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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

Image resources are available to download here:


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Just became aware of Mike's passing and want to offer our condolences to his family. We had only one heli trip with Mike, but we remember it as the highlite of our skiing life. We are so grateful for Mike's vision of creating a ski experience of a lifetime.

I remember fond memories of Bonnie and Mike. They approached my father Miles Patterson and asked if my friends and I would be ticket checkers at Lake Louise. It was the greatest place to be with Bonnie and Mike. Both are great people. All my condolences to them. I know Roy Andersen and I were speaking about the history of everyone around Banff. Hans Gmoser, Roy, Mike and Bonnie, Jerry Johston from Sunshine Ski School. Doug Robson and his lovely wife owned the Douglas Fir Chalets when they were chalets. So many different names from Banff. All good fond memories.

Met Mike on a helicopter trip several years ago. Will always remember him and Guide Bob Sayer.
Safe travels my friend!
John H. Cassin

The three times that I had the opportunity to ski in Blue River with my dad, Elias, were some of the most memorable experiences of my life. Mike was so kind to me and a great friend to my father. I feel blessed to have met him. My sincere condolences to his family, and to all of the many people whose lives he touched.

As I prepare for yet another trip to Blue River in early December, I can't help but be both excited and and saddened. I am, of course, excited by the prospect of seeing old and new friends again, of waking up to those legendary Wiegele breakfasts, and most of all of skiing the amazing powder. I am saddened because I will miss Mike sharing his time with us on the hill and in the lodge.
I remind myself that this incredible joy of powder skiing in Blue River is all happening because of Mike. His dream, his stubborn drive to be successful, and his incredibly hard work. When my Uncle Randy Thompson out of Golden took Mike on that plane ride to find the best place in the world to ski, he did it! On behalf of all those who have skied over 35 years with Calypso, we salute Mike. To Bonnie, Michelle, and Charlie we wish you the best, and you have our deepest condolences. And of course.......Lets go skiing!

We skied in the Powder 8s many years ago. Thanks Mike for the most fantastic times skiing light wonderful powder. You will be missed.

Hi everyone...I'm so sad to hear this news...of course this is way past this date......i love blue

Mike was an inspiration to the entire Wildman family. Don loved his determination and vision. My outdoor centers are loosely based on my experiences at Blue River. All the best to Bonnie and Michelle

Mike Wiegele was one of those rare, deeply influencing and inspiring personalities as a trainer, teacher and as entrepreneur. His ideas got standard in the industry; some of his mountain safety rules are waiting to be realized for our benefit.
My deepest condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie.

Mike Wiegele lived with a light heart and life was his playground! We didn't have many conversations, but his energy impacted me beyond words. At a young age, he made me see how your imagination can become your reality. Mike's belief's, came from pure passion, making anything possible. Finding a spot in the mountains and creating a world-renowned heli-skiing resort, is no easy feat. But, he took a risk and listened to his heart!
Mike's inspiration lives with me everyday and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to work for him and go heli-boarding with him! His energy lives on, see you in the mountains!!!

My condolences to Bonnie, Michelle and family. I was saddened to learn of Mike's passing after 50+ years of inspirational involvement in the development of heliskiing. Mike was a visionary in all aspects of the sport from user-friendly ski design for powder to establishment of protocols intended to ensure safety from avalanches and other backcountry skiing hazards while experiencing the wonders of skiing and scenery in the Cariboo and Monashee ranges. Mike's vision also included the promotion of research to better understand avalanche phenomena and the implications for refining safety protocols. This led to an academic collaboration with myself and Bruce Jamieson at the University of Calgary that started about 1988. During periodic visits over the next decade I came to appreciate the wonders of what Mike had created as MWHS and I hope that his legacy will live on for many years providing a unique skiing experience to his clientele and rewarding carers for his many staff.

My condolences Bonnie. I missed you at Nakiska the last couple of years. I hope to see you soon on the slopes and in the lodge for some great conversation.

Dear Mike W. Thank you for your stunning performance during all these years.
I met you in 1983-84, when I skied around in US and Canada,- during my time on the danish ski-team, and was fortuned to meet you. Thankyou very much.
I passed by you at the Canadien champ. in 1984, and tried help-ski for the first time.
Thanx to you,- and wish you the best on your last journey to the up there.
All the best for your family & friends all the best to you.
Hans-Chr. Poulsen

I feel very lucky
Not only just because I love to ski or that i get to heli ski or that i get to heli ski at MWHS
But because I got to heli ski at MWHS and meet The Legend in his element and get a chance to express my appreciation to him personally

I grew up skiing on New England vertical ice rinks - otherwise known as ski areas for some reason. i also grew up when there were magazines still like Powder and Ski and Skiing. they had the droolworthy adds from Mike that inspired my childhood dreams.

Mike and his staff have now helped me live the dream. I am grateful for the chance to have told him this in person and see the sparkle in his eyes as he graciously thanked me for my patronage - I will brag about this to all the whipper-snappers in the years to come at the lodge.

