Simi Hamilton ski touring in Wyoming’s Teton mountains
It's midwinter, and Simi Hamilton is taking it easy on me. As we skin up Buttermilk, the Aspen native, who just 10 months ago retired from the U.S. Ski Team’s cross-country squad, tells me he’s OK with moving at a slower pace these days. I’m not exactly buying it. Since calling it quits and, along with his wife, Sophie Caldwell—also a former member of the U.S. squad—moving back to the Roaring Fork Valley, Hamilton, 34, has ski toured many of the Elk Mountains’ more prominent peaks, as well as Wyoming’s Grand Teton, South Teton, Middle Teton and Mount Moran. On top of all that, he’s building a house in Old Town Basalt, part of which is a remodel, part of which is new construction. He calls it the couple’s “forever home,” and since early June 2021, he’s spent several 14-hour days banging nails in an effort to try to move into the house by April 2022.
Hamilton competing in the Grand Traverse trail run from Crested Butte to Aspen
Hamilton running the Grand Traverse
On those long days, Hamilton still gets in a workout, either biking or running with a headlamp at 4:30 in the morning, or after he’s taken his tool belt off at 9 in the evening. In the process, he’s mostly maintained the level of fitness that allowed him to dominate ski races while attending Aspen High School (he graduated in 2005) and while racing on the NCAA circuit for Middlebury College in Vermont. Hamilton went on to compete in three Olympics and six world championships, as well as 144 World Cup races, winning his lone World Cup race in 2013, becoming the first American male skier to win a World Cup race since 1983.
“I’ve lost most of my top-end fitness,” he says as we skin up the mountain. “I can still go forever, but I can’t red line for very long. If I trained, I could get that back. I’m just not sure that’s something I want to do.”
But some of the best athletes in the valley think Hamilton should strongly consider giving athletic glory another go. “If he wanted to, he could go back to the Olympics in mountain biking or ski mountaineering,” says Chris Davenport, an Aspen local and the first person to ski all 54 of Colorado’s peaks that are 14,000 feet or higher in a single year. “If he wanted to, he could go ski all 54 of those peaks even faster.” If Hamilton is considering a return to high-level competition in any sport, it’s probably mountain biking.
Riding in the Snowmass 50 mountain bike race.
Rappelling down a face of one of Wyoming’s Teton mountains
This past summer, he was winning local races by four or five minutes. In July, he won the Snowmass 50 mountain biking race— two 25-mile loops that gain nearly 10,000 feet in elevation—by eight minutes. “Given his cross-country ski racing background, everybody expects Simi to dominate on the climbs,” says Greg Strokes, a local rider who competed against Hamilton in Aspen Cycling Club races. “But what’s so impressive is that he’s so good technically on the descents that he dominates those too.”
As I prod Hamilton a bit more during our climb up Buttermilk, he confesses that he has thought about testing his abilities in some bigger, longer mountain bike races this coming summer. And that if he does decide to get serious, he’ll need to actually start training again. “Right now, I just go out and ride,” he says. “I’m still competitive, but I love the freedom of not being on a set training schedule. If I took biking more seriously, I’d need to get on a regimented training program.”
So might we see Hamilton wearing the red, white and blue at the Olympics in Paris in 2024? He lets out a big laugh when I ask that question. “It’s really nice to go for a ride and then just enjoy a beer on the porch,” he says. “Right now, I’m enjoying retirement.”
Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO BY LINDEN MALLORY; PHOTO BY PETAR DOPCHEV; GRAND TRAVERSE PHOTO BY NOLAN BLUNCK; TETON PHOTO BY LINDEN MALLORY; SNOWMASS PHOTO BY AUSTIN COLBERT