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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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Condolences

My deepest condolences for the Wiegele family and for the Wiegele team. The incredible leadership and vision of Mike Wiegele, an extraordinary man has forever had a positive impact on the travel and mountain experiences in British Columbia. The excellency and passion that has set the bar for so many hospitality and alpine experiences can be attributed to the vision and contribution of Mike Wiegele and his team. I remember so fondly his hospitality. Rest in Peace.

My condolences to the family of Mike Wiegele. Although I never met him, I know that Mike made numerous contributions to the skiing and mountaineering worlds of Canada and was one of the numerous immigrants from Austria who have made a difference here in their adopted land. Herzliches Beileid.

Dear Bonnie and Michelle, my sincere condolences on the death of your beloved husband and father. I was Michelle’s kindergarten teacher in Banff, and Bonnie supported us by offering gymnastics classes for our class at the school. I would walk the children from the Anglican Church hall over the the school, where Bonnie met us and coached the children on the trampoline and ropes and other apparatus. I was so grateful to you for volunteering your precious time and talents, Bonnie.
Over the winter, Michelle would be absent a few times, for a week at a time. When she returned, I remember her coming in to kindergarten and telling me “Ms. Moffatt, the powder was up to here!”as she stretched out her arms, to indicate the shoulder-high powder she’d been skiing in.
I knew then that you were living your Dad’s motto: “Let’s go skiing” May he Rest In Peace.
XX
Ms. Moffatt (Hope)

With the passing of Mike Wiegele the ski family has lost a pioneer in skiing, a successful entrepreneur and a valued friend who dedicated his life skiing. He was not only the symbol for Heliskiing but also a visionary regarding safety in snow. We were very sad to hear the sudden news about Mike’s passing and all our thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace!

Peter Schröcksnadel and the Austrian Ski Team

BONNIE, Michele & Charlie

Mike always had time to say hello and ask how I was doing .
I will always appreciate and remember him for taking the time to show interest in our lives .
Anne and I are thinking of yourselves and send our love
Tony Camisso & Anne Douglas

Thank you Mike and family for everything you have done for my family. I can brag about my amazing childhood (now a powder snob after early exposure to what real powder can be) thanks to Mike hiring my dad and moving us to Blue. My first job was belltbus boy working at Weigele world and employed our whole family at one point. The memories and experiences will last forever. Rest in powder

My sincerest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie & the Wiegele World Family. I had the pleasure of working at the resort for a long time and have met many amazing people that I still keep in contact with today. The many memorable experiences I will cherish for the rest of my life. Many prayers and hugs. Maria Duncan

Mike Wiegele’s was my first big mountain heli-ski experience. And it was my best. Thank you Mike. Condolences to the Wiegele family & team.

Kind regards
Bill Booth

Dear Bonnie and Michelle - I was saddened to hear that Mike had passed away. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

So sorry to hear about Mike's passing. I was lucky enough to meet Mike and spend some time at his resort back in 2000! Sending big sympathy to Bonnie and his family.

Mike was so kind to me as a young ski pro in Banff in the 70’s.

My first ever video session was with him and Hubert Oitzl on the Sunny T Bar at Lake Louise. It was a heavy reel to reel recorder with a b/w camera. Based on what they saw they said I was ready for the CSI. I took it that spring and only passed after Hubert intervened during the marking. When that was going on I was out skiing on Strawberry face, Mike was riding up the t-bar; he watched me ski and came up to me to say I was the best skier on the hill. Wow. Encouraged? Amazing.

Working at Kwik Rent-a-Ski I watched him get his short (195 cm) Fischer C4’s ready for the Molstar pacesetter race at Paskapoo. He told me with it being so icy there he was putting a burr on his edges (using the blade of a screwdriver). He won that race against much younger guys.

Skiing with him under the Eagle Chair at Lake Louise he jumped into a snow bank, butt first. It was the fun, the joy above all.

