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The Passing of MWHS Founder and Ski Industry Legend Mike Wiegele 1938-2021

Mike Wiegele Heli-skiing Resort 50th Anniversary

July 15, 2021
Blue River, British Columbia

Mike Wiegele, whose passion and gritty determination both created and fulfilled the world’s heliskiing dreams for more than 50 years, has died aged 82. 

The entire team of Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing (MWHS) extend their deepest sympathies to the Wiegele family, most notably Mike’s wife Bonnie, their daughter Michelle and their grandson Charlie.

Mike’s close and enduring relationships stretched to a broad community of colleagues, guests and friends from all walks of life, whose kinships were regularly forged on skis, on bikes, and on hikes up mountain trails. On behalf of the entire staff of MWHS, we extend condolences to all those connected to Mike across Canada and around the world. 

A humble farm boy from Austria, Mike emigrated to Canada in 1959 to chase his ski dreams. Arriving with no English, he first was employed as a carpenter-builder, a harbinger of things to come. After working as a ski instructor at Mont Tremblant and Sugar Bowl, with ski racing and “real mountains” in his DNA, he soon moved West. Mike went from instructor to director of Lake Louise Ski School at lightning speed. It was there he met and, in 1967, married Bonnie Derome, an accomplished athlete and astute businesswoman who would be pivotal in building their future enterprise. 

At the heart of it all was a visceral love for skiing. In 1976, Bonnie and Mike started the Banff Quikies which evolved into Banff Alpine Racers, growing from seven young racers to 500 over the first five years. His coaching at Lake Louise Ski Club produced six National Team athletes. This enthusiasm for all things skiing was at the core of Mike’s long life. 

“When I raced in Austria and later in Canada, I always went skiing after the race was done,” he relayed to one those students, World Cup and Olympic medalist Ken Read, on receipt of the Honoured Lifetime Builder Award from the Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame. “At the end of the season, my friends would call me to come to the year-end banquets where I would receive all these trophies, because I had missed the awards ceremonies as I was out skiing after every race. I just loved it so much!”

His passion for life on skis, combined with being a fearless entrepreneur, led Mike to the mountains of British Columbia—the perfect place for the new sport of helicopter skiing. In 1970, Mike offered his first heli-skiing trip in Valemount, BC: despite attracting no guests, he remained undeterred. “I thought he was a little bit cuckoo,” said Bonnie of his early plans. “He was always a bit of a dreamer, and it was his dream to ski in these mountains.” 

Mike would soon establish Blue River, BC as base for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, an enterprise which, over five decades, he marshalled into an industry leading, internationally renowned resort. In 1978, he launched the Powder 8 World Championships and a decade later was instrumental in bringing fat ski technology to the people. His drive and innovation established many of the foundations the heliski industry, and his commitment to safety led to the establishment of many industry standards and an important avalanche research programme in conjunction with University of Calgary. In 1990, he established the Canadian Ski Guides Association, opening the door for Canadians to train as heliski guides. 

Among numerous commendations awarded him: The Bravery Award from the Governor General of Canada; The Marshall Award for Excellence from Canada West Ski Areas Association for outstanding contribution to the betterment of the ski industry; the Honour Roll of Canadian Skiing for outstanding contributions to the growth and development of skiing in Canada; Hall of Fame from the Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance; Banff Sports Hall of Fame; Austria’s prestigious Goldenes Verdienstzeichen Gold Medal. In 2019, Thompson Rivers University awarded Mike an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.

In 2019, under Mike’s leadership, MWHS celebrated its 50th anniversary. In advance of this milestone, Mike hand-picked and trained a management team to lead the company into the next 50 years, ensuring his dream, his passion for safety and his high standard for customer service would continue. 

Competitor, coach, pioneer, entrepreneur, husband, father, and man of the mountains. We remember the motto by which Mike lived his life, and we carry it with us in our hearts and into the mountains.

“Let’s Go Skiing”

To share memories and condolences, see below.

The Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association Fund

In lieu of alternative expressions of condolence, and to ensure Mike's legacy and dedication to safety in the mountains continues, the Wiegele family has established the Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association Fund.  This fund will support safety and loss prevention through avalanche research by either funding or supporting individuals or groups advancing meaningful research to benefit the avalanche community.  It will be administered by a Board of Directors made up of members of the Wiegele Family and senior MWHS Management.  Mike's family would appreciate you honouring him through a contribution to this fund. 

Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association Fund Details

Media Contact

Bob Sayer
bsayer@wiegele.com

Elias Ortner
elias@wiegele.com

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Thoughts and prayers to the family and everyone that knew Mike as a friend. He was a great story teller and excellent company whenever we visited the resort.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have spent my winter weekends as a kid in the Mike Wiegele Ski School at Lake Louise. Mike's enthusiasm for skiing and adventure was contagious. It set me up for a lifelong love of skiing and adventure in the outdoors. Sending my heartfelt condolences to Bonnie and Michelle through this sad time.

Mike was willing to challenge existing paradigms, took thoughtful risks to disrupt old ways of thinking and left his mark. Well done! RIP...

Such an amazing team you have in Blue River, our sympathies for the entire industry. I can’t wait to return soon and continue to support Mike’s dream. Riding with Mike for 3 out of 5 days was a dream come true. It was my 41st birthday, I even have a picture of Mike and Eric stopping by at dinner to sing happy birthday to me. Mike was 76 years old at the time still ripping everyday in waist deep powder with guests from all over the world. This is a dream only a few of us will ever get to see as we all get older. Such an awesome life to be celebrated with amazing accomplishments and awards. Can’t wait to see Eric and the rest of the crew once again and keep Mike’s spirit alive in the powder. THE RIDER (Luke M Lyons)

I met Mike in Banff in 1973 when I worked at Norquay - He was very kind to a young Kiwi boy looking for adventure in the mountains of the world. His enthusiasm for skiing had a profound effect on my life and I will remember fondly those special times. Rest in peace Mike. Our condolences go to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie all the way from New Zealand

As life long skiers this is sad news. Condolences and all our best in this difficult time. I feel he was the embodiment of someone with a total love of skiing and everything it entails.

My deepest condolences to Mike and his family. Admiration and respect comes to my mind when thinking of MWHS.
A pioneer, a dreamer an innovator.
He lives an amazing legacy behind

these are the ones to be proud of in our first nations communities, no miss treatment of our people or bad words and went above all he’s awesome. condolences to his family. from the dundas family

I worked for Mike when he ran the ski school at Lake Louise back in the late 60's. I was sorry to read of his death, he was quite to go-getter & a part of Canada's ski history.

Dear Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and all the Mike Wiegele team, family and friends. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of you.
I worked as photographer at Wiegele's for Don Harvey during the 90's. Mike was truly a mentor to me and his love for the mountains was undeniable. Mikes passion for skiing and his love for life rubbed off on us all. I will cherish every "cold smoke" turn that I feel fortunate to have made with him. He will be dearly missed and we are all fortunate for the legacy he built.
Lorne Green

My deepest love, aloha and condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie. The powder riders community from around the world will forever be indebt for Mikes contributions to what we all seek every winter and for everyone who has been blessed to know your Wiegele family over the years my heart filled blessing go out to all of you. I will never forget all the times I've been blessed to spend with your family in Blue River and in Maui. May god bless you all and mahalo Mr. Wiegele for your friendship over the many years. Your legacy will live on forever.
Warmest Aloha, Michael Botelho From Hawaii

On behalf of my late father, "Whitey" Kelsey, and myself, thank you for some great Heli Skiing memories. It was the ultimate skiing experience!! What a skiing legacy!! Deepest sympathies to his wife, Bonnie and family.

I knew of Mike growing up in Clearwater and was always amazed with how he cultivated his passion into what it is today. I eventually ended up working for Sun Peaks and we would often go to Blue River for retreats. The last time I saw Mike he invited us to his house for drinks and appetizers and arranged for an impromptu helicopter tour. How about that for hospitality! Every time I think of Blue River I'll think of Mike. He was a legend and will be missed by many.

Skiing is the best way to spend your life time. So let's go skiing!
RIP, Mike!!

Best wishes from Bavaria to BC
Stefan

A amazing person Mike was, had the good fortune to go Heli fishing with Mike at McDougall Lake in Wells Gray Park when I was living in Blue River, Mike would always remember your name . (Go Rest High On That mountain Mike) My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and the entire Wiegele family

What a sad day today to hear of Mike's passing. Our deepest condolences to you Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie. Over the years spent with you in Blue River we became good friend and have many happy memories. Although we don't get to Blue River very often we still think of you and the happy times we spent together. Never forgotten Mike.

