Vail mourns loss of its Renaissance man
VAIL – Erich Windisch was a teacher, an innovator, an artist, a friend, a husband and a father.And in each role, he lived with great passion and kindness, friends said Wednesday.”Erich is a legend not only in skiing but in everything he did,” said Dave Gorsuch, a friend.Hundreds of people attended a memorial service Wednesday night at Golden Peak at the base of Vail Mountain.Windisch, a longtime Vail Mountain ski instructor and supervisor, died Feb. 14 at age 89.
The crowd gathered near Windisch Way, a trail that Windisch conceived so that students could get back to Golden Peak after a day of class on Vail Mountain.”As he said when he retired last November, ‘When you come down Windisch Way, think of me,'” said his wife, Elena.As part of the ceremony, about 150 ski instructors slowly skied down Golden Peak in a torchlight procession. A final torchbearer stopped halfway down the mountain and extinguished his flame.Windisch accidentally discovered the arms-down style of ski jumping after he dislocated his shoulder in 1949 while competing in Germany. The injury prevented him from jumping with his arms in front of him, as was the custom then.Other ski jumpers realized the style was more aerodynamic, and it became the standard form.Windisch – a member of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame – taught skiing at Vail until November, his 39th year working on the mountain.
“To me, he was always ageless,” said Ludwig Kurz, a friend and former ski school director.Windisch raced competitively in masters ski races until a few years ago, and was always looking for a way to shave a few seconds off his time, Kurz said. He even tried a skin-tight speed suit a few years ago, Kurz said.And Windisch was truly a Renaissance man, Kurz said. Windisch built his home and even built a car – nicknamed the Windisch Wedge – with old Volkswagen parts. He was also an accomplished painter.Friends remembered seeing Windisch, well into his 80s, shoveling snow off his roof, tied on with a safety rope.Kent Petrie, Windisch’s doctor, said, until recently, Windisch would come for a checkup each year in great health, bragging about the 100 days he’d recorded on the mountain.
Andy Daly, a former president of Vail Resorts, recalled how Vail founder Peter Seibert recruited Windisch to come to Vail in 1968 to lead its unruly ski patrollers. After a year, Windisch – who loved to teach – moved to the ski school.”Erich had a passion for the mountains like no man I had ever met,” Daly said.Sasha Windisch said her father is her hero.”He was the best father anyone could ask for,” she said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.