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Erich Windisch

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Birth Date: 1918
Death Date: February 14, 2007
Age at Death: 89


Elena Bercovici - December 24, 1986


The Denver Post page 6C - February 25, 2007
A Colorado Life
German-born skier was father of arms-down jump position

by Virginia Culver
Denver Post Staff Writer

Erich Windisch started skiing in Germany at age 2 and he was still teaching at 88 in Vail.

Windisch, who was 89 when he died Feb. 14 at Vail Valley Medical Center, helped thousands of students in a 39-year teaching career at Vail.

One of those was his daughter, Sasha Windisch, 19, who got on skis when she was 2 1/2.

But unknown to many people, he was the one, who, by accident, came up with the arms-down position for ski jumpers. It is used all over the world now.

But in 1950, Windisch, in training for competition, dislocated his shoulder. Though he couldn't raise his arms straight out in the usual fashion, he was determined to jump. So he put his arms straight down against his body.

He won the Bavarian championship and his new position was adopted by other skiers who realized it improved aerodynamics.

Scientific tests made in a wind tunnel in Switzerland proved the arms-down style was better, said Windisch's wife, Elena Windisch.

"Erich was extraordinarily energetic and resourceful," said Andy Daly, former president of Vail Associates. "He was so committed to helping people enjoy the sport."

Windisch was known as a patient teacher who loved nothing better than "to see the grin" on a student's face after he or she had just mastered a turn, Elena Windisch said.

"He connected with everyone and was always willing to adapt and change with the times," Sasha Windisch said.

Elena Windish found a letter from a former student to her husband that read, "Thank you for not giving up on me."

Windisch taught skiing etiquette as well as skiing, Daly said, making sure that students skied safely used manners on the slope and didn't disrupt the environment.

"He was a taskmaster who strived (sic) for excellence," said a longtime friend, Dave Gorsuch of Vail.

Windisch Way, the run that connects Golden Peak to the rest of Vail Mountain was named for Windish in 1994, the same year he was named to the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame.

Gorsuch was a speaker at the memorial service in Vail on Wednesday night for Windisch. More than 100 skiers, carrying torches, snaked down the mountain into the darkness.

Erich Windlisch was born in Schoneck, Germany in 1918. He began is jumping career in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he made the German Olympic team. He headed thee ski school at Garmisch.

He came to the U.S. in 1956 and taught skiing at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Red River in New Mexico, and Arapahoe Ski Basin before going to Vail.

He studied architecture and eventually built three houses -- one in Vail for his family and two in Dillon.

He did oil paintings for years and had an annual showing at the Vail Library. His paintings often were of the mountains, here and in Europe. "He did the Matterhorn (mountain) over and over," his wife said.

He told an interviewer recently that he painted to help people believe "in the beauty and glory of human existence."

He met Elena Bercovici when she visited Vail in 1977. They married on Dec. 24, 1986.
Vail Daily page A5 - February 22, 2007
Vail mourns loss of its Renaissance man

Hundreds say goodbye to Erich Windisch, a legend of skiiing.

By Edward Stoner
Daily Staff Writer

VAIL- Erich Windisch was a teacher, an innovator, and 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 the age of 89.

The crowd gathered near Windish 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 Windich 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 Pete 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 ever met," Daly said.

Sasha Windisch said her father is her hero.

"He was the best father anyone could ask for," she said.
Vail Daily - February 20, 2007
Erich Windisch memorail service 6 p.m. Wednesday

Daily staff report

VAIL-- A memorial service for long-time Vail resident and ski instructor Erish Windisch will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the base of Golden Peak at Vail Mountain.

A reception will follow at 7 p.m. at the Vail Marriott in Lionshead in the Colorado Ballroom, in the northeast corner of the building.

Parking is available at the Lionshead and Vail Village parking structures, and tuests can take town of Vail buses to Golden Peak and the Marriott.

Windisch worked on the mountain for 39 years.

"Erich's passion for skiing and his desire to share the sport with everyone he touched is something this community will never forget," said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. "While we mourn his loss, his legend will live on in Vail."

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Windisch fund at Alpine Bank.

