Simi Hamilton Traverses New Terrain: Retirement, Part II

John TeafordOctober 17, 2023

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A distinctly different view of retirement: Simi Hamilton at play in his own backyard, high above the Roaring Fork Valley, spring 2022. (Photo: Simi Hamilton)

Simi Hamilton was still in top condition when he retired from his World Cup competitive career in 2021. Lucky for him that he was: he still needs that level of fitness for his day-job. Not one to kick back or to rest on his laurels, Hamilton remains constantly in motion among the peaks and slopes of Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley. Whether as a professional guide, or as a mountain traversing record-setter, Hamilton is busy learning these mountains. Not a job for the faint of heart, or weak of leg.

To fans and observers of Nordic skiing, it may have appeared a bit surprising when Simi Hamilton and his wife, Sophie Caldwell Hamilton, both chose to step away from international competition less than a year before the 2022 Olympics. To so many of us who follow winter sports—and Nordic skiing, in particular—participating in the Olympic Games may seem like the be-all and end-all of athletic competition. So many athletes grow up hearing the Olympic theme music resonating in their ears, watching heroes they hope to emulate performing on this Olympic stage, basing their goals, dreams and aspirations on this Olympic accomplishment . . . but Simi and Sophie had other goals in mind: home, family, and time to spend with both. Leaving behind the opportunity to pack their suitcases with another supply of USA uniforms, they turned instead toward Simi’s lifelong home on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. There, they are finally at home.

These days, Hamilton is enjoying the numerous “reliefs” he feels at having put behind him the challenges of the World Cup Tour. He shared some of his revelations with FasterSkier:

“I used to get sick on the road quite a bit,” he said. “And that was always incredibly stressful. Whether you were sick or just doing everything in your power not to get sick, the pressure and stress related to what sickness meant for your training and racing was miserable . . . I think I actually stay healthier now because I’m just not so consumed by that stress anymore.”

Simi Hamilton competing at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. (Photo: Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski Team)

Even so, an athlete doesn’t compete at the top level of their sport for so many years without becoming attached to it:

“There are so many things I miss about our life as ski racers,” Hamilton said. “Not being around my teammates, coaches, and friends from other countries has left a huge gap in out lives. Fortunately, Sophie and I are close enough to a lot of them to stay in relatively good touch, and we are even lucky enough to see them in person from time to time. For example, one of my good friends from Germany, Sebi Eisenlauer came over to visit last spring, and Sophie and I are hoping to get over to see Federico Pellegrino and his wife Greta at some point in the next year or two. And as for our U.S. teammates, they just come and keep bothering us in Colorado because we  have the best mountains and best snow, so we just can’t get rid of them!”

“I think my coach Matt Whitcomb will laugh at this if he reads it,” Hamilton admitted, “But I kind of miss doing hard Level 4 skate workouts, especially at camps with a bunch of other strong guys around. There was always something super cool about pushing really hard in a group of guys, it was almost like you could feel all of  them making you objectively faster at that exact moment, and vice-versa with you making them faster. That made the pain worth it. And conversely, I definitely don’t miss level 3 double pole intervals, especially trying to do them alone. Nowadays when I cross-country ski, I avoid double poling at all costs. I think I just never cracked the mechanics of it and nothing felt smooth or efficient to me about it.”

As the season turns toward winter, Hamilton is eager to be back on his skis. Making plans is as simple as looking up at the nearest ridgeline, memorable couloir, or distant peak. We asked Simi what’s next:

“Not totally sure what’s next in terms of adventures/challenges,” he admitted. “I want to ski the same route (the Elks Traverse) next spring, but that won’t really be for speed or anything. I just want to do that because it’s a cool route and has some pretty awesome ski lines on some steep faces. In the meantime I will be working as much as possible this winter to try to make some money. Getting all of my guiding certifications (my ultimate goal is to get my IFMGA certification) is expensive and time consuming, so all of that is my priority right now. When it works to get out for some long, fun adventures I’ll try to do those, but hanging with Lilly, Sophie, and trying to provide for my family comes first right now.”

Spring, 2022: Simi Hamilton nears the summit of Capitol Peak via the notorious knife-edge ridge. This will be the first of seven peaks to climb when he returns to the Elk Traverse in 2024. (Photo: Simi Hamilton)

John Teaford

John Teaford—the Managing Editor of—has been the coach of Olympians, World Champions, and World Record Holders in six sports: Nordic skiing, speedskating, road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, triathlon. In his long career as a writer/filmmaker, he spent many seasons as Director of Warren Miller’s annual feature film, and Producer of adventure documentary films for Discovery, ESPN, Disney, National Geographic, and NBC Sports.

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