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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

Elias Ortner

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So sorry to hear about the loss of Mike. He was a legend and a gentleman.
Rest In Peace.

I first met Mike in ‘77 while shooting for Powder Mag with editor Dave Moe. I am forever grateful for the opportunities Mike gave me with photography and I remember fondly skiing with both Mike and Norbert in the early years. Mike, you are missed and loved.

Dear Bonnie, Dear Michelle and Family.
I would like to express my deep sorrow at the death of a great person and friend. I wish you much strength in these difficult days. Please continue Mike's life's work in his spirit. Stay save!

It is always hard when we lose a giant like Mike. I’ve spent my entire adult life, 23 years, working in the ski and avalanche industry. It was my childhood goal to work in the mountains on skis. Mike Wiegele was a person who guided those goals, he helped lay the groundwork for industry professionals by expanding and sharing his great knowledge of working in avalanche terrain. It was dream come true when I had the chance to train and guide for a week at MWHS. When I saw Mike’s operation I was truly impressed. MWHS operates with the highest of standards in avalanche forecasting and safety. As an avalanche community we owe so much to Mike and his operation. I am saddened at his passing, but I am at ease to know that he led a productive and fruitful life and that his legacy will live on forever. Enjoy your endless powder run Mike!

Dear Wiegele family,

Our condolences from Georg from Carinthia with the Shirley, Lorenz and Juluis families.
Mike will always be remembered. He was a warm person and an excellent entrepreneur.

best regards

Legendary would be an apt description of Mike.
When I arrived in Banff in 1980, my one year sabbatical somehow turned into seven of the most fun filled years of my life.
My first winter I worked at Mike and Bonnie's Quik Rent-a-Ski operation, processing tourists who, at the end of the day would return with two left boots, mismatched skis and poles and harrowing tales of their experiences on the bunny runs.
To this day, I don't remember laughing so hard as after one dinner with Mike and a group from the Banff Springs Tennis Club at Storm Mountain Lodge.
Mike was at the center of attention, telling stories that got better every time you heard them.
This all culminated with a game of 'Ha Ha' where everyone lay on the floor, with their head on someone's stomach and tried to control the number of times they laughed.
Mike was a natural leader who was comfortable in any situation, serious or fun, and while he might have seemed a bit quirky when you met him, he always left you with a smile and a bit of wonderment.
The world was a better place with Mike, for sure.

In 1983, my then girlfriend and I from Calgary picked up a deal to go spring skiing in Austria. Our guides in Austria were excited to have Canadians as guests because of two things: 1) the success the Crazy Canucks had experienced at the Hahnenkamm (the regular question was do you know Ken Read…?) and, (2) have you been skiing with Mike Wiegele in Blue River? Everyone involved in these little Austrian villages had the dream of skiing the Canadian Rockies with Mike’s operation.
Some years later we met Mike’s nephew, Gord, and his group of soccer buddies. Several of Gord’s friends went out and worked summers on the lodge and other facilities at Blue River. They all came back talking about what an incredible couple Gord’s Uncle and Aunt were and how beautiful the location was for the heli operation.
Have yet to ski with the company and old knees are telling me it’s unlikely to happen soon. Just wanted to pass along our condolences and advise how far reaching and positive the influence of Mike’s life was for so many people!
Bob and Susi Greaves

It was a tremendous privilege having been your guests at home - we will never forget it. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Bonnie and the family. Pfiati Mike - Ruhe in Frieden...

In the early nineties, I sought out Mike at the ISSW for advice on my Heliski operation in Sun Valley, Idaho. I felt very honored that he took a great deal of time to listen and share his vast experience. I felt very special when he invited me to Blue River the next season. I have been blessed to be able to return many times and over the decades, Mike remained a mentor and friend. I learned that he applied his skill as a mountain guide to everything he did and all his relationships. His joy in sharing these skills was infectious, he was a true leader. He made a difference in literally thousands of lives. Golf had Arnold Palmer, and helicopter skiing had Mike Wiegele. One of the last winters I was with him, he was recovering from his latest surgery and just cross country skiing around Blue River. Very quietly he said it was all about “that feeling of gliding on snow”. I am sure that’s what he’s doing now. Glide on, Mike, we’ll miss you.

