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A month after the curtain falls on the 2002 Winter Olympics, another big event comes to town: The 2002 NASTAR National Championships, March 28-31, on the Olympic slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.

Organizers expected a few hundred racers for last year's nationals at Beaver Creek, Colo. Instead, they hosted 657 eager competitors from 42 states and the District of Columbia¿quite possibly the largest alpine ski race ever and a convincing confirmation that recreational ski racing is thriving in the U.S.

To qualify for the nationals, skiers need to be ranked among the top three in their age group at any of the 100-plus participating NASTAR resorts as of Feb. 24. Competitors can also qualify by finishing in the top three in their age group at one of the six NASTAR Regional Championships. To check your status, or to get an early start on next season, go to www.nastar.com.

The nationals feature great ski racing, camaraderie, partying and the chance to mingle with U.S. Ski Team stars such as Picabo Street, Chad Fleischer, Tommy Moe and AJ Kitt. Fleischer, who has made it to the podium in the World Cup downhill but suffered a season-ending knee injury this year, said last year's nationals were equal to any ski experience he's ever had. "I absolutely love NASTAR," Fleischer told Ski Racing magazine. "It's growing exponentially, and the racers are so into it. The energy level is what I truly love."

NASTAR was founded in 1969 by SKI Magazine to provide an accessible and affordable race program for skiers of all ages and abilities. It is still ski racing at its purest.

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