Locals: Wolfi Gensch

A Q&A with Wolfi Gensch

Locals: Wolfi Gensch

Interview by Julie Fustanio Kling

WHEN WOLFI GENSCH was seven years old, his mom, Sarah, got a call from his ski coach. While the coaches were distracted tending to a kid who had tomahawked down the iconic Corbet’s Couloir run at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR), the second- grader had himself dropped into the line, generally considered to be the most difficult in-bounds ski run at any North American resort. Sarah says this was when she realized that she needed to let go of her fears about Wolfi playing in their extended front yard: The Genschs live in the JHMR employee condos across the parking lot from the Aerial Tram. Wolfi, the son of a snowcat driver and grandson of one the longest tenured ski instructors at Aspen Mountain, was born with only one functioning kidney (and the one he has doesn’t fully compensate for the one he’s missing as is usually the case in people with one kidney). Now 11, he’s restricted from playing contact sports but skied 75 days last season, including backcountry runs on Teton Pass and out-of-bounds at JHMR. Then he also did a summer glacier race camp at Mt. Hood. This winter, Wolfi has his eye on Four Shadows, a steep line on Cody Peak in the backcountry south of JHMR.F

Q. Is Wolfi your real name? Where did it come from?

A. My real name is Henry Wolf Gensch. My grandpa was named Wolf. So everyone calls me Wolfi. 

Q. Other than not being able to play contact sports, does your kidney slow you down?

A. The doctor said I should be playing golf and music, but I’m skiing and mountain biking, so I don’t think so. I wear a special Zoombang rodeo vest thing that he gave me. Also, I don’t think my doctor realizes what we mean when we say “downhill mountain biking.” I think he thinks it’s more of a [mellow] cross-country thing. 

Q. Do you think about your kidney when you’re out skiing or biking?

A. I kind of do but no, not really. I more just ski and bike and don’t worry about that as much.

Q. What do you think about?

A. I think about doing good and not looking like I don’t know how to ski. With biking it’s more like lean the bike in the turn and lean my body downhill.

Q. What do you think your mom is thinking about?

A. I think she’s thinking, “Oh my gosh please don’t get hurt, please don’t get hurt, please don’t get hurt.”

Q. Do you ever go out grooming with your dad? 

A. Yes. I drove the snowcat last year. Two years ago I was able to go in the Leitwolf. It’s such a big cat. Its 4 feet longer than the BR 350. I helped put on the winch (a retractable line that tethers the cat to the top of a steep slope). 

Q. Is your dad going to get in trouble if his boss reads that?

A. No they’ve all seen me drive.

Q. Do you remember your first time in a snowcat? 

A. The first time was when I was like a couple of months old. I just slept. Now it’s really fun because you are able to see the mountain from a different perspective. Most people aren’t really able to be up in the middle of the night with almost no one around just looking down at all the lights of the Village. When it’s New Years, I go up with my dad and watch the fireworks. 

Q. Do kids try to get you to join into sports you shouldn’t do when you’re at school?

A. Football is a sport that I wouldn’t have ever been into. If they ask me to play at recess now its easy. I can just be like, “No.” It is kind of good and bad to have one kidney if they ask me to do stuff I don’t like so they don’t say that’s not cool that I don’t like football.