I still smile when I remember this day when my son asked me if I wanted to go with him to drop off groceries/ supplies a job he had at that time. Long story short Mike asks us to stay for lunch, have some wine (which of course my son couldn't as he was driving). Anyways Mike made us feel so welcome, was all smiles etc. With fondest memories, condolences to his wife, daughter and grandson.

My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and the MWHS team. Thank you Mike for what you created for us in Blue River. My annual pilgrimage to MWHS makes my live a huge piece more worth living. See you at the helipad someday. Xaver Obermeier, Bavaria

It was a great year for me having worked hard, and with considerable luck also, managed to end up with enough savings to join some others on the trip of a lifetime. My skiing-partner and I joined a group of other friends and also took great interest in the avalanche science side as we are high-altitude medics ourselves.

After driving from Vancouver , staying a night in a motel where the view from our window was half a kilo-meter long 10 m wall of logged trees, where Predator was filmed, deep into the Canadian mountains, 8 hours beyond Hope, we arrived in Blue River. There are may trips to the mountains that will be felt as a great week but little detail will you ever remember. BlueRiver and Mike we will never forget.

THANK YOU MIKE and all those at Blue River.

I wish the family peace at solace at this difficult time.


"Ecki, one eight!"
"An Ochta zum Helicopter, gscheada Weana!"
This was Mike and me talking on Kitchen Wall, when we the very first time tried out the Fat Boys from Atomic.
The Heli sitting deep on the Lake, Mike startet to the right, I to the left. Skiing a huge highspeedturn till we met in the middle! Mike, with a glim in his eyes thought: I am the pro, I do not brake. I thought: I am the Guest, I do not brake! So he crossed my skitails, i felt his airpreassure in my back. Down at the heli we felt in our arms....und das mach ich auch jetzt.

I was privileged to meet Mike during my week long Blue River skiing adventure a few years back. It was the realisation of a long yearned dream after attending so many of Warren Miller’s annual ski movies down here in Australia, which showed the wonder and glamour of Heli skiing at the Mike Wiegele Blue River resort. Year after year my friends and I would discuss and explore going to Blue River, until one year I did take Warren’s advice and booked it before I became another year older 😊.
It was the best experience of my life and I also got to meet and have a photo opportunity with Mike. I showed it back here at home to Larry Adler, who recounted some of the stories and experiences the 2 had together during the early ‘romantic age’ of skiing.
My deepest sympathies to the many family and friends. He lived his dream and made many dreams and wished come true to so many of us, so for that the world and myself own him a great debt.
I hope to be back to Blue River sometime soon, and while it wont be the same knowing Mike won’t be there, I’m sure his spirit will always wonder among the trails and the trees.
Rest In Peace Mike …

Mike was in love with Snowsports and all of those who participated in it.
His influence on ski Racing, Athlete development across Canada was/is unparalleled.
His support for Canadian racers was also unparalleled.
The Canadian Snowsports Association extends its heart felt condolences to Bonnie, his family, staff and the hundreds and hundreds of friends Mike had all over the world. Mike was truly one of a kind.

A legend doesn’t die, he just skis off into the sunset. Take a run for me, Mike.