My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie and the Wiegele World - Back in 1969, Mike gave me my first job and a heartfelt welcome to Canada. My whole ski teaching career is based on what I learnt from Mike. Beyond Mike's major focus on developing his world famous heliski business he was a relentless educator. Even back in his Lake Louise Ski School days he devoted a lot of time and attention to his junior racing program and later in Banff to the famous "Quickies". Many world cup skier's roots are imbedded in these programs. Mike's gigantic legacy in the skiing industry will endure time, no doubt. Now it is sad to have to say good bye to a dear friend and mentor.
With eternal gratitude.
Andre

It is with great sadness to learn of Mike's passing. By deepest condolence to Bonnie, Michelle and Charley. After many years of skiing with Mike, it is clear to me that his legacy is the greatest ever in heliskiing, as his priority for snow safety for guests, guides and staff and ability to implement safe procedures transformed the industry. The Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association fund is a fitting and most deserving way to honor Mike and foster his passion to do the right thing rather than the expedient thing.

Bonnie and all of Mike's family, I am so sorry for your loss. The great memories I had with Mike and all the Weigele team are so great. He was a great person and I always looked forward to going heliskiing at Mike's place. I miss him and all those great runs.
DR. George Yellich

Rest in peace Mike! My condolences to the Wiegele family's and friends
schuss ;-)

My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and the MW family. He was a great man with a big heart and he will glide through the snowflakes forever.

Sixty years ago I ran many gates with Mike, Competed against him in many races and argued with him about how he, a poor ski instructor, was going to ever be able to raise enough capital to realize his impressive dreams. He always believed in himself and his dreams and through tireless work and devotion he reached his pinnacle. He was a good friend and we have all lost a wonderful man.

Bonnie, I can only imagine the loss and grief for you, your family and the entire crew in Blue River. Denver's “Blue River Blues” will have a new sad meaning for me and all those who had the wonderful privilege of knowing and working with Mike. His dream fulfilled, Mike has given a lasting legacy and contribution to this, his chosen country.
Peggy (Windle) Weddell.

My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie, as well as his entire team at Mike Wiegele Heliskiing. Mike’s passing is indeed sad but we celebrate a wonderful life. I joined Mike’s staff in Blue River in 2012 and it was a good change in my life. I would be “head down” working away on my accounting duties and Mike would come along and say ‘let’s go skiing”. Down went the pencil and up in the heli we would go to the top of Saddle Mountain. We would say, we can see Paradise from here. Then after skiing down in the fluffy powder, out of breath, we would say with delight, the vertical drop is 10 times more than Ontario’s Blue Mountain.
It was a great joy skiing and working with Mike. I learned a lot from the great man. May he rest in peace.
Bill Folliott
alias $Bill

Though he’s no longer with us, I know Warren would be with me in telling you, Bonnie and Michelle, how very sorry we are for your loss. Many incredible memories since I first met you, Bonnie and Mike, in 1967. I’m just sorry we didn’t have more time together. Warren had huge respect and affection for you both, as well.
And what an inspiration Mike was for my son, Colin, when he met him at age 7...now 49! That will continue for all his life.
What a great family you are!
Laurie Miller

Words cannot describe the feelings in the memories Mike and his extraordinary family made for and with so many thousands of people. Staff and clients alike. A towering ikon of belief in self, Mike always made it happen no matter how big or unlikely the dream. The mountains themselves will shed tears of snow. Ski buddies around the world will get together not just to lament his passing but to share the stories of the best ski moments of our lives that he helped us create. That will always remain and drive us to create more, dream big and believe in yourself. RIP

Bonnie so sorry to hear about Mike. Gene and I speak of him often. A great friend who had a wonderful , colourful life.
We love you and will be having a drink this evening to salute you both.

All the past and present members of Banff Alpine Racers and Bow Valley Quikies would like to send their condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Wiegele family.
Thousands of athletes’ lives have changed since the founding of Banff Quikies.  Mike was a kind and passionate man who just wanted everyone to experience skiing through his eyes.  We look forward to dedicating our best run each season to Mike Wiegele and the legacy he has left behind.

My condolences to all of the family on Mike's passing. My son Heath 'Heater' had the pleasure of working for the company for 22 years, until his recent passing. May they be having a beer together and reminiscing. God bless all.