I know his spirit will live on especially given the family and MWHS-team he nurtured carrying the torch.
he'll be on my mind as i drop in and groove away into the deep!

with great gratitude and sadness

We were so sorry to here of Mike’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

Mike indeed is a part of my life. He has been the first one who used my new designed Beacon 1980 in Canada. Since this time we become friends and no year passed by whitout visiting Blue River during my active time. Unforgettable the many lucky hours I could spend there. Thanks Mike for this great present you give me! And thank you Bonny also, please take my honest condolence, I always will have this part of my life with Mike in my mind.
Cincerely Gerald

My sincere condolences to Mike's family, friends and employees. He was a man with a great vision that left us with a magnificent wonderland to enjoy.

Dear Bonnie and Michelle
My deepest condolences to you and your family. Mike's contributions to the ski industry cannot be overstated and he will be sorely missed. I was profoundly honoured to have experienced a small role at Wiegele's Helicopter Skiing.
Take Care

Hello Bonnie and Michelle: Sending you much love, thoughts and prayers during this time. I have fond memories of Mike and your family as friends and neighbors on Kootenay Ave in Banff. Dolores always enjoyed talking with you and Mike. And a special memory of how Mike literally came to the rescue on Christmas day in 1991 and assisted our family after our tragedy that day. That will be something I will never forget! I am sure it brings you comfort to know that Mike is in a better place and we can only believe that he is at peace. Take care and I hope our paths can cross again one day. Lisa Carroll (Dolores and Lorne's Daughter)

I was so very saddened by the news of Mike's passing. My Dad (who passed away earlier this year) had a long and enduring friendship with Mike and my father and I have had many good memories of taking it "deep and steep" with Mike.

My sincere condolences to all of Mike's family and friends.
Shawn Caithness

Liebe Bonnie und Michele, sowie an das Team von Mike Wiegele, Helikopter skiing!

Ich habe mit meinen Zeilen bewusst einige Tage gewartet und ich hoffe, es ist jetzt trotz aller
Traurigkeit, wieder ein gewisses Maß an Normalität zurückgekehrt.

Sehr überrascht und mit großer Trauer, haben wir die Nachricht vom Ableben unseres Ehrenmitgliedes Mike
Wiegele vernommen. Wie hatten zwar die Information, dass es ihm gesundheitlich nicht so geht, aber dass
es dann so schnell geht, haben wir auch nicht vermutet.

Ich möchte euch allen im Namen der Sängerrunde, aber speziell auch in meinem Namen, unser aufrichtiges
Beileid zum Verlust eures Mannes, Vaters, Großvaters und „Chefs“ aussprechen.
Wir sind sehr traurig, dass es mit unserem Besuch im letzten Jahr nicht mehr funktioniert hat. Ich glaube,
er hätte sich sehr gefreut uns zu sehen und einige Klänge aus der Heimat zu hören.
Wir haben uns persönlich bei einer Heiligen Messe am vergangenen Freitag von Mike verabschiedet.
Während dieser Stunde des Abschiedes, sind viele Bilder an uns vorübergezogen, die wir gemeinsam mit Mike
hier in Lading und St. Michael aber auch in Blue River erleben durften. Es waren unvergessliche Momente und wir
sind sehr dankbar, dass wir einen solch wertvollen Menschen kennen lernen durfte.

In unseren Gedanken wird Mike immer präsent sein und wir alle werden unserem Ehrenmitglied ein ehrendes Andenken bewahren.

Liebe Mike Ruhe in Frieden – Deine Sängerfreunde aus St. Michael / Österreich

Bonnie, Michelle and family - we're thinking of you as you both mourn your loss and celebrate Mike's legacy. He was long connected to our dad Jack through their ski instructing training together and a true love of skiing and the mountains, and I am sure it brought them both lasting pleasure that their families also have a love of skiing, powder and the mountains. Ski trips at MWHS were some of his highlights in a life full of many. You will all miss him greatly. We are all so grateful to have benefitted and to continue to benefit from all he and you all have done for skiing, alpine safety, alpine ski racing and the greater communities for so many years - thank you, and may Mike rest in eternal peace - Doreen, Jane, Linda, Susan & Cheryl

Thank you for producing one of the greatest resorts ever my life will never forget you and my experiences at your resort rest in peace love you Art Stapleton

I had the honor to ski with you the Canadian champagne powder first time in the year 1980. Several visits in summer and winter followed. RIP Mike i will always remember this encounters

Dear Bonnie,
I wish I had your postal address - alas, I do not. I was sad to read about Mike in the paper this week and know that you will find his passing a big loss in your life. I have wonderful memories of first meeting you when I was patrolling at LL in the first years of the 70s. I know that I learned from you both. And It has been super to encounter you and for a long time, Mike, too, at the "dog-office" in Canmore. You are in my thoughts. Much love, Colleen

Condolences to you Bonnie and your family. I first met you and Mike at Lake Louise when I was a lift operator in the winter of 1966/67. Learned the 'check, plant, jump' Austrian ski method from one of Mike's instructors and I've loved skiing ever since. An old Buddhist once said: death is a journey; the end of the body's journey, and the beginning of the soul's journey. Mike's journey includes a lot of happiness and snow I'm sure. Blessings, Wes Shennan

