Person of Interest

Dorothy Hamill’s Back on Ice in Vail—and Loving Life in the Valley

Decades after securing a permanent podium position as America’s Skating Sweetheart, Dorothy Hamill takes a break at Dobson Ice Arena to talk about how she ended up living in a log house in Wolcott.

By Kirsten Dobroth November 12, 2018 Published in the Holiday 2018/2019 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

It’s hard not to recognize legendary figure skater Dorothy Hamill, even 42 years after she twirled and toe-looped her way to back-to-back gold medals at the Winter Olympics and World Championships in 1976 with a move she pioneered: a camel spin followed by a sit spin that’s known as the “Hamill Camel.” She still sports the short-and-sassy bob haircut that sparked a fashion trend emulated by a generation of girls and women. And she still is a celebrity: witness the knot of little girls who timidly approached to pose for selfies with the star during a break as an honorary referee at the World Figure & Fancy Skating Championships at Vail’s Dobson Ice Arena this past fall, when Hamill took a few moments to relive winning gold in Innsbruck, and falling in love with her new home in the Vail Valley.

Dorothy Hamill on the black ice at the World Figure & Fancy Skating Championships in Vail.

Image: Ryan Dearth

"I spent quite a bit of time in Denver and here in Vail in the ’70s, training for the 1976 Olympics that were supposed to be in Denver. My mom and I would drive up to Vail on my days off skating just to get out of Denver, and we just loved coming up to visit. Then we’d go back down to Denver and I’d go back to training.

I don’t remember that exact moment when I won the Olympics. Recently, I watched my performance a lot because I was putting together a clip for a couple presentations I was doing, and after watching it 5 or 10 times I thought, 'I do remember it,' and I can pick out where my dad was, and where my coach was, and my team leader, so it triggers memories. 

One of the reasons I took up skating was because I was really shy. I was a terrible student, and I loved music and dance, but I couldn’t sing and I couldn’t dance, so skating was kind of my in-between. And I love the cold air; I just love being alone and solo out there in my own little world. After the Olympics, all that changed, because all of a sudden, my cover was blown.

I stayed in Europe to train for the World Championships after the Olympics for a month, so I didn’t really have a sense of how big I was—being sheltered from all that was important for me to be able to focus. And then I got home after the World Championships and all these people were at the airport and there were parades; it was overwhelming. The newspaper articles with my glasses and the haircut—I didn’t get it, and I was so shy! I didn’t know how to give an interview or why anyone would want to interview me.  ... [With today’s] media and social media—I don’t know if I’d be able to deal with all that pressure.

My husband and I bought a house in Wolcott two and a half years ago, and we just love it here. We’re here May through the beginning of November, and we have family around Colorado, so we meet back up here for the holidays.

I was never allowed to ski as a skater, and I took it up later in life, but I love it. I haven’t really skated much recently (I’ve become very close with the group of doctors at the Steadman Clinic), but I think skiing’s one of the sports I’ll be able to do for a while because there’s no twisting or a lot of extension, like in skating.

My grandmother always said, 'You’re going to live in a Swiss chalet in Switzerland someday!' Well, we’re in a log home in Colorado, so in some ways it’s kind of the same. She knew what I loved, and I still love the mountains, and being here in the valley is such a treat."

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