Simi Hamilton

 

General News

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South. Way South.

Topic: General News

As in, ‘almost to Antarctica’ south. New Zealand is a special place. Every time I take my seat on my departure flight out of here, I promise myself that the next time I make the 14 hour flight down I’ll bring my backcountry skis. Or my climbing gear. Or my surf board. Or my mountain bike. %$#& it, I’ll throw it all in. Fifteen years ago, if you asked a 13 year-old Simi to draw a picture of where he’d most like to be instantly transported to via a snap of the fingers, it would be a blueprint of the Kiwi landscape. Every time I step off the Air NZ Auckland to Queenstown flight, I’m instantly transported to a “what if” world. What if I could just climb and ski that 3,000′ couloir? Or take my bike on a week long adventure through the incredible back valleys of The Remarkables? Or pack up my truck and drive the circumference of the islands, stopping every few hours at the next surf break or sport crag? With enough obsessive daydreaming, it’ll happen one day, but as it is right now, I’ve only got room for about 10 pairs of training skis, a big duffel of stinky training clothes (no matter how many wash cycles, you never really get rid of it), a backpack full of adventure non-fiction for the down time, and 15 days to make use of all of it.

Conditions have been spectacular here at the Snow Farm, a little secluded XC ski gem nestled in the high mountains north of the Crown Range Pass, in between the alpine towns of Queenstown and Wanaka. In the 5 times that I’ve been down here, I’ve never experienced such amazing skiing right off the bat. Of course, you can’t appreciate the really great days without a few of the miserable ones, hence the collection of adventure non-fiction I have stacked on my bedside table, but that’s part of the game. We’ll undoubtedly have a few training sessions in 60 mile per hour winds blowing all the un-anchored ice crystals (far different from snow) directly into any exposed skin, but those days are fun too, especially when the workout is over and you know there’s a boiling hot shower waiting for you inside (“Type II Fun”).

As a national team, coming down here gives us an incredible opportunity to put in a huge block of on-snow volume, the value of which can’t be understated. Skiing in the summer, on real snow, is a physical and psychological re-certification of sorts… your body and your mind eventually remember the little nuances and specific motions that roller skiing and running can never give you. And being able to revisit that unique feeling of collapsing a classic ski’s pocket or doing all out skate sprints up a 40 degree climb is a game changer when the World Cup season kicks off in November each year.  And when we’re not out on the trails, we treat our bodies well during the 30-hours-a-week training load with home cooked meals, comfy rooms, and an abundance of sleep (it’s pitch-black dark from 5:30-8:00 every night).

So you can say it’s a good life. And although spending two weeks down here with just a ski bag full of xc skis is a bit like showing up to an all-you-can-eat buffet and just eating the free sugar packets on the table, I know that there’ll be a day when I’m back here with way too much gear, no plan at all, and a huge smile on my face.

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07.14

2015

Back to the Training Life

Topic: General News

It’s hard to believe that it’s already June 9th. As cliché as it is, time does actually fly when you’re having fun. I arrived back in Vermont a few nights ago after a whirlwind two months of adventuring, training, and spending some down time at home in Colorado. Although the snowpack in Colorado was desperately low for pretty much the whole winter, the backcountry ski conditions up high in April were still fantastic. I spent most of the month exploring new lines and skiing old favorites, and the corn skiing was exceptional. To top everything off, it started dumping snow in late April, and conditions turned from really good, classic spring skiing to nearly mid-winter conditions with mother nature dropping several feet of fresh, cold powder over the last part of April and into May. After taking full advantage of the great ski conditions, we felt like some Mexican sunshine was for sure needed.

