Cover photo for Elizabeth Hirschland's Obituary

Elizabeth Hirschland

d. March 4, 2024

Wilson, WY

Elizabeth Hirschland

Liz Hirschland, longtime resident

     Liz (Elizabeth) Hirschland, 64, skier, horsewoman, climber, chef, and a life-long resident of Teton County, died March 4 from a long illness at her home in Wilson.

          Liz Hirschland was born on August 26, 1959, in Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City to Richard and Dorothy Hirschland.. The family lived in Closter, New Jersey. 

     Liz’s father died 15 months later. Dorothy then drifted around Europe and Israel with her children and returned to New Jersey when it was time to start school. Climbing brought the family to Teton County in 1965. After two summers at the old Climber’s Camp on Jenny Lake, the family moved in September 1966   into a kit-built A-Frame 1.25 miles along a dusty dirt road south of the Stagecoach Bar in Wilson.

     Liz attended the Wilson School with her twin, Georg Hirschland, and their older sister, Victoria Hirschland Hess. Liz later attended Jackson Hole Middle School and Jackson Hole High School for a year each. The family moved frequently, and over the years, she attended schools in Closter, NJ, El Cerrito, CA,   Carbondale, CO, Lake Placid NY, Ulster County, NY, and Vershire, VT,  rarely for more than a year or two. She briefly attended SUNY-New Paltz in New York.

          In Wilson, Liz started riding, and it became her lifelong passion. Up until her diagnosis with Bulbar Palsy-ALS in August 2022, Liz kept up to a dozen horses on her Wilson property, where she broke, rode, and trained them in both dressage and Western riding.

          Liz competed in dressage regionally; she taught riding, boarded horses, and assisted her husband, John Watsabaugh, partner of 16 years and spouse of 3 years, with his hunting and other pack trips. Together, they built their home on the Fall Creek Road property. Shortly before Liz was diagnosed, she purchased a miniature horse and a Shetland pony so that she could teach more small children. Unfortunately, her first notable symptom was the loss of her speaking voice, and her young students could no longer understand her. She continues to coach her most dedicated friends. During the year following her diagnosis, she found homes for her horses with friends and family, though she continued to pine for her competitive dressage horse, Rim.

          Liz was also well known on the slopes of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. She could, and would, ski anything with great style and beauty. Liz was a member of the Jackson Hole Air Force, and was at her happiest venturing outside the Resort boundaries. She raced in the downhill portion of the Pole Pedal Paddle for a number of years. 

     Since her disease started at her throat and worked its way down, she was able to get in one last ski season (22-23), enjoying the company of her many friends as she played on Granite and Glory, and beyond. She was not able to ski her 100 days in 2022-23: she only made 75. But because of her strength through adversity, someone felt that she deserved to ski that one last day after the season ended.  She was a winner in the eyes of all who knew her.

     One of the hardest things to explain to Liz, as she became weaker and weaker in November 2023, was that she could not go out and ski. She had asked to go to the Village to buy new boots, because her old boots had become too stiff for her to get on. Sadly, she no longer had the strength to open her performance   boots to slide her foot in. That and her tendency to fall while walking on grade, or even no-grade, meant that skiing couldn't happen. She went adaptive skiing this year, and, in true Liz fashion, she turned straight for the powder. 

     Liz had a typical Jackson Hole career path. She was a ski instructor at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the 1970s, and a jeweler with her first husband Michael Winchell. She worked in a number of restaurants as a cook or waitress. She baked for Wild Flour Bakery, and she catered, specializing in wedding cakes and desserts. She once delivered a wedding cake to the Cheney residence in Wilson. She worked for a dozen years as a chinking contractor, on both new construction and repairs.

     Every year, Liz went hunting, like many others in Jackson Hole. Most years she “got her elk.” But even when she didn’t, she found joy in mounting her horse Rim, and riding behind her house toward Black Canyon. Within minutes, she would be on Forest Service land, alone with her horse, feeling the quiet dawn sounds of the forest, gradually seeing more than just shadows of the lodgepole pine, until the sun rose, and if she saw it, she would get her elk. 

     Liz shared her love of hunting with many friends, who sometimes got their first elk with her. Liz was also the friend to call for help to haul-out an elk. For years, she butchered elk in her kitchen, teaching her sister and nephews how to cut the meat, grind it, and wrap it. Liz believed in knowing where your food came from.

     Shortly after her terminal diagnosis in August 2022, Liz asked her friends to help her with a celebration of life. She wanted to be there to hear her friends’ remembrances and join in the celebration.  Dozens gathered at Owen Bircher Park in September 2022 to recall how Liz came into their lives. Her friends spoke of how beautifully she skied and rode. When Liz’s strength helped her outlive her life expectancy, friends gathered with her again a year later. 

      She befriended many newcomers to Jackson Hole. She skied backcountry with them, took them on trail rides or pack trips, helped them get settled into jobs, and even climbed the Grand overnight, lit by the full moon, with one of those newcomers. She was well loved for the spark of joy she gave her friends. 

          In the months after her diagnosis with Bulbar Palsy-ALS, she was fortunate to retain the ability to use her limbs, even as she lost her voice, and her face and neck became paralyzed. She continued to enjoy skiing, and her friends have remarked on her incredible fighting spirit. Liz and a group of friends even took weekly American Sign Language lessons on-line so she could communicate with them better. Liz continued to ride when she could and continued to travel outside Jackson Hole to visit friends. She lived as big a life as she could. 

     She is survived by her husband, John Watsabaugh of Wilson, her step-children, Jesse Watsabaugh and Jack Watsabaugh and his wife Kali, both of Jackson,  her sister, Victoria Hirschland Hess of Jackson and half-sisters Joan Hirschland and Suzy Pruden, and her nephews, Richard Hess of Jackson and Andrew Hess of Omaha, Neb., many loving friends, and Bruiser and Badger, her Corgi mixes. She was predeceased by her twin, Georg, and her parents. 

     In lieu of memorials, consider a donation to one of these non-profits that were important to Liz: Teton SARS, Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, or the Jackson Food Cupboard.

The celebration of life for Liz Hirschland will be held May 18th, Saturday, with the talking starting at 3:00 p.m. at the old Wilson Schoolhouse. People are invited to come earlier and visit.


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