My old hero, Mike Wiegele!
My family moved to Blue River when I was 10 years old, and I thought the absolute world of him. I remember riding around the resort on my bike as a boy, and always running into Mike as I cruised around. And every time I would stop and salute him, and he would salute me right back. I thought that was the coolest thing.
Growing up in Blue River had its advantages, like going up heli skiing with your school friends every Saturday! I still tell this story to people on occasion and nobody can believe it. It was such amazing generosity from Mike to the town locals.
After I graduated high school I entered Mike’s guide training program and became I certified Tail Guide! My dreams had come true, and I was now out in the mountains and learning alongside my hero Mike, and the other senior Guides who were also heroes of mine.
I have spent the past few days thinking of Mike and how lucky I was to have had the opportunities he gave me. I will always be grateful for that and I will never forget my amazing memories in the mountains of Blue River.
My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and all the rest of Mike’s extensive list of friends and family.
I salute you sir!
Peter Greenway Jr.

With the passing of this fine man I once knew. May he be at peace. When We lived in Palos Verdes with my step Father Warren Miller, and he stayed with us for a few days. I remember the time we went running at Torrance Beach with me way back in the early 80s. He ran a few steps and stopped and bent down and picked up a something, l couldn't tell what it was just then. He looks around and puts it in his pocket quietly, and he kept on running and stopping just like before about four more times and he comes up to me all sly like and shows me five hundred bucks! He just found while he was running off coastline in the sand. I was like, "Wow man, that like is insane Mike." Wish I had his luck. May your family find joy that you spent your life making yourself a humble legend. Rest easy, We Have the watch now!

As a ski instructor in the European Alps, I knew about an Austrian who build a heli skiing village somewhere in Canada. As off-piste skiing was my favorite, heli skiing would be the ultimate. So there was a great motivation to emigrate to Canada, in pursuit to that Austrian named Mike Wiegele, trying to get a foot in the a Belgian!
Fast forward....after 4 years of Canadian guiding, avalanche and first aid courses, I got myself a spot for a practicum with the MW operation. Little did I now that I was going to tail guide with the legend himself that day. I was pumped.
We got a good connection and Mike invited me to the team.
I never looked back from there on as I knew I was in the best heli ski operation world wide. Mike attention to detail, his commitment to be the safest operation out there and his passion for skiing and guest care was a great example of how to do things right.
I learned so much from Mike, his excellent team of experienced and well trained guides and eventually became one of them.
Being out with Mike was always an adventure as he new those 'old school' lines that other guides not ventured into.

I'm so privileged to have called Mike my boss for 16 winters. I will never forget that I took Mike out for his 'end of the day Saddle mountain run" in 2020. It turned out to be one of his last heli ski outings.

Bonnie, Michelle, family and friends, as we share Mikes loss, we also celebrate his life. Remarkable.

Thanks Boss

Willy Rens

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all as you journey down this difficult path of grief. We remember fondly the many years that Mike opened the lodge up for the pastors and delegates from the Canadian Pacific District of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. His generosity allowed these guests to enjoy the natural beauty of the lodge and area, the professional staff and wonderful meals at a time when we all needed to renew and refresh. It was our privilege and blessing to meet Mike and his staff and our prayers extend to the Wiegele family, and to the larger family who will continue his legacy.

Sorry to hear of your loss. My fondest memory of Mike was the very first time I came up to ski Blue River. We where 2 young ski bums with a credit card and dreams as we toured BC in the spring of 1991 with the Powder Magazine list of heli and snowcat ops, and we called them all looking for a deal. We arranged for a stand-by and came on up to fabulous spring powder skiing. They asked if we wanted to stay for dinner ($20/ea extra) and we agreed. They sat us at Mike's table where he regaled us with story after story and bottle after bottle of wine. Such a class act, he will be missed!

Heli skied in the 70 always on my bucket list be before I leave this world back with Wiegeles Your dream is alway with you all RIP

My deepest condolences and love to Bonnie, Michelle & Charlie. I am so very sad to lose a dear friend of mine and Juris’s. ❤️. More later

Thank You Mike for giving me my start as a ski guide I am still doing it 25 years later because of you. My sincere condolences to the family. The ski industry has suffered a huge loss.