My girlfriend Sophie, sister Jenny, her fiancé James, and my mom and stepdad packed up our climbing gear, surf boards, and wedding outfits and headed south. Our first stop was to El Potrero Chico, just north of Mexico’s second largest city, Monterrey. El Potrero is one of the more famous big-wall, sport climbing areas in the world, and after a week of climbing some of the coolest multi-pitch routes on amazing limestone, it was easy to understand why so many of our friends have come home raving about the place. From there we flew down to Tulum, on the Yucatan Peninsula, for the wedding of my friends Jenna and Jake. The culture shock that comes with checking into an all-inclusive resort after spending a week in rural, inland Mexico, was quite impressive. But we had a great time trying to soak in the whole experience and be the best American tourists we could be, and the wedding was gorgeous. Our last stop south of the border was in the surf town of La Saladitas, just north of the popular tourist destination Zihuatanejo. We found great surfing on some pretty massive waves, and it was great to finally be able to get some fresh fish tacos from one of the many oceanside restaurants that scattered the beach just down from our house.

It was a quick turnaround when we got back to the states with our Park City camp starting 24 hours after our flight back from Mexico. Since we normally head to Bend, Oregon for our first camp of the year, it was a strange feeling being in Park City instead and knowing that we would not be getting on snow during those two weeks of camp. But our training block was still very productive and it was great being able to utilize the resources, strength training coaches, and physical therapists at USSA’s Center of Excellence (and, of course, all the Chobani yogurts you can eat isn’t bad either). It’s always getting the team back together after everyone has headed off on their own all spring. There are always some great stories of tropical surf adventures, great backcountry tours in the Chugach, and of course the relaxing time at home with everyone’s families (which becomes much needed in April after 5+ months on the road).

Needing to wrap up a few more things in Colorado after camp ended, I travelled back down there from Park City for a just a few days before heading back out to Vermont. That turned into a pretty great decision since there was still incredible crust skiing to be had on top of Independence Pass. I figure anytime you get to have really good skiing in June, and you’re not boarding a flight to Norway to do so, is pretty damn cool. And especially when you can add in classic Colorado sunshine, warm temps, and great friends.

I’m getting super psyched for the summer ahead and am really happy to be back in Stratton with my great teammates. The atmosphere on the team is awesome right now, with everyone carrying a super high level of motivation. We’ll head to New Zealand for a few weeks in early July for (hopefully) some great on-snow training before coming back to Vermont. With having bounced around so much all spring, it’ll be super nice to be in one spot here in Stratton for a few more weeks.IMG_1072

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On top of Petrero's tallest summit, El Toro

On top of Petrero’s tallest summit, El Toro

Soph on pitch 8 of Dope Ninja, an 11 pitch 5.10 in Potrero

Soph on pitch 8 of Dope Ninja, an 11 pitch 5.10 in Potrero

View of Potrero from out casita. One of the coolest places I've ever climbed, or even been

View of Potrero from out casita. One of the coolest places I’ve ever climbed, or even been

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06.12

2015

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Rybinsk

Topic: General News

It’s funny; when you haven’t been in touch with truly cold weather for a while, you completely forget what it’s like. At -25°C your bones move slower. Any hair that finds its way out from under your hat immediately turns grey with a thin coat of rime. Your nose and cheeks, left out to take the brunt of the wind chill when you’re tucking a hill at 60 km/h, make their way down the color spectrum… from pink to red to crimson red and then eventually to white. You feel 10 years older with stiffness from the layers on layers of long underwear underneath your training jacket and pants. And then there’s the all to familiar high-pitched squeak of frigid snow as it tries to move underneath your ski bases.

I guess when you put it in a list, it certainly sounds a little bit miserable. But there’s a reason why we’re cross country ski athletes… we’re all a little off our rockers, we put ourselves thru days, weeks, months, and eventually years of this type of torture, and we love it.

