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The Cross-Country Caldwells

From Olympic racing to elite coaching, this once-and-future family has had a powerful impact on the sport.

By Peter Oliver

The Caldwells are America’s first family of cross-country skiers. As elite athletes, coaches, ski technicians, organizational founders, retailers and advisors, the family and the sport have formed a multi-generational bond that goes back 70 years. In U.S. skiing, only the Cochrans come close. 

On a breezy June day in Peru, Vermont, three generations of Caldwells—grandfather John, son Sverre, granddaughter Sophie and her husband, Simi Hamilton—gathered on the porch of Sverre’s home, with its sweeping view south to Stratton Mountain. They pieced together a family history that begins with John’s journey from the Putney School to Dartmouth College to the 1952 Olympics, stretches through Sverre’s seminal coaching gig at Stratton Mountain School, and strides into the present with Sophie and Simi’s leadership on the U.S. World Cup team. 

The family legacy has humble roots in late-1940s Vermont. Although a gifted downhill skier, John was a cross-country neophyte as a high-school athlete at Putney. In his first nordic race, he borrowed his sister’s clunky alpine skis (because they were smaller and lighter than his) and “basically ran around the course on skis,” he recalls. He finished in the top 15. Yet by the time John reached Dartmouth, his skills—and equipment—had improved sufficiently to enable him to compete as a four-event skier, in cross-country, jumping, slalom and downhill. He was named to the 1952 Olympic nordic combined team...

 

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