What a sad day- July 15th 2021– Mike has passed, but I know he is in a better place without the pain of disease and is at peace with his creator. My only regret is that during his illness because of my cancer treatment & COVID 19 I was unable to meet with him in Canmore or Cochrane but I rest that I know Mike is at peace now.
He was a wonderful true 50 year friend. He was the first person I met when moving to Calgary from Toronto in 1971 & he gave me chance to become a ski instructor in the Mike Wiegele Ski Instructor organization, what a blessing. Mike was ever patient & as I got to know him better I realized what drove him was his love of skiing, which he successfully passed on to whoever would listen. He was a visionary for the resort 50 years ago. I remember that time well when he called me & said “come & see what I have bought” & I rushed to Blue River. To my amazement I said to Mike “you bought a gravel pit” Then Mike proceeded to describe to me exactly what you see today, he had it in his mind to every detail.
I could write many stories of the times together from great sadness with the passing of his brother Norbert to great time of gratitude when he asked me be the MC at his 25th company Anniversary.
I trust that Bonnie, Michelle, & Charlie will be OK continuing on Mike’s vision & legacy in Blue River as I know his management team are keen to keep his legacy alive with the finest skiing in the world.
One item I will never forget was one breakfast meeting we had in Banff we were setting up a conference & he turned to me in horror, to say where is my large day timer? I said you didn’t have it with you when you came into the restaurant. We both ran outside & down the street & behold there was the day timer on the roof of his car covered with 8 inches of beautiful powder snow, so fitting.
Bless you Mike for all your kindness & education over the years I will never forget you as a dear friend & collogue. Until we meet again- Hunter

Of my 6 or 8 trips to Blue River, I have one vivid memory of Mike. About 10 years ago, I was just entering the checkin chalet when this beautiful woman was exiting and behind her also exiting was Mike. He stopped me and exclaimed that he had done a good job of hiring his social chairman as he said I didn't even notice him!! Many fond memories.

Dear Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie, and the entire MW family
It is with great sadness that I am hearing about Mike’s passing. But within the sadness, I am simply in awe about what Mike has accomplished and how many people he has touched, both directly and indirectly. His passion for the mountains and powder skiing were infectious, and his dedication to improving avalanche safety was exemplary. His vision for how researchers and practitioners can benefit from each other and his support of Bruce Jamieson’s avalanche research program at the University of Calgary were critical for making Canada a world leader in avalanche safety. I felt very honored and fortunate that Mike decided to support our new avalanche risk management research program at Simon Fraser University. His endorsement and financial support were crucial for getting our program off the ground. It would simply not have been possible without him. The creation of the Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association Fund seems the perfect fit for honoring Mike’s passion and continuing his vision of enabling everybody to experience and enjoy the wonderful mountains in a safe manner.
Please accept my deepest condolences. I hope that the countless amazing memories and the love and support you have from the extended Mike Wiegele family is giving everybody the support they need during this difficult time.
Pascal Haegeli

Love and Hugs to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie, all the Shubins, Browns, extended family, MWHS family, and Blue River community. Mike touched so many lives with his dream, I feel so privileged to have been a part of this operation with him at the helm. As mentioned here multiple times, his deep love for the mountains, snow, skiing, and just mountain life drove his whole life. But I will also remember his impeccable standard for safety. It was even more important to him than chasing the best powder. He always, always had the safety of guests, guides, and staff at the forefront of all his decisions and teaching of all of us. He created the MWHS doctor program, which has allowed me to participate in this amazing world! That precise standard of safety will continue, as his high expectations have created the most skilled and diligent team on the planet. The next time you are experiencing perfect, unbelievable powder, think to yourself, "Mike Wiegele created this opportunity for me, and he would love this run!" Thanks, Mike. We miss you. Enjoy those puffy cloud moguls in powder heaven. :)

We may have lost the ski world’s foremost dreamer, visionary, and passionate lover of the mountains and powder but, his legacy, the thing those dreams built, MWHS lives on. It has been a privilege to have spent so many weeks in Blue River and to have skied with Mike. Condolences to all

My condolences to Mike’s family. We have lost a great pioneer and legend! Mike taught me hard lessons in business which I have learned and grown from. Rest In Peace Mike. You have left an amazing legacy and grateful to have experienced a day of Heli-skiing that changed my life!

My sincere condolences to this sad loss!
I met Mike, Bonnie and Michelle the first time like 25 years ago, when they visited, my then home “Arlberg Hospiz Hotel”. My former husband came over to Canada to ski a few years after that, I went twice afterwards. Mike came to visit almost once a year and also stayed in my place Goldener Berg. Both weeks I skied in Blue river where and are still within the greatest times of my life! What a blast, what a beauty to be out there in this awesome nature, with all that skiing. The people I went with the first time – some 20 years ago – are still my great friends. We bonded. During the first week Mike skied with us and all these memories will stay with me forever. I am so thankful to have known him well – I would say, we were friends. We both shared the same love: let’s go skiing.
I bow my head for everything he achieved in his life – it was a good and thriving life. I am thankful for my wonderful moments with you all in Blue River and thankful for the wonderful times we shared in Austria.
I am sending strengths to his family and good friends – he will be greatly missed. I will keep him in my heart as a man, who loved life, loved skiing and the outdoors, who was adventurous and had new ideas all the time. Dear Mike – have a great journey home, I hope you are surfing on your best Atomics!
From my heart Daniela Pfefferkorn

It always surprised me that Mike knew how much I loved skiing from the first time I met him. He emitted
a gravitational pull that brought you straight to the core of the pleasure skiing. This was rare in my experience.
My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and the entire Wiegele family.

