The Passing of MWHS Founder and Ski Industry Legend Mike Wiegele 1938-2021
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.
Image resources are available to download here:
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Submitted by enrique cagigas on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 01:44
My condolences to his family and to the MWHS team.
“let’s go skiing”
un fuerte abrazo a la familia de Mike y otro muy fuerte al equipo, Bob, Crosby, Sam….
Submitted by Karl-Heinz Kraft on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 01:43
My condolences to Mike's extended family. I had my best, albeit short, ski days in Blue River. Thank you Mike for making these great experiences possible. I will never forget them. I hope that even though you are no longer here, I will be able to repeat them. Rest in peace.
Submitted by Skye Adler on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 01:22
Such a sad day. Mike and my dad, Larry Adler, go way back. I've heard nothing but wonderful things over the years about Mike. What a legacy he has left for his family. My heart goes out to them x LEGEND MW
Submitted by Christian Eiterer on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 01:16
Wir haben mit dir so viele tolle und unvergessliche Schitage verbracht. Dein Humor und dein Lächeln hat uns immer begeistert. Du wirst in unseren Erinnerungen weiter leben!!!!!!
Ruhe in Frieden
Christian aus Ischgl
Submitted by Hofstätter Gerhard on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 00:58
Liebe Familie Wiegele, liebes Team MWHS,
hiermit möchten wir unser aufrichtiges Beileid aussprechen. Mike war ein Vorbild für alle jungen Sportler, er hat gezeigt das es möglich ist seinen Traum zu leben! Wir werden dich stets in Erinnerung behalten.
Deine Freunde vom Schiclub St. Michael-Koralpe
Submitted by Fischbacher No… on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 00:38
Meine ersten Erfahrungen als Guide und deine vorgegebenen Schwünge werde ich nie vergessen. Danke Mike!
Mein aufrichtiges Beileid der Fam. Wiegele
Submitted by John Crews on Fri, 07/16/2021 - 00:00
I will always remember Mike as a visionary, a passionate dreamer who saw worlds that others could not conceive of, an incredibly hard worker in pursuit of perfecting those dreams, and most importantly a gatherer of "Friends in the Mountains".
His goal and his love was to create experiences that caused thousands of people to say, "That was the best day of my life". On behalf of myself and all the others who said that to Mike; thank you, we will miss you, and we will never forget the love of the mountains that you graciously shared with us.
A special thank you to Bonnie and Michele for supporting Mike's dreams and allowing so many people to feel like part of your worldwide family.
Submitted by Valentin Schoier on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 23:50
My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie!
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of Mike.
He always had a smile and kind words when I would see him in Canada or in Austria/Carinthia!
He was a real friend of my father and me and also the whole family- the Schoier from Carinthia (Feistritz an der Gail) and Styria (Koflach)
My dad go school with him in Feistritz/Gail and this was also a reason why I will see him in Blue River by skiing in the POWDER!
May you rest in peace, my friend!
Submitted by Kurt Fuchs on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 23:21
My deepest condolences with Mike‘s family and everyone at MWHS. I feel very happy that i skied with Mike. The Powder 8‘s where the best time of my life. Thanks for all Mike. Rest in Peace!
Submitted by Shawn Medwid on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 23:10
My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and the rest of the family. That man lived for skiing. His famous 3 words were " Let's go skiing."
Submitted by Felix Jertrum on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 23:02
My deepest condolences with Mike‘s family and everyone at MWHS. I‘m so honored to have met Mike after all those wonderful stories my family told me as a kid. Thank you Mike. You created an unforgettable experience, a dream.
Submitted by Armin Assinger on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:58
Liebe Familie Wiegele,
Es war mir eine große Ehre und außerordentliche Freude, bei meinen Aufenthalten in Blue River unvergessliche Tage mit Mike verbringen zu dürfen! Er war ein großer Mann, der großes vollbracht hat, ein Mann, der seinen Traum verwirklicht hat!
Ich weiß aber auch, dass Mike dort, wo er jetzt ist, schon die besten Runs für uns, die wir das Skifahren lieben wie er und ihm irgendwann nachfolgen werden, erkunden wird.
Ich darf Bonnie mit Familie, aber auch allen langjährigen Wegbegleitern in Blue River, unser herzliches Beileid aussprechen.
Mit traurigen letzten Grüßen aus der Heimat!
Pfiat di, Mike!
Armin und Ignaz Assinger
Submitted by Sylvain Hotte on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:50
Someone so special like Mike can never be forgotten
He was a great man and lived a remarkable life
I feel so lucky that I got to know him
Please accept my deepest condolences
to the entire family
Submitted by Steve Cuff on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:46
It is very sad to hear of Mike's passing. I visited there some years ago heliskiing, and the service and operation at Blue River was next level. To the people I know who worked at Mike's operation as guides, I know they, live everyone who had skied there and knew Mike will be devastated.
Mike was such an inspiration in the snow industry to have started and run a very successful heliski operation for all those decades. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. I am sure everyone in Australia will put in a few extra turns in the powder when they can.
Submitted by Tony & Olivia … on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:44
What a legend. What an inspiration. What a life! We will miss you Mike.
Submitted by Chris Wyniarsky on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:42
I worked at MWHS from 2004-2010 and loved every moment of it. I have so many memories of being guided and skiing along side mike throughout those many years. Every day was like being around family and that atmosphere was one that Mike created. Friends i have made there carried me a time through Europe and onto many other adventures. The “family” i have made through my time there carries on to this very day when i run into people from Blue River. Family forever and thats what Mike created.
