified in the Resort Team Competition, according to Nastar standards. But Murer chose to apply her points from the win to Hidden Valley, rather than Vail. Nevertheless, Vail Mountain took top honors of all 93 resorts represented. Beaver Creek came in third, behind Buck Hill in Minnesota.Resort teams were scored based on a team-point average, where team members score points for their resort based on their final National Championships handicap. Depth mattered, giving Vail an advantage, as the top six point gainers from each resort team scored points for their team. The number of team points earned by the top point gainers were added together and divided by six, resulting in their team’s final score. Murer’s hometown loyalty helped the Hidden Valley team earn its spot in 12th of the nearly 100 resorts represented, beating out Breckenridge, Telluride, Aspen and Deer Valley. Not bad for a hill with only 310 feet of vertical. “We’re hoping someday in St. Louis, people will look to Abigail as a role model in the same way that she did with Picabo,” Coulter said. “And it’s starting to become that way already; the younger kids just love her.”Sunday’s Nature Valley Nastar Race of Champions was composed of all national title winners from the age and gender categories in the event’s various divisions – platinum, gold, silver and bronze handicaps and disciplines – Female Alpine, Female Combined (snowboard, telemark and physically challenged), Male Alpine, Male Combined (snowboard, telemark and physically challenged). The winner-take-all race was a who’s who of Vail Valley racers. In the Female Alpine race, local qualifiers included Murer, Brianna Trudeau (age 11-12 platinum division), her sister Samantha (age 9-10 platinum), Audra Spuhler (age 35-39 gold), Phoebe Heaydon (age 5-6 platinum), Jocelyn Horton (age 21-29 silver), Taylor Matthews (age 5-6 gold) and Katelin Hennum (age 13-14 platinum). In the Male Alpine competition, local qualifiers included Bridger Gile (age 11-12 platinum division), Gerrit Kursh (age 7-8 gold), Franz Fuchsberger (male 50-54 platinum), Henry Heaydon (age 9-10 platinum), Andy Linger (age 35-39 silver), Jaan Vehik (age 70-74 gold) and Theo Marston (age 11-12 silver). Emily Mires, racing for Beaver Creek, qualified for the Female Combined champions’ race for the female age 11-12 category. Top honors in the Male Alpine Race of Champions went to Nick Stenicka, of Winter Park; Bridger Gile, of Vail, was the highest-finishing local competitor in ninth. Murer and Stenicka won trips to Chile for the effort. The Nature Valley Nastar National Championships continue this week, with team races taking place today and Tuesday and the Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships from Wednesday through Sunday.