To know when I visit Blue River yearly , I will never see Mike again, is heart breaking.

He was ALWAYS GOOD TO ME. Working there for a few years...seeing his never ending passion for life taught me so much, as a young lady at that time. Forever , I share the Story of how he caught me smoking out of my rented room at the Saddle one night and said to me.... "You smoke!? You have to quit now! He said pick a date and quit that day and never look back" so I picked a special day and quit a month later. After 10 years of smoking. Mike then mountain biked with me the following Spring and smiled the entire time while I got rid of flem and struggled , but eventually made it to the top of our destination with him and a few other friends. Mike never stopped smiling. I will cherish forever how he changed my life for the healthier. Love and care to Michelle, And Bonnie. Grateful for my years in Blue River, Forever

I had the incredible opportunity to experience the Wiegele magic twice, once with my dad and brother and once with my husband. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to meet Mike and Bonnie. I will never forget the day when he joined me and a few others for lunch in the lodge after we decided to ski a half day. He told wonderful stories of "the old days" and you could just see in his eyes and hear in his words that he had such a love for life and adventure. He was one of a kind.

Mike hired me in 1979, I was 18, to work as a ski mechanic at Qwik-Rent-a-Ski
in the basement of the Mount Royal Hotel in Banff.
In early February, he offered me $100 to drive to Blue River for a week
to help out in the ski shop there.
I skied half a day, every day for the whole week!
This was life changing for me as I soon began training to become a helicopter pilot.
My condolences to Mike's family, small and large.
I see Mike, with his snorkel, making endless turns now.
Love, Tom

We had the most memorable trip to Blue River a few years ago. The hospitality was incredible and we met Mike. His passion for powder, hosting skiers and log cabins was infectious. Thanks for everything you have done for the skiing world, RIP Mike ❤️

My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, and Charley. You will be in my prayers. He was a great man.

I first heard of MW heli skiing at the start of my 2nd year skiing at a Warren Miller ski film in Kamloops at the Sage Brush theater. That was. 40 seasons ago. I have still not quit my job and sold my house but it is still on my bucket list. Condolences on the great loss but happy to hear the adventure continues.

Dear Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie, the MW Guides, and all the MW Employees -
Please accept my heartfelt condolences. I was so sad to hear of Mike's passing. He was a legend, not only for his commitment to powder skiing and customer service, but also his commitment to avalanche safety. The avalanche industry is indebted to Mike for his tireless support of avalanche research, in particular his support of Bruce Jamieson's research program through several decades. I was fortunate enough to be included in several of Mike's "avalanche researcher ski weeks", where he brought avalanche researchers together to interact with his guides and his guests, create bonds between each other to further future research collaborations, and to ski. These weeks have been amazing opportunities for both fun and collaboration, and I'm grateful to Mike for his vision, friendship, and generosity. And, I'm happy and grateful to see that Mike's passion for avalanche knowledge and research will continue into the future with the Mike Wiegele Avalanche Association Fund.
Karl Birkeland

So sad! I have been coming regularly for 22 years and always enjoyed Mike! My condolences to all of you in the world that had the opportunity to share some time with Mike!
Let's go skiing!

Paul Rosow

I have wonderful long-lasting memories of Mike, Bonnie and Michele. From living in their basement suite, to teaching gymnastics in the high school with Bonnie, coaching young skiers with the Quickies on Norquay and getting the occasional free heli-ski day from Mike which made life extraordinary. Mike was a big presence in ski history and left a lasting impression on my life. He will be missed. My sincere condolences go out to Bonnie, Michele and the whole Wiegele family.
x Weedie

Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie, Members of the Wiegele Team:

On behalf of KPMG, our deepest condolences on the passing of Mike. We are fortunate in our business to cross paths with many entrepreneurial business leaders, but Mike was special in this regard. The deep well of optimism he possessed about the ability to persevere and get things done that most people could not envision was incredible. I do not think the word "can't" was in Mike's vocabulary. His accomplishments in the ski industry and his awards speak volumes about his dedication to the sport and the development of the industry. Wiegele World is a very special place and it will be for many years to come for all those that love the best skiing in the world.........

Starr Carson, KPMG.