Submitted by David Kreiner on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:29
Heliskiing, das Wort das jeden Skifahrer träumen lässt. Als Kind sah ich im Fernsehen Bilder aus Blue River und als ich dann selbst dort war, erfüllten sich meine Erwartungen. Und Mike, welch inspirierende Persönlichkeit und freundlicher Charakter-ein Träumer, der seine Phantasien zur Realität werden ließ. Ski Heil
Submitted by Heidi and Anto… on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:23
So sorry for the huge loss with the passing of Mike. Sending love to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie. We cherish the time spent with Mike. His passion for the mountains and zest for life was a tremendous gift he gave to us, and we celebrate him! XO
Submitted by Dorothy Goldman on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:19
My heartfelt sympathy is with Mike’s family, management and everyone at MWHS - may he Rest In Peace and his passion and dream be an everlasting memory for all of us who love the mountains.
Submitted by Gregory Rifkin on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 22:05
Mike thanks for all of the years of wonderful memories! I feel lucky to have gotten to ski with you on so many occasions between 1989-2019. It was my honor to have been invited by you to ski with your "Terminator's" group even though I couldn't make that trip happen. I hope you can now enjoy a perpetual endless winter with lots of powder and great stability!!!!
Maxx, Cole and myself wish all the best to the entire Wiegele family!
Submitted by Susan, Scott, … on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:47
Mike led us on quite the journey and adventure. With working at the resort, we had the opportunity to try a sport, among other things, that we never thought we would ever have done. Mike proved that if you dream and work for it, anything is possible. Our heart goes out to Bonnie, Michelle, and Charlie. May Mike continue to ski the puffy white clouds, yodelling as he goes.
Submitted by Mark Parent on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:34
I met Mike in 1987 on my first trip to Blue River. I knew I wanted to be a part of that. What a great group of people I met and became friends with working in such a tough environment, but every year everyone pulled through to the end. Mike was so supportive of me and I would always do everything in my power to perform up to his high standard. He was always fond of children and he really got to know my kids, Mark, Tim doing flips Dixon glacier and Jack and Elle and my wife Brooke riding bikes on his annual Tour de Blue from Banff to Blue River. Every memory of Mike gives me such pleasure. I wish Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie peace and happiness in this moment of grief, and to remember Mike with fondness and love as I know he loved them so much because he would always tell me so. He was a driven self made man who commanded hard work and loyalty in his operation which made such a impact to the world, his way.
Submitted by Martin Olson on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:33
Bonnie, my deepest condolences to you and Michelle. You and Mike gave me my first job in the ski industry. Mike's enthusiasm for skiing rubbed off and I stayed in the industry for the next 35 years. Thanks.
Submitted by Duncan Banks on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:24
Some of the most fun in my life was had at Blue River with the team at Wiegele's; and I've only been once! What an amazing experience Mike created through sheer persistence and hard work. What a legacy. Thank you Mike, thank you.
Submitted by Thomas Hopewell on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:18
Dear Mrs Wiegele,
My hartfelt condoléances, although having never met your husband im so greatfull he was the man who kept my dreams alive through his love of heli ....SKIING IS LIFE!
May he rest in peace.
Submitted by Franz Faltermaier on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:17
My deepest condolences, and how we say in german „Ski Heil“
Submitted by Janet Crews on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:13
It is with great sadness that I just received the email of Mike's passing. It makes me want to shed buckets of tears, yet smile at the same time. I met Mike at Kanaha Beach on Maui. He was taking windsurf lessons from my husband John. As we sat at a table in the park after one of his lessons, he asked me why I wasn't coming skiing to MW with John? I said "oh no, John is the skier extraordinaire, I only started skiing at 36yrs old and barely have any powder days under my belt". Mike says "you must come! We will take very good care of you!". Though scared out of my whits, I agreed, but I brought my own special group of less experienced friends, so I would be in good company. We called ourselves "Team Have Alotta Fun". John's group was "Team Legburn". I thought to myself..I will try this just once for one of those "life experiences". That one year turned swiftly into 25 years.
Mike you will never be gone, you are the main character in so many of my very very best ski memories. You are often in my thoughts, no matter the season of the year, and you will always make me smile when I think of you. Sending you the biggest thank you from my heart for "taking such good care of me".
Warmest embraces to all the Wiegele family and crew. I love you all. Janet Crews
Submitted by Darrell Goruk on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:08
I am extremely saddened to hear of Mike's passing. My sincere condolences to Michelle, Bonnie, Charlie, Matic. and all the rest of the Wiegele and Cariboo Heli Ski family. Mike was always a pleasure to visit and speak with and I greatly enjoyed dealing with him throughout our business ventures. Mike, you will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace.
Submitted by Stephen Ross on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:06
Bonnie and Michelle , please accept Cathy and My condolences , he was a legend. Hope to see you skiing soon, or at the dog park.
Submitted by Rod kuo on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:02
Amazing memories skiing with Mike! Our deepest sympathies to a legend!!
Submitted by Morten Simonsen on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 21:00
Dear Mike and Bonnie
Thank you for 20 years of fantastic skiing and fun memories • I will miss you Mike but will keep on skiing your mountains for hopefully many more years … yeah
Submitted by Robin Nikkel on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 20:58
My condolences to Bonnie and Michelle
Having been able to spend the years I did working at the resort and learning from Mike is something that has never left me He was a VERY Special person
Submitted by the Mortson Family on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 20:50
Hi Bonnie, our heart goes out to you in this time of great sorrow.
Murray, Wendy, Derek, Tyler and Ryan
Submitted by Sherri-Lynne Madden on Thu, 07/15/2021 - 20:49
I am sorry to hear about the passing of Mike. He always had a smile and kind words when I would see him. Mike worked to make Blue River a wonderful place to be and supported it in becoming a tourist destination. Thanks for all you did Mike, you were well loved by many and will be well remembered. Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie, my thoughts are with you.