In Retirement, You'll Still Be Able To Find Grace Miller In The Outdoors
by Alex Abrams
Grace Miller decided to retire from Para Nordic skiing in the most Grace Miller fashion imaginable.
The two-time Paralympian loves to travel and regularly shares photographs from her adventures around the globe with her more than 51,000 followers on Instagram.
On April 10, Miller announced her retirement from competitive skiing by posting a photo of herself smiling as she stood on snow, holding her skies. She included a message thanking everyone who had joined her during her “journey” as a standing skier for Team USA.
Four days later, Miller, 23, shared another photo of herself on Instagram, this time from a sun-drenched beach in Kauai, Hawaii. Her message simply read, “Announced my retirement & ran away to Hawaii. Surprise!”
Miller told USParaNordicSkiing.org that she had been thinking about whether to retire from skiing since she returned home from the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Ultimately, she decided she was ready to stop racing and start graduate school.
She’ll, of course, do some globetrotting along the way. She might even do some rock climbing as well.
“I’ll always love cross-country skiing, and I’ll definitely do it, even though I’m not competitively skiing anymore,” Miller said. “I just have a lot of other passions in life that I want to pursue right now, and it’s hard because being a professional athlete that’s how you spend all your time — is training and recovery and everything. And it’s hard to do anything else.”
As a retirement gift to herself, Miller adopted a 7-year-old border collie named Henry. She said she intends to take him with her when she embarks on her future “outdoor adventures.”
“He’s very sweet,” Miller said. “He’s such a good dog.”
Para Nordic skiing has given Miller an opportunity to travel around the world and return to China, where she was born. She started skiing at age 3 and made her Paralympic debut in PyeongChang in 2018, the same year she graduated from high school in Anchorage, Alaska.
Miller, who was born without a left forearm, competed in three cross-country skiing events in PyeongChang. She earned her best finish when she placed 10th in the 15-kilometer race.
Four years later, Miller qualified for the Beijing Winter Paralympics. She earned her second top-10 finish, placing ninth in the cross-country skiing long-distance race.
More than medals, Miller wrote in her Instagram post announcing retirement that skiing helped her gain self-confidence. She admitted at age 18 she was insecure about being born with only one arm.
“Now at 23, I love to rock climb, backcountry ski, swim, cross-country ski, ice climb and run wild in the mountains,” Miller wrote. “I can attribute a lot of my confidence to joining the US Para Ski Team and being surrounded by a supportive community that sees no limits.”
At one time, Miller admitted she was afraid to try new things. That’s not the case anymore.
Miller has become a regular climber since she returned from Beijing. She got interested in the sport after accepting an invitation to take part in an ice climbing clinic at the 2021 Bozeman Ice Festival in Bozeman, Montana, where she lives.
Last May, Miller competed in a Paraclimbing world cup competition in Salt Lake City. She tied for sixth in the women’s forearm amputee classification.
“I haven’t quite decided if I want to take (climbing) to the competitive level yet,” Miller said. “I’m just having a good time climbing, and using different parts of my muscles has been really fun. I just felt like being very active.”
Miller said one of her goals in life is to spend as much time outdoors as possible.
She expects to start graduate school to become a physician assistant as early as next summer. Before then, though, she plans to go backpacking for five days near Glacier National Park in Montana and compete in a 130K race in July.
Miller works as a nurse aid at a hospital in Bozeman. She said her desire to become a physician assistant came as a result of her being born with one arm.
“Since I wear a prosthetic, I kind of grew up going to the hospital a lot just because every year I’d get fitted for a new prosthetic there. And from a young age, I knew I wanted to work in health care,” Miller said. “My mom is also a nurse, and a PA just seems like the best route for me. I really want to be able to serve my community and work in underserved populations in primary care, and as a PA, I’m able to do that.”
Miller admitted it’s nice to now have free time to pursue other interests outside of skiing. She hasn’t closed the door on someday coming out of retirement to compete again in Nordic skiing, but she said she feels comfortable with her decision to leave the sport at 23.
“I can’t ever say no to anything,” Miller said, “but definitely right now I’m happy to have taken a step back.”
Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to USParaNordicSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.