Hannes Richter

Emo Henrich (1922 – 2009)

Hannes Richter

The legendary Austrian ski instructor, ski school director of Stratton, Vermont, musician, painter and inventor died this past May in his hometown of Igls, Austria. For years Henrich nurtured generations of young ski instructors, a number of whom went on to become ski school directors elsewhere, and was a symbol of the early years of Vermont skiing when it was all about skiing, the environment and the fun and culture of the sport. Emo Henrich brought Austrian alpine culture to Vermont skiing by hiring dozens of Austrian instructors, many of whom were also musicians, while teaching many celebrities, such as Jacqueline Kennedy and her children. 

Born in Innsbruck, Austria on November 30, 1922, Emo Henrich became a painter, climber, singer, and accomplished ski instructor and racer during his youth. He earned a degree in electrical engineering, and worked for some years as an engineer, but found that office life was too confining. In the late 1950s he found his calling in developing the ski industry in the Americas - first in South America as a ski coach in the ski areas of Bariloche, Argentina as well as Portillo, Chile, where he served as assistant ski school director to  Austrian Othmar Schneider, and later at Mt. Hood, Oregon, the Sugar Bowl in California. 

In 1961 he was invited to come to Vermont to build up the ski school at the then new resort of Stratton, for which he recruited a number of Austrian certified ski instructors and racers, most notably Ernst Hinterseer and Hias Leitner. His ski school attracted ever more customers from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut. In addition to running the ski resort and a lodge, Emo Henrich played Autrian folk music and started the Stratton Mountain Boys, an internationally-renowned musical group that sang and played music from his native Tyrolean region of Austria. 

Henrich's engineering background proved instrumental when he invented the first Firngleitners, or mini skis with steel edges for spring skiing in the high mountains. Later he also advised Jake Burton, who as a young adult worked for Emo Henrich and his wife Annedore at their inn, the Birkenhaus at Stratton, as Jake was experimenting with developing the first snowboard prototypes. As ski school director, he and his instructors created a special atmosphere while putting Stratton, Vermont, on the international ski map by attracting and organizing World Cup Races and one of America's first ski racing academies - the Stratton Mountain School. 

In the late 1980s Emo Henrich and his wife returned to Austria. During these last years Emo Henrich continued to play music and paint, producing a number of CDs and especially numerous exhibitions of his acclaimed landscape and floral paintings. Still, the Stratton family remembers Emo Henrich fondly, recently celebrating the rich heritage in a memorial service on November 28, 2009, which featured some of the original Stratton Mountain boys. During his lifetime, Emo Henrich received many awards, including from the Tyrolean Ski Instructors Association, as well as from the Austrian government and Tourist Boards. Presently the Stratton Foundation annually confers an Emo Henrich Award to "a Stratton Community member for excellence in his/her field or profession and or exemplary community service." 

For further information, please visit: www.strattonfoundation.org