I was lucky to work with Bonnie at the Banff Springs ski school where Hubert was our boss. We had a lot of fun there and I am sure our colleagues Richard and Pat LANGEVIN, Maja Beck and Peter Hornung would join me to send Bonnie and family and everyone at MWHS our most sincere condolences.
RIP Mike.

Rob Butler

Our sincere condolences, we shall be missing Mike who was part of our Blue River stays for our entire family for so many years. Elke and Uwe, Christoph and Claudia and families

Condolences to the Wiegele family. Mike had such an amazing passion for mountain safety. He was never satisfied with the state of knowledge and always pushed for more knowledge and understanding. He made a lasting impact on many industries and on all the people he met in life. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with and to know Mike. Great man.

Those of us who were lucky enough to spend some time in Mike's world were fortunate indeed. The dreamer made the impossible possible with adventures shared in a wonderland of white light snow and warm hospitality. The helicopters will continue to provide flights of fantasy over the majestic Canadian mountains revealing promises of deep power turns envisioned in our wildest wish lists...turned into reality by the dreamer, Mike Wiegele.
Mike gathered talent beginning with Bonnie and then staff, management, guides and welcomed guests who have become friends. All extended family.
Mike told the following story word for word: " I wanted to grow the business slowly because I needed to learn. We were all learning back then. Helicopter skiing was a new area of exploration. It was a daring business adventure. It required an entirely new set of skills for the whole Canadian wilderness guiding profession. I had to balance growth with gaining experience. I wanted to walk the land, every mile of it, to become intimate, accepted and in harmony with the environment. It all took time. There were no shortcuts. I had to grow slowly to build the necessary strengths so that we could believe in our competence to provide a safe and exciting experience for our guests...each and every one of them."
Bonnie adds with pragmatic patience: " Do what you say you will do, and finish what you start".
Mike's passing is only the end of the beginning. Mike will be so missed by so many but if we remember his words, the dreamer's dream will grow. Mike's passionate dream has not been extinguished but simply passed on.

Mein Aufrichtiges Beileid der Familie und Team.
Toller Traum, tolle Erinnerungen.

When I first flew Mike and Bonnie back in the early 70's with a Bell 47G3B1, I never dreamed Mike would accomplish so much.
My heart goes out to the Wiegele family for their loss.

Very sad day in many hearts. Mike was one of a kind and will be remembered with smiles.
Condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and the whole Wiegele team.
Let’s go skiing!!

My sincere condolences to the Wiegele family and the entire team at Mike Wiegele’s Heliskiing. I very much enjoyed chatting with Mike every time I visited the lodge, and his passion for skiing and how he loved to share it with his guests was inspiring. He made everyone feel like part of the family whenever you were in Blue River. Mike will be missed and his legacy will continue.

My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie on your loss along with the rest of the extended Wiegele family. A very sad day indeed. We are all on this earth for a relatively short period of time but the memories we make have an impact on those we love and come in contact with every day. Bonnie, you and Mike built something very special in your lifetime that you should be truly proud of. Mike was a legend in his life time and I hope all the great memories you made together will make you smile and soften the blow of his loss. His life is one to be truly celebrated.

Going heliskiing was a life long goal of mine. I finally went with a group of friends in 2005 for my 50th birthday. Not only did I fall in love with the experience, I met people at Wiegeles that have become life long friends. Please find below a tribute I posted on Facebook about my "Wiegeles Experience." An experience that you and the entire Wiegele family, and extended family, have perfected.

"Not every year...but as much as possible, there are four of us (Trond, Xaver, Eddie and Ron) that meet up and share our passion for off piste skiing. Mike Wiegeles based in Blue River, British Columbia provides the venue that makes this possible.

Since 1970, Mike (now in his eighties and still skiing) has had a loyal following of hard core powder skiers that make their annual trek to Blue River. It is not unusual to run into people from all over the world, who have come to Mike Wiegeles every year for 25+ years. Once here, it is not hard to understand why.