We’ll leave Rybinsk, Russia tomorrow morning a little bit frostbitten, maybe a little lighter from all the calories burned trying to keep our bodies warm, but pretty darn happy with how the last World Cup weekend went before our long pre-World Championship break. The result highlight of the three-race series came on Friday with Liz Stephen’s 2nd place in the women’s 10 km skate race. Joining her in the points (top-30) were SMS T2’s Jessie Diggins (12th) and Rosie Brennan in 13th. Saturday’s skate sprint saw all four of us SMS T2’s in the points with Jessie skiing some extremely fast heats and coming in 5th, Sophie Caldwell bringing home 7th, Andy Newell locking down 22nd, and yours truly finishing 17th on the day. In today’s 15 km duathlon, we had 4 girls scoring points with Jessie again leading the charge in 5th (and Liz nailing her second top-10 of the weekend in 7th. We’ll carry this momentum into a great training block in Davos, Switzerland we’re we’ll be for 2+ weeks before we head north to Scandinavia to begin the final countdown to World Champs. Sunshine, warm temps, saunas on cold nights, and maybe a powder day or two on the alpine hill will greet us when we get to Davos, which will be pretty darn nice, but I, personally will surely miss the atmosphere and crazy nuances of Russia that make a ski racers life adventurous, exotic, and exhilarating. I can’t wait to come back here soon, duffel bag packed with plenty of wind briefs, hand warmers, thick Buffs, and chocolate bars for those really cold days. Thanks for checking in and keep up the great cheering from back home.

01.25

2015

The view of the Dachstein escarpment this morning from our breakfast table.

Headed East

Topic: General News

Sitting here in Munich, at the Mövenpick Hotel, which is a bit of a home-away-from home. We were reminiscing today in the car about the last time we were here and we all had a good laugh when we recalled the ridiculousness of the events leading up to our 24 hour layover here last March. It was the night of the Olympic closing ceremonies in Russia and we were scheduled to take a bus from the athlete village in Sochi to the airport at 12:30 a.m. Our charter flight to Munich left the Sochi airport at 4:30 a.m., but we assured that we wanted to be there at least 2.5 hours ahead of our departure to ensure that we could get all of our baggage, skis, and waxing equipment on our charter with us (our next World Cup in Lahti, Finland was only a few days after the games ended). We got to the airport, proceeded thru check in baggage drop in about 7 minutes, and found ourselves in what seemed like a giant catering tent sent up on the concrete of the Sochi airport tarmac. It had to have been the coldest night in Sochi all winter, and there were a few space heaters scattered throughout the tent. Exhausted, worn out, and shivering, we tried to find floor space on the frigid concrete (all of the temporary chairs were taken by the 200 or so international athletes that had gotten thru security just a few minutes before us. We covered ourselves in our ridiculous closing ceremony threads and tried to find our ‘happy place’. Our charter finally left Sochi at about 5 a.m. that morning, and with a relatively quick trip from the Black Sea to the German interior, we found ourselves circling for an hour around the airport waiting for it to open for the morning (the time change from Sochi to Munich is 3 hours, and the flight was about 2:45 but we couldn’t land until 6 a.m. or so). After finally touching down and shuffling inside to the baggage carousel, we waited like a hoard of zombies for our massive pile of luggage to make it’s way out to the carousel. We checked into the Mövenpick by about 8 that morning and I don’t think I’ve slept so well in any European bed over the many years that I’ve spent over here.

So anyway, as time rushes past and World Cup periods turn into seasons which turn into Olympic cycles, it’s fun to think back on stories like that… the ones that I’ll probably remember far longer than any race or training camp.

We head to Otepaa, Estonia tomorrow morning after just finishing up a little Tour de Ski ‘recovery camp’ in Ramsau, Austria. Our time in Tyrol was great, as it always is, even though we got about 24 hours of rain and 50 degree temps. The skiing was excellent when we arrived last Thursday, and it was near-perfect this morning, it was just those couple days sandwiched in between that left us wanting more. Perfect for some R&R I guess.

We’ll race an individual classic sprint this weekend as well as a skate team sprint before making the trip to Rybinsk, Russia next Wednesday. Russia will be the last World Cup weekend before a long break leading up to World Champs. I love heading into Eastern Europe as it’s always an adventure… The ability to appreciate all of its nuances is solely determined by how much you can embrace things that are totally and absolutely foreign to you.

More to come from the east soon…

 

The view of the Dachstein escarpment this morning from our breakfast table.

