Class of 2020: Steamboat Mountain School senior, ski racer develops grit, work ethic and character
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The country’s top slalom ski racer for his age, Nico Richeda, has had a tough past year.
A fluke ski injury to the knee sidelined the Steamboat Mountain School senior at the height of his racing form during the 2019 U.S. Nationals in New Hampshire. He finally fought back to almost peak fitness this season only to have a pandemic sideline his promising career once again.
“Of course I was mad and angry at the world and nothing seemed like it was going my way, but at the end of the day, I look at it as fuel for the fire … a way to forge myself into a stronger person,” said Nico from his home in Steamboat Springs.
Cool as a cucumber, the young man sits poised at his kitchen table, waxing philosophical on his misfortunes, without bitterness.
No surprise, said Dean of School Brian Smith, who is also Nico’s calculus teacher.
“Quite often these skiers, when they’re injured, you see who they really are,” Smith said. “He not only demonstrated perseverance, but he’s able to find gratitude.”
Nico was 14 when he realized he wanted to be more than an average athlete.
“I had just come off a really hard season, so the next summer I put in a lot of work in the gym, and it paid off in multitudes,” he said. “That’s when I saw the difference between being an athlete and a competitive athlete. I like the discipline that comes with success.”
And that is Nico’s philosophy in everything he does. Graduating with a 4.0 GPA, he loves the challenge of advanced calculus and learning Mandarin Chinese. And while college is certainly in his future, the graduating senior is only one of seven athletes who will be heading to Burke Mountain Academy’s E-Team this fall — a top training program for aspiring World Cup and Olympic athletes.
For now, Nico is hitting the roads and mountains on his bike as well as running.
“When gyms open up again, I’ll be in there,” he said.
As of now, summer ski programs in the European Glaciers, Andes Mountains, New Zealand and Australia will be closed to Americans until mid-July when national leaders there will assess the pandemic situation.
“I have to have faith that dry-land training and the work I’m doing now to make myself a more refined ski racer will win out in the end,” Nico said.
In the meantime, Nico is enjoying the spoils of his latest project — driving his grandfather’s prized Porsche that he helped rebuild.
Nico and his younger brother Speedy combined their savings to buy the 1968 candy apple red car from their maternal grandfather. Fortunately, their neighbor was an expert in all things Porsche, having raced them for decades.
“Porsches take a lot of patience, especially when they’re 50 years old, and both Nico and Speedy were a lot more patient than I’d ever been,” said neighbor Robert Ames, a retired businessman and one of the country’s top amateur car racers.
Watching his young neighbor mature first-hand, Ames said Nico is more than just a highly accomplished ski racer.
“He’s a kind, good person, and as he grows and has more external stimulation outside of Steamboat, he’ll grow to be a worldly, successful human being,” Ames said.
No doubt, agrees Nico’s former coach and former Alpine director at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“I think, yes, he’s a top-tier Alpine skiing athlete, but it doesn’t define him,” said Adam Chadbourne, who now coaches in Vail. “It’s about the way he goes about life … his character, work ethic and grit. He deliberately cultivated those things in himself and those people usually end up on top.”
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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