The MW’s staff is over the top friendly and accommodating, the food and facilities are first class and of course, as far as your eye can see is Mike’s winter playground with some of the best powder skiing in the world....and there are no lift lines! The vistas you see from the top of the Cariboos and Monashee mountain ranges, located on either side of Blue River, are simply breathtaking.

Powder skiing is always a treat and exhilarating...the closest thing to flying on earth. Whether you are skiing the protected snow found in a pristine forest area or diving into your next turn on a wide open piste in the high alpine, for a serious skier, it doesn’t get any better than this. However, what really makes it special, is being with a group of people who share your passion for skiing.

I look forward to skiing with you again soon."

I am deeply sorry for your loss Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie. It is hard to put into words the admiration and respect I have for Mike. Meeting him and your family over 10 years ago was an incredible experience, and working with him over the past decade has been a humbling yet extraordinary experience. I always admired his passion and vision, respected his thoughts and plans, and serving Mike and the family has been, and continues to be, a true honor. Mike will be sorely missed. My thoughts go out to the family and his extended family at the resort and around the world. As we all know, he treated us all like family, and I will never forget his kindness and generosity as an incredible host whenever we visited. A true legend.

I was given a trip to “Wiegle” as a 50th birthday present a couple of decades ago and to this day it remains as one of my most memorable life experiences. It is Mike’s vision that made it possible and I will be forever grateful.

My condolences to Mike's family, friends and colleagues at MWHS. Mike's passion for skiing and the mountains was almost tangible, he was so generous in sharing it with all. Working with Mike was an adventure like no other, and I will always keep great memories of him. Let's go skiing!
-MC

My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle, Charlie and the whole extended MW family!
I first met Mike in 1970 on a ski trip to Banff Lake Louise early in my career as a ski instructor. I had worked in the Tremblant area at Gray Rocks in the late 60's and had heard of Mike! Over my career I met Mike many times at industry association meetings! In the middle of my career Mike offered me an opportunity to come and work for MW, he supported me through the guides training and put me to work, it was only a few years but memorable and I will be forever grateful! Mike was a visionary and passionate not only about skiing but also the best possible guest experience! Mike was also very generous to many and I know for myself I appreciated that!
RIP Mike, ski strong!

Mike war eine beeindruckende Persönlichkeit! Die Gespräche mit Ihm haben mir viel auf den Weg mitgegeben! Mein Mitgefühl gilt seiner Familie und den engsten Vertrauten im Team in Blue River die mit Ihm Mike Wiegele Heli Ski groß gemacht haben.

We will always remember Mike as a true mentor to so many skiers and we were very fortunate to have benefited from his mentorship! Our sincere sympathies from the entire Vogel Family. We will always remember Mike anytime we are skiing in the mountains.
Regards Ken, Beckie, Marcus and Tristin Vogel

Thoughts are with you Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie.
So many fond memories and what an inspiration Mike was/is.

Ian Locke
Collingwood, On

It was an honor and privilege to ski with Mike, a man with a vision and a dream who lived life to its to his fullest. His effortless way of skiing and his perpetual grin and demeanor in the Mountains are an inspiration.
Deepest condolences to the family.

My condolences to the Wiegele family. In spite of the moment’s sorrow, I am so grateful for Mike's passion that I got to experience firsthand. I am a lifelong skier and will celebrate Mike, he embodied the spirit of the sport.. I am blessed to have briefly met him yet he touched me deeply. I am thankful for Mike Wiegele. God bless the Wiegele family.

RIP Mike and thank you for the great oportunity to explore the Mountains in powder.
Deepest sympathy to the family
from Bernd (Innsbruck/Tirol)

I have never forgotten Mike's kindness, generosity and great smile while working for Bonnie in Banff all those many years ago. Him coming into the shop while running errands in town and just saying "hi". My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and the Blue River Family.

