Maria Christine Simms passed away on August 25, 2022 from an aggressive metastatic cancer. Maria passed away after only 22 days from her original diagnosis. She was 57 years old.
Maria was born to Richard Simms and Rose Marie Lopez Simms in Albuquerque, New Mexico on February 12, 1965. Maria was the younger of two girls along with her sister Ninha Simms. Her father Richard taught English at a Catholic elementary school and also worked for TWA (Trans World Airlines -for you youngsters) while in law school. Her mother Rose Marie worked at the Model Cities Library in Albuquerque serving the South Valley neighborhoods. Richard went on to become a water resources attorney and he argued in front of the Supreme Court multiple times. Rose Marie worked in many educational settings including Tesuque Elementary and Capital High School in Santa Fe and she later developed her talents, on her million hikes in the woods, as a watercolor artist.
Maria pushed against social boundaries applied to girls during her childhood, and her rough and tumble style caused problems. She broke her arm twice falling from a tree, and kicked a doctor in the face when he set her broken arm. She was not the type to conform to the traditional gender norms of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s so she blazed her own path in life. She could not stand dressing up and playing the dutiful daughter role. She would rather play with her “people” toys in the mud.
When Maria was still a young girl, the family of four moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and began building an adobe home north of town near the village of Tesuque. Maria revelled in the construction of the home in the traditional New Mexican style with thick adobe walls, vigas to support a cedar ceiling, and kiva-style fireplaces in almost every room. The vigas, and latillas were hand peeled by family and friends as part of the construction process. One of Maria's favorite quotes was from her father when his daughters complained about the house being cold, and he would say, "Well, you know what to do, build a fire." This lifestyle fit her personality perfectly. She would steal scraps of wood to build her fort down in one of the arroyos and would constantly irritate her father when she would play in the newly dumped sandpiles. Often a toy would end up memorialized in a wall. This childhood lifestyle led her to love the outdoors and the mountains. Throughout her life she was adamant that all campsites must be near water. She and her sister, Ninha, grew up near the famous Rancho Encantado where Ninha played tennis and Maria swam all day. This childhood adventure palace was to be the future site of her wedding as promised to her by Betty Eagan, the owner.
Her life in skiing started early, and she was often busted by her parents for ditching school, not realizing she had come home with a goggle tan in the spring months. She spoke often of the time her ski edge had sliced her butt cheek and she had to get 72 stitches which forced her to kneel during her SAT examinations. At 15-years old she started working in the ski industry at Alpine Sports in Santa Fe. She worked in shipping and receiving for the venerable and New Mexico Ski Hall of Fame members, Harvey and Reserl Chalker. Harvey and Reserl met in Germany after WWII when he was in the US Army and she was a racer in Garmisch. The Chalkers ended up opening Alpine Sports Ski Shop in Santa Fe, and they were members of a tight fraternity of Americans and Europeans who were ski pioneers in the U.S.
Maria eventually started assisting Reserl with the soft goods clothing buying for the store. From Reserl, she learned about fashion, style and trends. With this knowledge she transformed into a style aficionado who could sell to the Santa Fe elite. She learned how to survive in the retail industry and how to make tough choices. The number of sales representatives she got to know and befriend are endless. This training and work at Alpine Sports was the start of a 42-year career in the ski industry.
While at Alpine Sports, she met her future husband Fritz Peters, a native of Santa Fe. He was a teacher and later an administrator at Santa Fe High School. Fritz had moved from working at Taos Ski Valley in 1985 to become a teacher in the SFPS system. He sought out part-time work at a ski shop, and met Maria on his first day working at Alpine Sports where he worked in sales and boot-fitting. Their first introduction was at the Dragon Room at the famous Pink Adobe Restaurant in Santa Fe. They immediately hit it off and became very dear friends. After three years of skiing together and living large, Maria and Fritz became engaged in February of 1990. They would marry one year later on the same date. Maria and Fritz lived in a newly renovated 1930's adobe studio with 900 square feet. In 1993 their only child, Taylor Andrew Peters, was born. After two years, and the passing away of Fritz's mother, they completely overhauled a 1920's Adobe home to build their dream house. For two years they would work long hours into the night on the remodel/addition with the baby monitor on.
Their New Mexican life was all changed, however, in 2001 when they visited the Wood River Valley for the second time. They had fondly remembered the intoxicating draw to Blaine County the first time they topped Timmerman Hill and gazed upon the rich grassland of the valley. One year later they moved to Hailey with no jobs and took a leap of faith moving to this incredible paradise. This leap of faith proved to be a huge positive turning point in their lives. They lived on Whitetail Drive and began to develop a core group of friends that has swelled tremendously. Their family was forever enlarged by the constant flow of Taylor's friends who came through the house. Many members of the 2012 era graduating classes still visit and call Maria, "Mama Maria".
Maria began working at Sturtevant's in the main Ketchum store. Her work family was huge and continued to grow for years. She became the soft goods buyer at Sturtevant's and was known throughout Blaine County as the beautiful dark-haired woman who could size up a customer in seconds. Her work with the SVSEF in jackets alone gave her the opportunity to get to know 100's of locals and part-time residents. If you hung out with her, you'd be amazed at how many people greeted her and interacted with her. Her husband, Fritz, served as Wood River Middle School Principal for almost two decades and served as the interim Superintendent of Blaine County Schools for a short period prior to his retirement. The couple moved to Sun Valley in 2019 to be closer to Maria's work and to downsize.
Maria was taken from all of us with shocking and alarming speed. In late July this summer, Maria, Fritz, Taylor, Izzy and Annette floated the Lazy River near Alturas Lake one last time. In early August, Maria was diagnosed. Her last few weeks were spent with visitors, tons of flowers and her small family. A strong theme emerged from the copious letters, cards and text messages; people spoke of her radiant smile, her incredible supportive role in their lives, and her "bad-a*% skiing."
Maria is survived by her Mother, Rose Marie Lopez, her uncle Roger Simms, her husband Fritz Peters, her sister Ninha Simms and husband Jamie Archer, her son Taylor Andrew Peters and her cousins Arthur Lopez, Chris Lopez and Carolyn Lopez.
A celebration of life will be held on September 17, 2022 at the Salmon River cabin owned by Rob and Heidi Reeves in Lower Stanley. In lieu of flowers, friends and family are encouraged to donate to Wood River Palliative and Hospice Care, SVSEF, and the Blaine County Education Fund.