Beloved Aspen man dies in Park City skiing accident

Lauren Glendenning
The Aspen Times
Hansi Brenninger
Contributed |

A beloved Aspen man died Saturday morning after a skiing accident at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah.

Hansi Brenninger was on a ski trip with his son, according to local friends. The Park City Police Department released a statement Sunday that said a 48-year-old Aspen man was skiing on an advanced trail with family when he struck with a tree. Police, fire and Life Flight responded about 10:20 a.m., where the ski patrol was already on the scene providing emergency medical care, “but the man ultimately succumbed to his injuries and was not transported to a hospital,” the statement said.

Brenninger was a full-time ski instructor at Aspen Mountain. Andy Docken, Aspen Mountain’s ski school manager, said Sunday that the news of his death has already resonated loudly. People have been reaching out to the school from all over the world to express their grief and condolences, he said.

“Hansi was just a good person,” Docken said. “He treated everyone with respect.”

Docken said there’s a saying in the ski industry that some people teach others how to ski, but people like Hansi taught people how to be skiers. He taught skiing in Europe and back in Australia, where he was from.

“How to appreciate the mountain, the pace of the lifestyle, look at the view, enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the day — he understood that whole part of it,” Docken said.

Christophe Rech knew Brenninger for 18 years. They worked in the ski school together and developed an unbreakable friendship. Rech remembered his friend Sunday as someone who always enjoyed life.

“He was a great man. I loved him — he was a brother to me,” Rech said. “We spent so much time together just enjoying life. He touched so many people. He helped so many people. Everybody liked him. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any enemies.”

Rech said Brenninger never seemed to get mad. He always wanted to help people, whether it was pushing a friend to go faster when they used to ski race together or helping someone solve a problem.

He was a man of many passions, too. From being a true family man always there for his wife and children to taking welding classes and learning woodworking, Rech said his friend was able to find joy in many things.

Brenninger also worked in real estate for Joshua & Co., where he described himself in his online biography as an artist and an avid photographer.

That’s how many community members, especially fellow parents, remember him, too. He was the father that you often saw wherever his kids were, often with his camera, said family friend Kari Kiker.

Brenninger was always encouraging his children — Emily, a freshman at Aspen High School, and Max, a seventh-grader at Aspen Middle School — from the sidelines at their soccer games, Kiker said.

“He’s just always present with the kids, always around — just a soft-spoken man, a very gentle soul,” Kiker said. “He’s so interested in everyone else’s kids, too. He’s always the guy on the sidelines taking photographs and asking about all the kids. … He’s that dad. He enjoys it; he soaks it up.”

Kiker said Brenninger’s cause of death is all the more tragic because of what a strong — and safe — skier he was.

“I think people would think of Hansi as one of the best skiers around,” she said.

Brenninger also was a beautiful skier with a unique style. Docken said he had a very distinguishable style, so much so that he had silhouette drawings of himself made into stickers that he would sport around on his gear.

“You could see that silhouette coming down the mountain, and you would know that’s Hansi,” Docken said. “His hands out wide, feet close together.”

Brenninger’s wife, Kelley, posted a video Sunday on Facebook of her husband skiing, and that style was immediately noticeable. Another photo she posted of the two of them on a chairlift had the caption, “I love him.”

Rech called Brenninger a legend in the ski school — for his skiing, yes, but also for who he was as a person. He’s irreplaceable, Rech said.

“It was like when he was skiing, he was enjoying it, and it was free,” Rech said. “Just like flying — so smooth and enjoying life when he was skiing. And just smiling, always smiling.”

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