in memoriam: Howie Henderson

By Jim Stanford on September 25, 2011

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Howie in "Swift. Silent. Deep."

Howard Henderson, co-founder of the Jackson Hole Air Force, died last night of a heart attack, friends said. He was 53 years old.

Henderson collapsed at his home in Rafter J, friends said. EMTs responded and performed CPR, to no avail.

Henderson was one of the leaders of the Air Force, a renegade band of skiers featured in the film “Swift. Silent. Deep.” The group came together during the early 1980s and pushed the boundaries of skiing in the Tetons, so much so that Jackson Hole Mountain Resort eventually opened its gates to unlimited backcountry access.

Better known as “Howie,” Henderson had an outsize personality on and off the slopes. In a promo for the movie, his older brother, RJ, another veteran skier, says, “We’ve always said that we should get Howie a job on a website, just called ‘Howie Goes Off,’ and just give him a new subject every day.”

Henderson operated his own construction firm. A Michigan native, he moved to Jackson Hole in 1980 to become a ski bum. He used to run Teton Video at the resort and appeared in numerous ski magazines, often working with photographers Bob Woodall and Wade McKoy. He once hiked to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain 133 times in a summer.

Henderson was engaged to Abby Moore, the attorney. He has two daughters, Addie and Garnet, from a previous marriage.

As the fate of the Snow King ski area hung in the balance last winter, after longtime manager Jim Sullivan was let go, Henderson was one of the people who stepped up to make sure the New Year’s torchlight parade tradition continued. Here’s lighting a candle for you, Howie.

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Posted under Deaths, Entertainment, Sports

34 Comments so far

  1. TPM September 25, 2011 11:06 am

    Howie was a hell of a guitar player too! You’ll be missed big man! Peace

  2. Chris September 25, 2011 11:38 am

    Good man, we miss you! Ski In Peace

  3. Amy Henderson Barko September 25, 2011 1:01 pm

    Howie was an incredible brother, kind and loving and a wonderful father. He was also talented at so many things, such a devastating loss. Thank you to all his friends that are expressing kindness and prayers.

  4. kevin p. September 25, 2011 1:07 pm

    wow…

  5. benny wilson September 25, 2011 1:39 pm

    celebration tonight at Phil Baux park base of snowking 530 —- BBQ and libations plkease bring stories and remember our buddy Howie Hollywood Henderson spread the word peacde love and understanding benny

  6. Barb Rowe Butler September 25, 2011 4:17 pm

    So sorry to hear about howie’s passing he was such a nice guy !!He was in my class at phn class of 76!!Prayers to his family!

  7. Ted Barss September 25, 2011 4:17 pm

    I went to high school with Howie as well as the University of Michigan. I am sure he felt a lot of pressure to go on to Medical School or something more traditional, but he followed his “real dreams” instead. Good for him. RIP

  8. Peter and Kay Cleary September 25, 2011 5:31 pm

    What devasting news to hear our friend has passed at such a young age. We always admired that he pursued what he loved in such a big way. Our heart felt prayers to Howie’s family.

  9. Dan Stark September 25, 2011 5:39 pm

    Howard was a very good friend and an important piece of my young life growing up. I am deeply saddened & shocked by his passing. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family. Rest In Peace Howie..All my Love Brother…

  10. Cathy Pattinson September 25, 2011 6:45 pm

    I met Howie through the Port Huron YMCA Jr Leadersp club when we were in middle school and as a camper at YMCA camp Mahn Go Tah See in the 60′s…we were Y rats together, and later students together at U of M. As a result of that connection, his father gave me my first legal job. Words can’t express how highly I regarded Howie, his family of origin ,the wonderful children he brought into this world, and his great love of athletics and the outdoors. i am still in shock over his passing but want to extend my deepest sympathies to his loved ones . He was a remarkably talented and beloved gentleman whose wit and passion for life will be missed by all whose lives he touched.

  11. Patrick Barko September 25, 2011 7:14 pm

    Some of my greatest childhood memories include visiting Jackson Hole and going on Hikes with my Uncle Howie. His enthusiasm and energy were contagious, as were his love for skiing and the Jackson Hole community. He was a great man who loved life and loved his family. Rest in peace Uncle Howie…

  12. Ellen Hoover September 25, 2011 7:46 pm

    I am so sorry to hear about Howie’s passing. Went to school with him since 6th grade. What a wonderful and nice guy. He will be truly missed. My thoughts and prayers to his family.

  13. Nancy Kaufman Baker September 25, 2011 8:14 pm

    I’m so sad to lose my friend. He always had a smile and a nice thing to say. I was so fortunate to have taught Garnet and Addie. It gave me the opportunity to form a close home/school connection and see how much he loved his girls. He was always so very proud of them. I will miss seeing him at the ski area and taking some turns with him. Good-bye my friend…

  14. Ed Scheer September 25, 2011 8:32 pm

    We will miss you greatly. We are thinking of you and your family.

  15. erich "doc" s cribner September 25, 2011 8:37 pm

    Peace and fondest wishes go out to his family and extended JHAF family community… he will always be remembered as a guiding, possitive force in J-Hole’s mountains and beyond… R.I.P. Howie… you will surely be missed.

  16. Barry Cox September 25, 2011 8:58 pm

    Howie,

    Happy Trails.

    Love,

    Barry

  17. Matt Davidson September 25, 2011 11:00 pm

    Howie was among my oldest and best friends. I echo Teddy & Cathy & Danny and Pete. Among our conservative mid-American WASP friends he had the courage (wisdom) to chase his dreams rather than to fulfill the predestined expectations that we had fabricated. Thank you for your love, Howie. Here is a toast to our collective memory of you and your life! SKOALE !!

