Local grabs medal at skiing competition

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mary Nelson carves around a turn two weeks ago at the 2012 NASTAR National Championships in Winter Park, Colo. Photo provided by Alex Durant, Sharp Shooter Imaging

While most area skiers already had their gear packed in the closet for the year, Mary Nelson was tearing up the slopes in Colorado last week — again.

Nelson, 59, recently returned from Winter Park, Colo., with a silver medal in the platinum 55-59 division of the NASTAR National Championship — the largest recreational ski and snowboard race program in the world. Though she’s becoming a familiar face around that Colorado resort, many are still surprised to see Nelson’s success.

“You say you are from Minnesota, and they say, ‘Oh wow!’” Nelson said.

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Nelson took a gold medal from NASTAR in 2011 in the 55-59 gold division, but she challenged herself a little more by stepping up to platinum in 2012.

Nelson has traveled to Winter Park numerous times in her life for both vacations and racing.

Her family takes a yearly trip, so they can carve the slopes; and Nelson can get some valuable practice time.

Over the years, that practice seems to be working. Nelson raced Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, which rounded out a total of nine straight days of skiing and added another medal to Nelson’s wall. Once again, she also had the opportunity to meet skiing immortality, such as Picabo Street and AJ Kitt. Perhaps the only thing that was much different for Nelson was the absence of her father, Bud Johnson. Johnson passed away last winter. Though he wasn’t there watching, he was on Nelson’s mind.

“It was sad skiing, missing my dad,” she said.

But even though Nelson can no longer enjoy the experience with her father, she’s far from giving up. She enjoys the thrills of seeing her name on the NASTAR website, reaching the bottom after a solid run and making lifelong friendships with people who share the same passion.

“Of all the things I love to do (skiing) is my favorite,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes to race next year and keep skiing for as long as time and her body allow.

“Old or young, it’s always fun,” she said.