Not a terrible place to spend five days

 

01.13

2015

Lillehammer at sunrise

2014 Was a Good Year

Topic: General News

Well, you may be thinking that you’re reading this just because it’s the start of a brand new year and when something of significance happens (e.g. a brand new year) it’s a great time to write about something. But the truth is that I really, really needed to update all of you back home with what’s going on, and the flip-over from 365 to 1 was just a great excuse to make myself do it. So apologies for being MIA on the inter web for too long… I got wrapped up in getting healthy, traveling, packing my gear, traveling some more, unpacking my gear, eating, sleeping, and repeating. But I’m back and right now seems like a great time to fill you in where I’ve been and what shenanigans we’ve found.

It feels like Davos has become somewhat of a new home for us. We’ve always logged a lot of time there every season for as long as I can remember, but this year was a bit different. We drove in to the busy Swiss mountain town on December 8th and left yesterday. Just shy of a month in one of the most expensive towns in one of the most expensive countries on earth… but it was worth it. After plans to race in La Clusaz, France were altered because of the complete nonexistence of snow in (basically) all of Europe, we signed on for another week at our home-away-from-home when the skiing-crazy town of Davos decided to pick up the nearly-cancelled World Cup weekend and host it’s second set of races in just as many weeks. It boded great for me, as I was out with a cold during the first go around (and subsequently missed a skate sprint), especially since they changed the race schedule from 2 distance races to a distance race and a second skate sprint. It took a little longer to get 100% healthy, but toeing the line during that second skate sprint felt great and I was pumped to get back to what I know best… racing. The day ended much too early as the soft uphill got the best of me when I hooked my tip and landed on my face during my quarterfinal, but such is racing and it only made me hungrier for the next go-around.

Our original Christmas plans called for meeting my girlfriend’s family in the north of Italy for 10 days of training, eating pasta and drinking wine, and being with family, but again we made some last minute changes and pulled the trigger on spending all of Christmas in Davos since they were still the only place in Europe with skiing suitable for training. It was tough to hear that they weren’t coming, but we found a cozy apartment in the steep Swiss valley to decompress for the holiday break and had several of our teammates sticking around to train thru the holidays. So it wasn’t that bad of a plan B. We gradually kept getting more and more snow until we finally left yesterday, and the place was completely transformed during the 3+weeks that we were there.

Sun between storms in Davos
Most nights we night skied over to Liz and Ida’s apartment to cook dinner with them. On this specific night, we were the ‘wine mules’. An important job to say the least
The head of FIS XC marketing, Jurg Capol, and his awesome family had us over for Christmas eve dinner. It was so incredibly nice to spend a special time of year with a truly great family. And the spread was unreal.
Driving the one-lane, 10 km tunnel to Livigno, Italy for a day of skiing, pizza, and some good ol’ Italian tanning.
Keeping things exciting on the 5 km loop in Davos
Post-Christmas dinner ski under the lights
Lillehammer at sunrise

With the holiday training block wrapped up in Davos, we made the über cool drive from Switzerland to southern Germany. Oberstdorf is a special place with its plethora of 3,000 meter peaks rising from the flat lands that extend north to the Baltic Sea. People here love skiing and it shows when the xc and ski jumping world cups come to town. It’s been snowing non-stop here for the last week, but today we woke up to cold temps with clear skies and took advantage of the vitamin D offering.

Hard not to smile on a day like today
Soph striding up and over the stadium bridge
Cork-dog trying to keep up with these two all-stars

2014 was truly a memorable year. My first World Cup win. Another Olympics under the belt. Constant reminders of how loving and unbelievable my family is. But I’m ecstatic and anxious to see what 2015 brings. One of the things I’m most excited for is my new ambassadorship with Protect Our Winters. POW is an awesome organization that unites professional athletes, business owners, communities, school children, politicians, and winter sport enthusiasts who are impacted by our changing climate. It is a foundation for all of us who care about winter to stand on and speak up about why this season and everything it encompasses is important to us. I’m joined by friends Chris Davenport, Kikkan Randall, and Andy Newell, among countless others, who care about the same issues I do… we all do… and taking initiative to fight for what we believe in. So I’ve got some cool projects cooking in my head and I’m super stoked about helping the organization and its initiatives in meaningful ways that only I can do. Much more on this later, but in the meantime check out what we’re up to here and saddle up to fight the good fight with us.

POW!!!

01.01

2015

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