For more information, call Vail Mountain at 476-9090.
Vail Daily - February 16, 2007
Vail loses ski-jumping legend

Ski-jumping pioneer and longtime Vail resident Erich Windlisch dies

By Caramie Schnell
Daily Staff Writer

Vail -- Humble as he was, it's possible that one of longtime Vail skin instructor Erich Windisch's greatest accomplishments is unknown to some.

As a competitive ski jumper in Germany, Windisch pioneered the arms-down ski-jumping style that is used today after a dislocated shoulder forced him to jump with his hands at his sides.

"I decided to keep my hands down, try something new, and I won the Bavarian championship, which I couldn't believe because the other guys trained for it and were really in top shape," Windisch said on a Vail Daily film video filmed a year ago when he was interviewed for a story on his ski-jumping legacy.

Soon after that competition, other jumpers caught on to the aerodynamic form, he said.

Windisch died at Vail Valley Medical Center on Wednesday morning after a battle with cancer. He was 89 years old. Windisch is remembered by his family and local residents as a compassionate, caring and humble man; an artist and a teacher; a man who loved Vail Mountain -- where he worked and taught for 39 years -- second only to his family -- his wife, Elena, and their daughter, Sasha, 19.

"He was my hero," Sasha said, tears filling her eyes. "He was the most caring, considerate person -- just a very real and loving person."

"We were privileged to find each other," Elena said about her husband, "and to have been blessed with out Sashili."

:Longtime friend of the family Dave Gorsuch said it simply: "He absolutely adored his family. He was a great asset to the community and to the ski school. He was a great man, always extremely cordial to everyone, and he always had a smile on his face."

Controlling patrollers
Though Windisch was born in Shoeneck, Germany, he spent much of his life in Garmisch, where he began his ski-jumping career. He made the German Olympic team in both ski jumping and Nordic combined for the 1952 Games in Oslo, Norway, but he again dislocated his shoulder and was unable to compete.

Shortly after, Windisch stopped competing and began to teach skiing.

Eventually he took over as ski school director at a ski resort near Garmisch, Germany. He continued teaching after he came to the U.S. in 1956 -- for the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, at Red River, N.M. and finally as ski school director at Arapahoe Basin.

While at Arapahoe Basin he met Vail founder Pete Seibert. Seibert was an examiner at the resort and gave Windisch the teaching certificate test.

"He passed with flying colors," Elena said. The examiners were so impressed with his skills that he was brought on to teach ski instructors. Not long after the test, the resort asked him to lead a clinic on European skiing techniqe known as short-swing (tight, fast turns called wedel).

They gave him 99 people for the clinic and he didn't even blink," she said, "He just organized them into two lines, and they came down the mountain."

Seibert tried to convince Windisch to come work for him in Vial, but Windisch was convinced the resort was too far from Denver. Two years later, in 1968, Seibert was back, telling Windisch that this time he really needed his help because the ski-patrol guys were threatening to unionize. Windisch relented and came to Vail, where he served as ski-patrol director for a year.

Vail resident Steve Boyd was one of the unruly ski patrollers of whom Windisch was put in charge.

"Being German, I think they thought he could instill a little discipline into us," Boyd said, "He failed, but he was nice about it. We were a wild bunch back in the '60s."

Windisch made the patrolmen foot pack some of the steeper runs toward the bottom of the mountain, runs like Head First.

"There was no grooming in those days, it was sidestepping on skis," Boyd said.

Boyd didn't mind so much, he said, but some of the other men refused to do it.

"We'd laugh about it over the last few years," Boyd said, "He respected me for trying to get the guys in order."

The next season Windisch moved to the ski school as a supervisor under then-director Roger Staub. His heart was in teaching, he said, and for the next 30-some years, Windisch donned the blue suit, teaching rather than supervising.

"The most rewarding thing for him was to see someone grin when they started to connect their turns," Elena said.

A young thinker
Vail resident April Carroll taught ski school in the '80s, and Windisch was her immediate supervisor.

"Everyone at the ski school very much respected him because he had a real love for teaching; he was a fantastic teacher," she said.

What Carroll respected most about Windisch, she said, was his never-ending quest for knowledge.

"He was such a fantastic skier, and he always wanted to elarn new skiing techniques, Carroll ... (jump story not available).