Visited the resort in 2001 and enjoyed it immensely! I knew Mike was a man of the people when he helped load suitcases into our bus upon leaving. Only brilliant leaders do that…without a second thought. Proud to have met him.

Mike’s friendship with Ralph’s father, Hunter Fitzgerald, has had a lasting effect on Ralph and our family.
Our deepest condolences and thanks for the memories shared by the Wiegele and Fitzgerald families.

To Bonnie and Michelle It is with such sadness that we learn of Mike's passing. Our association with the Banff Quikies was from the early 80's when our kids were put into lessons at Norquay. Tina, Mike and Ania went through the ranks ..... Quikies, BAR, Alberta Team and Ania in CAST.
He will be missed. Sending you all our love from Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Barry and Marta and our kids Tina, Mike and Ania

Mike became my friend when he moved to Blue River in 1974 with his heli ski vision and amazing ideas. At the time I thought he was crazy to helicopter skiers to the mountain slopes but I was wrong! I'm older than Mike and truly saddened to lose a friend who was so wise and caring and visionary. He knew I was born in Blue River and often kidded me about that..
He never stopped looking for new runs that could be developed and if we were driving or in a helicopter he would say "Can't you log on this slope? It would make such a great run!"
He has left a legacy of a first class operation and set the highest standards of safety. He will also be remembered for his generosity to the community of Blue River. Our family was fortunate to experience his unforgettable hospitality in both summer and winter.
In June of 2020, with Covid in full swing, my wife Barbara and I took a picnic lunch to the resort and ate with Mike by Lake Eleanor. He walked around his "happy place" and still pointed to the mountains around us, talking about what a great run he could see that would be perfect for young folks. We treasure the memory of the last time we saw him.
Rest in peace above the those mountains Mike. Our hearts go out to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie and the MWHS team
Carman and Barb Smith and family, Barriere BC

I have known Mike since I first met him in April of 1990. I had just gotten off the shuttle bus and had walked into than main lobby of the lodge. As I was coming through the main doors, I instantly recognized Mike, from pictures I’d seen in ski magazines and the Wiegele brochures. Mike came up to me and put his hand out to shake mine. I was impressed and felt welcome as he asked me questions about where I was from and what kind of skier I was. I went on to know Mike better and have skied many days with him. We are very good friends and I feel honored to have skied with him so many times. Mike and I would over the years spend countless hours discussing all sorts of avalanche related subjects. He eventually got me to agree that the "Considerable" avalanche danger rating is useless and confusing.
Mike was not only a world famous heliski guide, skier, businessman. He is my friend, mentor, fellow snow nerd and a lot of ways my hero. He was one of the original heliski inventors. I am so happy that he counted me as one of his good friends. It is hard to believe the millions of vertical feet of skiing Mike has skied. I can only aspire to doing a fraction of what he has accomplished and done.
My heart and deepest condolences go out to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie. I will deeply miss Mike and especially his surprise out of the blue phone calls to me. There are soo many stories and memories that center around Mike. I wish we could do it allover again.

On a trip to Blue River, there was a father and son in my group. The father's brother was supposed to be on the trip, but passed. They brought his remains and Mike took them to a peak, after the ski day, where they could scatter his ashes. That is the kind of passion that Mike showed for his clients. Mark Kalisch

What a story, what a life, what an achievement of a very special man! Skiers all over the world have in the past and will in the future associate heliskiing with only one name: Mike Wiegele! We are thankful for the times we were allowed to spend together skiing and having fun in Blue River and in Tyrol. Please accept our sincere condolences for Bonnie and the Wiegele family. Ruhe in Frieden Mike. The "Ellmau/Tyrol" heliskiers

Thankful for the many days I had skiing and working with Mike.
Those were shining times.
Love to Bonnie.

