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Hilary Engisch-Klein

Hall of Fame Class of 2018

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As the World Cup’s first dominant female mogul skier, Engisch-Klein won four season-long titles and helped set the sport on course for Olympic glory.

During the early 1980s, Hilary Engisch-Klein was the preeminent female mogul skier in the world, winning 21 World Cup events and capturing four overall World Cup titles in 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1984. Her domination was so complete that Skiing magazine called her “the greatest female mogul skier alive, and a woman who can routinely do what most of us only dream about.”

Engisch-Klein was a trendsetter and instrumental in creating an environment in women’s mogul competition that demanded deep training, athletic prowess, technical excellence, and poise under pressure. She brought a pure love of the sport, laughter, and a deep interest in other cultures. Engisch-Klein raised every bar with a smile on her face and with one goal in mind, seeing mogul skiing included in the Olympics, which happened in 1992, six years after she’d retired.

Growing up in a ski family of six children, to a doctor-father and artist-mother, Hilary was “a little wild thing” who tagged along behind the older kids on the slopes of Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont, shadowing her older siblings and the Cochran kids, Barbara Ann, Marilyn, Bobby, and Lindy.

At the age of 10, she was competing in both judo and ski racing and playing soccer with the boys. But after spotting the early rise of mogul skiing, she hung up her judo gi and made the switch from slalom gates to mogul fields. In that early era, she competed professionally, and banked some big checks, winning regularly. But the U.S. Ski Team had a goal to put mogul skiing on the path to inclusion in the 1984 Olympics, and Engisch-Klein and other pros were granted amnesty and committed themselves to the World Cup tour.

It was an extremely busy time. While Hilary was finding sponsors and trying to raise money for travel overseas, she was also a student at the University of Vermont, and a standout soccer player, setting the season and career records for goals scored in just three years. She was also establishing The Vermont Ski Training Foundation for young freestylers.

Engisch-Klein’s natural affinity for mogul skiing set her apart. Video of her early 1980s technique is textbook, a technically perfect attack on the bumps, when mogul skiing still had a clear edge set and carve, compared to today’s extreme absorption. The 1984 season was a big one, when she won her fourth World Cup mogul title, was named USSA Athlete of the Year, American Express Athlete of the Year, and voted as Sportswoman of the Year by the U.S. Sportscasters. But she tore her ACL at nationals (she still won the title), and a stellar season changed into nine months of excruciating rehab.

While on the injured list in 1985, Hilary wrote a book called Skiing Freestyle, and on a flight to see her publisher, she met a young entrepreneur, Steven Klein, who would later become her husband. After retiring, with her UVM diploma in hand, she traveled to California to make a film she co-wrote with Steven, and earned a professional degree in TV and Film Production from UCLA, and an acting degree from The Stella Adler Acting Conservatory, while competing nationally with the “Chivas” woman’s soccer team.

Though Hilary never had the chance to compete in the Olympics, she has no regrets. “I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. We were travelling the world with our best friends, men and women together, competing with all of our guts. We coached one another, and traveled with the foreign teams, throwing our bags through train windows and jumping on, or traveling in converted bread trucks. It was perfect!”

Since her retirement from competitive skiing, the honors kept rolling in. In 1990, Hilary was inducted into the University of Vermont Athletic Hall of Fame for both her skiing and soccer accomplishments. In 1999, Sports Illustrated ranked her No. 16 in its list of the best 50 Vermont athletes of the 20th century. She was inducted into the Mount Mansfield Ski Club Hall of Fame in 2009, the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame in 2010, and the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

Hilary and Steven live in Stowe and Ottawa, Ontario, and have three daughters, Ula, Teagan, and Gaelyn. After being diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, Hilary wanted to work with pediatric patients at the Medical Center Hospital in Vermont. Sitting on a gurney with her oncologist, Dr. Kim Dittus, they brainstormed, and decided to establish an outdoor adventure program for pediatric patients with childhood diseases. Today, this is the Vermont non-profit charity called “Kids On Top.” It’s a huge undertaking, handling everything from skiing, snowboarding, and cross country skiing, to rock climbing, hiking, and mountain biking, not to mention the day-to-day organization and fund-raising, and Hilary revels in the challenge.

“Our kids are amazing; the families, beautiful. We’re on the top of the mountains with them, where they can feel well, and strong, and confident again. They are learning cool things, acquiring wonderful new skills, and are full of laughs. It’s a chance to regroup for the kids, to make great friends and become close to incredible coaches. And when the kids return home, they are ready to go after all of those things that go into getting better.”

Career Accomplishments:

1980: Wins three World Cup events and the season-long mogul title in the first FIS World Cup mogul season.
1981: Wins five World Cup events and the Overall World Cup season title.
1981: Wins all five events on The Pro Mogul Tour and Overall Title.
1982: Wins eight of 11 World Cup events and the Overall World Cup season title.
1984: Wins four World Cup events and the Overall World Cup season title.
1984: Named USSA Athlete of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year by the U.S. Sportscasters.
1987: Retires from The U.S. Ski Team at Mount Gabriel, Quebec, Canada.
1990: Inducted into the University of Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.
1999: Ranked No. 16 on Sports Illustrated’s list of the best athletes from Vermont in the 20th century.
2009: Inducted into the Mount Mansfield Ski Club Hall of Fame.
2010: Inducted into the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame.
2018: Inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame
2015 to Present: Founded and serves as president of Kids On Top.

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Hall of Fame Tribute Video


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