For pros, it’s never too late for gates |

For pros, it’s never too late for gates

Ian CroppVail CO, Colorado

VAIL – He is one of the most agile Americans on ice. He’s lived in Lake Placid, New York. He’s lived in Denver.But as of Friday, Mike Richter had only been skiing five times.OK, when you have 301 career wins in the National Hockey League, a silver medal, a World Cup of Hockey gold and a Stanley Cup title to your name, you’ve accomplished enough on frozen water.With his hockey career filed away, and most of the New York Rangers’ goaltending records secured, Richter can now find some time to hit the slopes. Friday, Richter dug in with his ski edges on Vail’s Golden Peak at the American Ski Classic’s Ford Cup.

“It does feel similar,” Richter said, relating skiing to hockey. “You have a little bit of awareness of where your feet are, and where your balance is, but it’s just not instinctual where you should be leaning … there’s a little learning curve here, and particularly during a competition, when everything goes quicker. But I really like doing these gates.”Richter, who attended Northwood School in Lake Placid, and the University of Wisconsin for two years, joined the U.S. National Team for the World championships, and the 1988 Calgary Olympics. For the 1987-1988 season, Richter played for the Colorado Rangers, and played the following season for the same team, which became the Denver Rangers.”I love the area, and love the weather, I just was never able to get on the slopes when I was here,” Richter said.As he suggested himself, Richter could use a little more practice in the gates, although there’s plenty of time for that.”My 6-year-old looks like he has a little more talent on the slopes, but it’s something I can share with him for a long time,” Richter said.

Richter’s skiing may be limited for a while to the Ski Classic, as he’s spending the bulk of his time as a husband, father of three and student at Yale University. In 2004, Richter was one of the few adults to be admitted to Yale’s highly-selective Eli Whitney Program, and he’s set to graduate in 2008 with a degree in Ethics, Politics and Economics. Richter also volunteers as a coach for Yale’s men’s hockey team.”It’s a good lifestyle going back (to college),” Richter said. “Completing something I started is important for me. I’m getting skills for the rest of my life, I’m 40 years old, and it’s early in life.”Richter may soon put those skills to work, as he’s considering running for Congress in 2008, possibly in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional district, which is now held by Republican Chris Shays.

Total respectWith all due respect to world champion speed skier Franz Weber, Bill Elliott has a leg up when it comes to going fast.Elliott, who will be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame this August, became the fastest man to ever turn the wheel of a stock car in 1987 after turning a lap at Talladega of 212.809 mph. And Elliott is pretty consistent, too, with 44 NASCAR Nextel Cup wins, 55 poles and 320 top-10 finishes.Yet Elliott was impressed with his fellow competitors in Friday’s Ford Cup racing.”You’ve idolized a lot of these guys before, and now it see them and get a chance to meet them is great,” Elliott said.

Elliott, who was NASCAR’S most popular from 1984-1988, then again from 1991-2000 and once more in 2002, was surprised that others knew about his accomplishments.”What blows me away is that they are so familiar with what I do,” Elliott said.Although Elliott skis recreationally, he doesn’t get in too much time racing.”The hardest thing is, I’ve never done anything like this before,” he said. “I mainly snowboard. I’m a boarder dude.”

On the hillToday the Ford Cup teams will be in action all morning and afternoon, with the finals getting underway later in the day. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz was seen talking deep strategy in the tent Friday – look for a podium finish for his team … Allegations that former Vail Resorts CEO Adam Aron are still unfounded … The most serious racer of the day award goes to Picabo Street, who was visibly upset after losing her first run … Vail Mountain High School racer Mick Seeman, despite a giant handicap, blazed his way through the course … Paul Carson, for the second year in a row, is the best dressed skier, with his light purple and yelling racing suit, Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

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