After 35 years of skiing with MWHS, I so much appreciate and admire all the hard work and what was accomplished by Mike , his family and leadership team. One thing never changed with Mike. His absolute love for the mountains and skiing was as strong in my last conversation with him 2 years ago , as it was In the beginning.. He set a mark in the industry that may never be rivaled - a legacy for the ages ! And he did it with an infectious love of skiing in the mountains that we will all remember …. Forever. My sincere condolences .

To Bonnie, Michelle, family and friends,
I fondly remember my time guiding in Blue River. Mike’s off the charts enthusiasm for skiing and building his dream while forging countless friendships is legendary. I’m so glad to have read recently that Mike had enjoyed skiing with his grandson Charlie. Mike was always smiling - has to have been one of the happiest people on the planet! - Living his dream, being an amazing husband, father, grandfather and friend to so many. We will all miss him! “Let’s go skiing!” 😁❤️

To Bonnie and family.Our deepest condolences to your loss of your dear Mike. We remember Mike well from our dinners in The Bavarian House and Elenor Estate and his exciting stories about the the foundation of his Heli Skiing Resort. RIP Mike

While working as a guide between 2002 and 04 you sometimes took me to Kamloops on my free day to discuss some topics during the drive and to meet up with business and friends. One day after six days of guiding, I suggested to rest instead - you convinced me with „a change is as good as a rest“ and off we drove into an inspiring day.
Thank you Mike for being such a role model, man of the Mountains and for being a driven and inspiring entrepreneur. We will always remember you.
My condolences to your family.

So sad to hear that Mike is no longer with us. Our great condolences and sympathy to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie.
We will always remember Mike fondly as the one who made it possible for us to experience the most beautiful ski runs.
Even though we only met every two or three years, Mike was a great and loyal friend to us for over 30 years.
But what stays with us most of all are many wonderful memories of powder runs we did together in the Monashee's and Caribous and wonderful evenings we spent in Blue River.
His enthusiasm for skiing has inspired all of us and every deep snow turn in the future will remind us of him and make him unforgettable for us.

Liebe Wiegele Familie und an Alle in Blue River wir wünschen euch viel Kraft und Zuversicht für die Zukunft
Euer Ferdinand Brandis und Familie

A message of solidarity and condolence to all the family and to all the MW team. There are lots of things to learn from Mike, he was a kind man.

Santi Raventós, Barcelona, Spain

It should be a once in a lifetime trip…skiing with the legendary Mike Wiegele in the Bluezone. I will never forget when I saw Mike for the first time in January 1990. Something hit me, I almost went down on my knees and I knew that I found a second home in Canada. It was Mike’s charisma were I got trapped.
There are too many memories to share them all on here, but my personal highlights always have been the four eye talks with Mike sometimes til late in the night. Whether in the Silver Buckle, Mike’s house or in the Legion, time was flying while talking about politics, business, family, skiing or just nonsens ;). Sometimes Mike told me stories about his childhood and youth and started singing an old Carinthian song which he loved, with tears in his eyes. Not to forget his favourite Chablis and delicious Austrian bacon…
Mike IS a great soul
Farewell from Bavaria

I had the privilege of taking part in the kids program on Saturdays in Blue River as my dad was a ski guide for many years. Mike spoiled the guides’ kids with gifts at Christmas and Easter and free heli skiing on weekends! Thank you for your generosity and passion Mike <3

To Bonnie and Michelle (and your extended family),
Back in the 1980s, Mike was very generous and kind to me (and to all of Mark's friends that traipsed through your Banff home). May I extend my heartfelt condolences to you both, as well as raise a toast to a life well lived.

Bonnie, and family. Our deepest sympathy, & our hearts go out to you in this time of sorrow. Cherish all the wonderful memories, take care. So sorry for your loss.

Your towering legend will be remembered always! Your generosity will be remembered even more. Thank you, Mike.

Dear Bonnie: we are so sad for your loss of your dear Mike. He was a very good friend for many years and it was always so nice to see both of you the times we did. Our sincere Condolences to you, Michelle and Charlie.