On December 4, 2016, Heidi Lieben Hochstrasser was on her way home from a cross-country ski in Teton Canyon, Idaho, when her Toyota 4-Runner slid on an icy road into the path of an oncoming truck. She died that night. She was 29 years old, but in those brief years she lived a full and remarkable life that touched many people with her loving strength, her adventurous spirit, her many skills, and her sparkling energy.
Heidi was born on the first day of spring, March 21, 1987, in San Francisco, California, to Scott L Hochstrasser and Julie Berger Hochstrasser of Fairfax, California. At age four she started pre-school in the Netherlands where her family lived for a year before returning to Fairfax. There she attended Manor Elementary school, playing soccer and softball and pulling off an impressive British accent as a schoolgirl in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. In her youth she enjoyed making art and music, riding horses, hiking, fishing and skiing with her family, and caring for family pets. She was in sixth grade when the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa, where she attended Wickham Elementary School, Northwest Junior High, and West High School, won a flute contest and played in the marching band, competed on the Rockets traveling volleyball team, and went to the Galapagos Islands with her AP Biology class.
Her college years at the University of California, Santa Cruz, were launched with heir Wilderness Orientation; subsequently she was tapped to help lead those trips. She got certified as a Wilderness First Responder, got her class C license, and worked for UCSC Recreational Services where she led other student excursions— backpacking, kayaking, wine-tasting. She also taught kids gardening at the Life Lab at the UCSC Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems. So began her rich legacy teaching college students and children the joys of sustainable agriculture, outdoor recreation and the values of conservation.
She met her boyfriend Jacob Yufa at Burning Man, and they lived together for nine years until her death. In Santa Cruz they lived in the Laurel Manor Co-op (also known as “Food Not Lawns”) where they tended an extensive garden and planted cast-off fruit trees that grew the fruit she made into pies and jam and her own plum brandy. They built a cobb oven to make wood-fired pizzas with their garden veggies and her home-made cheese. They taught classes on gardening and baking and permaculture through the Santa Cruz Free Skool. They kept ducks and rabbits and, when they caught cold, slaughtered their own chickens to make their chicken soup. Meanwhile, Heidi completed a double major at Santa Cruz. The new Health Sciences major included Spanish language requirements and community service, which she fulfilled in an internship with the WIC program (Women, Infants, and Children) in Watsonville, California, working with young mothers to help them make good nutritional decisions. She studied abroad for a semester in Concepción, Chile, prompting her whole family to meet her down in Peru for Christmas to hike the Inka Trail to Macchu Picchu; she and Jacob went on backpacking that spring through the Atacama Desert and all the way to Tierra del Fuego. She graduated in 2010 earning both a Bachelor of Arts in Women's Studies (now Feminist Studies) and a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences.
After college she got a job as the “pie wench” for a startup in Santa Cruz called Companion Bakeshop. She started out making a few pies a week; soon it was dozens, and finally she was making all the pies for the famous California outfit known as “Pie Ranch,” with an industrial mixer the size of a small car, and wound up co-managing the bakery. She mastered everything from profiteroles to canelés, taught baking classes, marketed bread and pastries at local farmer’s markets, and pedaled bike deliveries of baked goods and fresh local produce around town. She volunteered urban foraging with the Santa Cruz Fruit Tree Project, participated in CSA’s (Consumer Supported Agriculture), and traveled the Southwest as a WWOOFer (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). She built her own bicycle at the Bike Church in Santa Cruz and toured from Barcelona over the Pyrenees to Paris, visiting French patisseries along the way to study their baking methods (“in search of the perfect croissant,” though Kouign-Amanns were her favorite), with a grand finale cooking class in Paris.
A little over two years ago she and Jacob moved to Driggs, where they helped to build and open the Teton Rock Gym. There she taught climbing, inaugurated and coached a traveling team, established and ran a climbing summer camp, and provided a climbing program for winter sports physical education in the local schools, where she also worked as a substitute teacher. She continued sharing her culinary skills as well, working for 460 Bakery, volunteering in the Senior Center kitchen, and working catering operations in Driggs and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. She imbibed the local pioneer spirit: when she and Jacob butchered their own venison, she made ribs and stew and jerky and pate; this fall they successfully hunted an elk and again butchered it themselves. And she continued to hike and climb and ski and fish all across the western US, and to pour forth a steady stream of healthy home-cooked food and masterful baked goods. She made a memorable mark in the Teton Valley, spreading joy with her ready smile and inimitable Heidi hugs.
Heidi was a graceful climber and skier, a skilled baker and artist, and a fearless and tireless all-around do-er, full of joy, and endlessly generous with her time and loving energy. She is survived by her boyfriend Jacob (Driggs); her parents, Scott and Julie (Tomales, California); her two brothers Franz (Washington D.C.,) and Hans (Elkhorn, Wisconsin), along with Hans’ wife Renee and their children Aubree, Cohen, and Eldin. A memorial service was held in Driggs on Sunday, December 11; a second celebration of her life is being planned for Fairfax California this spring 2017, details to be announced.
Donations are welcomed at HeidiLieben.org. Contributions will honor Heidi's beautiful life and spirit by continuing to support causes that she was passionate about, including the Teton Rock Gym and community, youth and childhood education, outdoor recreation and conservation, good food and sustainable agriculture, and healthy living.