  18. O'Ann Fredstrom September 25, 2011 11:57 pm

    A skiing Icon – Howie – passing without an avelanche or dangerous slope nearby is somehow more unbeleivable. He was at his most fit and most happy. My tears will be a celebration of Howie’s best and for his family and Abby.

  19. Jim Woodmencey September 26, 2011 5:42 am

    The ski season will never seem as “big” without Howie around. His presence will create a huge void in the powder scene at JH, and I just lost a huge fan of the weather. I will miss that enthusiasm. Here’s to blower days, everyday, for our friend Howie.
    Cheers,
    Woody

  20. trey clauss September 26, 2011 6:46 am

    i feel honnored that i was able to meet this great figure of skiing. i got to view Swift Silent & Deep with the two founding fathers of the JH Airforce in Denver.

    first tracks of the year are dedicated to Howie.

  21. Kevin Johnson September 26, 2011 10:59 am

    Cheers to the turns we made back in the day. R.I.P. Howie

  22. Jessica Flammang September 26, 2011 6:30 pm

    Howie was and will always be my favorite face on the JHMR slopes. As his daughter’s former teacher, and a fellow snow addict, the mountain will forever be changed. I expected and depended on seeing him EVERY morning. It was always a ray of sunlight. His smile spanned worlds.

    The Tetons and this entire town salute you, Howie. I’ll never forget your smile or our personal conversations at the V.C.

    I wish I would have told you how much I admired you!

    R.I.P. Howie. You are a hero.

  23. Jim Stanford September 27, 2011 8:39 am

    There will be a memorial gathering at 11 a.m. Sunday at Teton Village, with beer, burgers, remembrances. Open to anyone who knew Howie and his family.

  24. stuart sugarman September 27, 2011 9:45 am

    Howie was an important icon and friend. In the 1990s, he was my ambassador for guiding me down new routes in Granite. He was always setting a bar with skiing that I could only wish to obtain in another life! He helped us during home emergencies with his construction expertise, and we were so happy with his new life with Abbey. Our deepest sympathies to his dad Bob, Abbey, his kids, and family. He will be truly missed by all, and remembered as a giant in the the JH ski world.

  25. Bob Graham September 27, 2011 3:24 pm

    Howie, May you continue your journey knee-deep in powder. Be safe and run swift silent and deep. Jackson Hole and the JHAF communities will miss you.
    Abbie, Karen’s and my thoughts and prayers go with you, the girls and the Henderson family. May peace be with all of you. Bob

  26. WPratt September 27, 2011 4:31 pm

    Howie is a roll model for how he enjoyed skiing. A ski bum’s ski bum. Living Life Large. What a loss to our Hole Family. I will keep him close when skiing pow!

  27. Sue Cedarholm September 27, 2011 5:17 pm

    Lots of old memories from the Alpenhof days in the 80′s to our little girls playing together and construction site humor. You were always smiling and talking. You will be missed. Peace to Garnet and Addie and the rest of your family.

  28. Greg Cisco September 27, 2011 8:36 pm

    I, like Howie, moved to Jackson in 1980. My early years found me working at the Village and soon our pathes crossed. Probably first thru Teton Video and then the Bear Claw. We also worked together later with Barry Cox. I always remember Howie saying “just stay calm” no matter what crisis might arise during the course of building a house or doing a remodel. He and I really enjoyed recounting memorable quotes from Beavis and Butthead while working. Once we came to work and realized some laborer had stolen all our tools over a weekend. We couldn’t even find a pencil to write a police report. “Stay calm!” More recently, we talked about the downturn in our industry, tough times and his new life with Abigail. I will always remember him as a true inspiration in life and work – not to mention his impact on the world of skiing. He had a great perception of living life to the fullest. Via con dios!

  29. Debbie Rizzo September 28, 2011 12:33 am

    RIP my friend. You will be terribly missed. Thank you for showing me your world in Granite.

  30. Walter Smyth September 28, 2011 3:00 pm

    Howie, from one of the names on the beer mugs on the wall of the Bear Claw, thank you for the years of memories of the magic which you created at Jackson Hole and the Air Force. My 14 yr old son wear my JHAF patch with pride just last Friday night at TGR’s One for the Road movie at Alpine Meadows, CA. My son had not met you, but has heard much about you. He will be skiing with your passion and love of the mountains, as so many you have touched.

  31. Mike Raftery September 29, 2011 3:08 pm

    Howie was the best man at my wedding and has always been one of the very best men I ever knew. I was devastated by this news but I will always remember the fun times we had together when we were young and stupid. May there be endless tracks of virgin powder for my buddy Howie…

  32. Chuck September 29, 2011 4:25 pm

    Those second laps to the 10,450-ft summit of Rendezvous Mountain should be easier now.

  33. Jessica von Felten October 3, 2011 9:25 am

    You always stood up for me and with me. Your love for skiing, friendship, music and beer will always bring a smile. You gave me one of the best jobs I ever had! You had opinions that were formidable but a heart of gold. It may be that Granite was your church,but I remember the Hobacks with you when there was only Thunder and the warming tent.

  34. Andrew Hancharyk April 11, 2013 7:41 pm

    I finally made it to JHole a few years back. I was skiing down a hill and some guy standing beind a fence on a hill waved me over and told me to slow down. I said “okay”. He said ‘just kidding’ – I think in retrospect it might have been Howie. I’ll never know. But a guy in the shop at the bottom of the hill told me I should watch this film called Swift Silent Deep. When I saw Howie in the film I thought “I’ll be damned …”. I’ll still never know – but there was a point in my life where I had to make the decision of chasing my dreams of skiing (hopefully extreme) or heading off to professional school. In my case, I chose the latter. To this day, I don’t know if I made the right choice. But I think Howie did and he never doubted it for a second. That’s a life well live in my book. RIP guy.

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