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NASTAR Ski Program Speeds Up Racecourse Access

The recreational program is including RFID technology at 20 resorts this season, in order to allow the automatic identification of racers before they head down the slopes.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 24, 2014

This year, NASTAR, a recreational race program for skiers and snowboarders, has launched a radio frequency identification initiative that promises to speed up access to the program at 20 resorts.

NASTAR, an acronym for National Standard Race, is a recreational ski and snowboard race program intended to allow racers to compare their performances with those of others, as well as that of a national champion. As reportedly the world's largest such program, it currently has racing courses set up in approximately one-third of the 300-plus ski resorts throughout the United States. With the NASTAR system, skiers at all levels, ranging from beginners to the most advanced, can participate in races by timing their completion of a racecourse on the resort's slope. They can then share their results with those of other skiers around the world via NASTAR's website.

At Aspen, an RFIDeas reader mounted on the wall of the racecourse's start building captures the ID number of each racer's RFID-enabled lift ticket or NASTAR card, to quickly identify that individual.
This year, at any of the 20 ski resorts participating in NASTAR's RFID program, a racer can receive an RFID-enabled ID card. The first time a racer has his or her card scanned, the staff must look up that individual's NASTAR record by entering the participant's NASTAR registration number or last name into the system and then selecting his or her permanent record. Once this is done, the ID number encoded to the card is added to that person's record, and the next time that racer enters the starting gate, he or she is automatically loaded into the timing software. Each NASTAR resort updates its database by connecting to the NASTAR website to post results. When it does this, the database of racer information is also updated. This means that a racer can use his or her NASTAR RFID card at any NASTAR resort equipped with an RFID system.

NASTAR has offered ski-racing programs since 1968, and measures each individual's speed as that person races down a course set up according to his or her skill level—such as beginner, intermediate or advanced. Competitors can then view their own results, compared against those of friends or family member, and—with the advent of the Internet—against anyone else with the same skill level around the world. Typically, participants pay the resort to compete on a per-day basis, which has required that they stand in line to register and pay, memorize their ID number and provide it to personnel at the gate upon beginning each race. If a racer fails to remember his or her ID number, the staff member uses a computer record to look it up by name.

This process slows down access to the racecourse. NASTAR has been looking for ways in which to upgrade to a more automated (and thus more efficient) system for some time, according to Bill Madsen, NASTAR's director of operations. Since many ski resorts already use high-frequency (HF) RFID tags built into lift tickets to speed skiers through the lift process, he says, NASTAR opted to find a way to use the same technology.

Last winter (the 2013-2014 season), the company piloted an RFID-based solution at Aspen Mountain's NASTAR racecourse. The employee manning the NASTAR starting gate was provided with an RFIDeas RFID PcProx reader plugged into a laptop's USB port. The lift tickets of participating racers already had passive HF 13.56 MHz RFID tags embedded in them—the same as all lift tickets that Aspen Mountain sells. For the first time skiing down the NASTAR course, the racer presented the ticket within a few inches of the reader, which captured the unique ID number encoded to the tag. The individual then provided his name and other details, such as age, gender and skill level. Staff members input that information into a laptop computer, thereby linking that data with the RFID number.

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