I am sorry to hear that. My husband has been skiing wirh you 2 times and met Mike Wiegele then. What a personality he was. RIP. 💙💜Condolanses from Norway

My condolences to family and friends.
My dream throughout my working life was to go heliskiing. When I retired I was able to fulfil this in 2014 at Blue River. The set-up was superb, the support from the crew fabulous and, the one time that I met Mike, he engaged and focused in such a way that I felt I was the only person in the room. That week was special and remains in my memory. Vision, leadership skills, drive and organisational ability are rarely found to such a high degree in one person - I count myself privileged to have met this individual who gave so many of us access to the thrills of our lifetime.

Mike, there will never be another one like you - you are a true legend. You have created and build an empire from the bottom up...your spirit, your passion and your determination to share with the world the best skiing, made you the man of the mountains...Let's go skiing! A little yodel as you descended those magnificent peaks...you were the happiest guy on earth! Thank you Mike for the wonderful years you gave me working along with you and the MWHS team. You will be missed, now go find that powder up in heaven...My condolences to you Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie.

Dear Bonnie and Michelle
My deepest condolences
He is a lengend for ever
Been greatful to have skied with him
Anette Bøe
Oslo Norway

This is what I know of Mike and his passion for Skiing. I am not going to get this story exactly right but I think I am allowed to use a little poetic license for the story.
When Mike fist came to Canada, he had an Uncle that was already living here who had asked my Dad if he could help his nephew with a job. So I believe my dad was the first to hire him at was then Superior Components - a cabinet making business. He showed up one Monday morning to hang doors and cabinets in a house and when my dad showed up at the end of the day most of the cabinets were hung upside down. It did not take long to figure out that Mike had been skiing on the weekend, hit his head in a fall and had a concussion. It was not long after, that Mike knew what his purpose in life was. That first job in Canada left Otto and Mike as long time friends and in 2007 I actually took Otto Heli skiing for his 80th birthday at MW.
Mike's spirit will live on beyond his passing, the Canadian Rockies and Skiing are all better for having him shape this corner of the world.
Reto and the entire Steiner Family

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of my old friend and Austrian skiing collegue Mike Wiegele. I never will forget the beautiful time we spent together in Blue River or also here in Altenmarkt at our Atomic Ski Factory. Mike was one iof the biggest entrepreneurs and Innovators in skiing - for that we will be thankful forever.
Atomic and myself will have him in our thought and prayers.
We will miss you, Mike.
With deep regrets
Wolfgang and the Atomic Family

I have lost a Bruder and a teacher and guide . Bonnie I am sorry for your loss.Mike was a unique man with an insightful vision. He cannot be replaced but his legacy will live on in all his students .

Wir bedauern den Trauerfall und wünschen der Familie viel Kraft.
Mike kann uns jetzt von oben zuschauen.

The ski world has lost one of its finest.
To me, he was a rock, a monument, an inspiration.
And what a life!
So many happy memories.
I will miss you Mike.
Long live the MW legend.

Our deepest Condolences from the Ötztal Valley, Sölden, Obergurgl to the Mike´s family and the team of blue river. It was a dream to ski there and a great honour to visit the legendary Mike at this spot. Thanks for all.
Oliver

I'm sorry he's gone. He didn't care about how rich or important people were, or what they rode. He was simply happy to share the privilege with others who recognized it for what it is.

Ich möchte meine aufrichtige Anteilnahme mitteilen und mich bei Mike für die traumhafen Runs bedanken.
Mike war eine ganz große Persönlichkeit.

What an amazing life to celebrate, and a tremendous legacy to give to the world. He was a man that loved to connect people and will be missed by many. I am glad his vision will continue through his wonderful family at MWHS. My sincere condolences for your loss.

Unser aufrichtiges Beileid und liebe letzte Grüße aus deiner alten Heimat.
Deine Cousine Renate mit Familie

Thank you Mike for your smiles , passion and love of water in all forms. Ski on, surf on,
Trevor

Thanks for the great experiences and legacy. On slope, eyes on for ever.