Downhill thrill: Mary Nelson competes in NASTAR National Championships

Published 10:01 pm Friday, April 7, 2017

Mary Nelson of Austin is certainly no stranger to the ski slopes in Colorado, but the thrill of flying down a hill at full speed hasn’t worn off.

Nelson competed in the NASTAR National Championships in Steamboat, Colorado March 20-26 and took first in the silver division slalom race and third in the platinum division giant slalom race. Nelson competes in the 60-64 age bracket.

“It was scary. It’s always scary,” Nelson said. “But it was fun and you get to see people from all over the country. We’re pretty competitive out there and it’s fun to ski with everybody. A lot of these people race a lot and it brings everybody together. It’s a great sport for families, because you can do it for a long time.”

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Nelson saw a blast from her past at the NASTAR championships when she saw George Hovland, a 90-year old skier from Duluth who skied in the 1952 winter games in Oslo. Hovland had previously skied with the late Bob Wiseman of Austin who was a friend of Nelson’s late dad. Nelson wanted to talk to Hovland, but she wasn’t able to find the time. Still it brought back good memories of her time growing up around skiing.

“To think that my dad and Bob have been gone for quite a while and [Hovland’s] out there still racing. That was pretty cool,” Nelson said. “My dad got us started when we were young and he skied until he was 80. He couldn’t wait to get to 70, because when you were 70 you got to ski for free at Winter Park [Colorado]. But now they’ve changed that and you still have to pay at 70, which is kind of sad.”

Mary Nelson of Austin recently competed NASTAR championships in Steamboat, Colorado. Rocky Hulne/

Mary Nelson of Austin recently competed NASTAR championships in Steamboat, Colorado. Rocky Hulne/

When Nelson first began skiing she saved up enough money to buy her first pair of skis that she used for 19 years. To this day, she uses just one pair of skis, although other competitors at NASTAR have multiple sets of skis.

Nelson originally learned how to ski without even using a hill.

“I remember skinning on leather boots with the wooden skis and dad used to pull us behind his car at the old farm,” Nelson said. “Dad got us skiing when were little and the whole family enjoys skiing.”

While the NASTAR race help skiers from all around the country meet up, it also gives competitors a good chance to get close to former Olympians. Nelson was able to get close to former Olympians AJ Kitt, Ted Ligety, Casey Pucket and Marco Sullivan.

“It’s exciting to stand up on the starting gate with Olympic skiers and then watch them go down,” Nelson said.

Nelson plans on continuing to ski as much as she possibly can and she enjoys watching the younger generation learn the sport and pick up the passion for skiing.