Condolences to the family and farewell to the man whose personality, approach and pioneering efforts at guiding, safety and mass-marketing helped make heli-skiing the alpine juggernaut it became. I spent a lot of good times with Mike Wiegele — from Powder 8 World Championships to spring attempts at vertical-foot records. But the funnest — and funniest — time spent at his operation was a @powdermagazine assignment to report on two wholesome, wide-eyed teenagers from Colorado who won a week-long trip to “Wiegele’s”. To this day “Lighter Than Air” remains one of my most memorable features not so much because of the impression heli-skiing in big mountains made on those oh-so-green kids (considerable) but for the impression Mike’s passion for the mountains and welcoming attitude made on them. A legend may have passed, but the stories and legends he spawned live on.

Dear Bonnie, Michelle, MW family and Staff,
I met Mike when I worked there in '94-'95 as a driver/gopher. It was the 25 year Anniversary, and I go the bitten by the powder bug. Mike was in his 50's then, and an inspiration to me to this day. He had humility and can-do attitude, enthusiasm, and generosity. Despite having 100+ staff, he was approachable, appreciative and encouraging. MWHeli will remain a benchmark to me what can be accomplished with vision, grit, determination and zest for adventure! Sending you all hugs, Lexi Richards (von Rosen)

I want to send my condolences and thoughts to the whole Wiegele family. My experiences at Blue River were always memorable and educational and I will always cherish having had some minor moments talking with Mike about snow, people and the mountains. Being involved in the helicopter skiing industry since the early eighties in Utah I have always had the highest respect and regard for the Wiegele model and team and know Mike had a big part of that professional take on our sport and livelihood. I hope I get the chance to experience it again with you all sometime. Love from Utah..let’s go skiing!
Mike Olson
Powderbird guide

Was the Mid 90's when I first came to Blue River.. Mike and his program inspired me to pursue a career in the mountains. The passion for the craft at Blue River , was like nothing I had ever experienced . Rest easy!

Ich habe Mike bei mehreren Aufenthalten in Blue River kennengelernt und werde seine herzliche Art und seine großartige Gastfreundschaft nie vergessen ich wünsche der ganzen Familie und dem gesamten Team mein herzliches Beileid.

Sending my deepest sympathies to Mike’s family and friends. He was taken too soon but he has inspired so many with his love of the mountains. I have amazing memories of following Mike down untracked and yet to be named slopes in ‘86 and then returning to compete in the Powder 8’s in ‘87 with Gerhard G. I hope he is skiing endless untracked powder slopes.

Mike's generosity knew no bounds!
My fondest ski memory took place on the 24th March, 1974 when Mike invited a bunch of Lake Louise employees to Valemont for the adventure of a lifetime! Mechanics, ski shop employees, patrollers, instructors, all avid skiers, if you worked at Louise you were "avid"!
The day started grey and cloudy and there was some doubt that we would get to go, but from the coffee shop where we sat glumly waiting, our intrepid heli pilot looked out and said, "There's a blue hole in the clouds, let's go thought it! "
And through it we flew, excitement palpable as we witnessed the unfolding of a perfectly fresh powder blue sky day. Mike and Bonnie and Norbert and another guide whose name I regret I have forgotten led us on perfect ski runs all day and the entire trip was documented by a Japanese film crew accompanying us - can you imagine the pictures? I still have a copy of the Japanese Ski Magazine produced that day! Six full page spread of memories!
Thank you, Mike and Bonnie, for the most memorable ski day of my life!
The mountains miss you already......

Liebe Familie Wiegele,
mit großem Bedauern haben wir die traurige Nachricht erhalten. Wir sind in Gedanken bei Mike und seinen Spuren, die er hinterlässt. Wenn wir wieder auf den Brettern stehen, wird er bei uns sein....
Unser aufrichtiges Beileid an Bonnie und Michelle.
Fam. Christian Weniger, 6176 Völs in Tirol, Austria
Fam. Klaus Gigele
Fam. Günter Moser
Fam. Willi Fink

"The dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible."

We were all so lucky to know and spend time with such a "dangerous man...!"

Thank you Mike for making all our wonderful, amazing dreams possible!

And thank you Bonnie and Michelle for sharing him with us. We love you, and everyone in Wiegele World.


Sam, Peggy, Jim and John

A great person has departed, but the memories and legacy shall never fade.

The loss is huge and we can only share the pain while counting days to winter when we will go skiing in Mike’s memory.

May Mike’s soul rest in peace.

Our deepest sympathy,

Joanna & Dan Tyndall

Dear Bonnie, Michelle & Charlie our hearts are broken to hear of Mikes passing and we send you our condolences and love. We think of you all as family & hold so many incredible memories and traditions closely! Mike has always inspired us through his vision, persistence and execution to create Wiegeles World. Tom & I met at Wiegeles 30 years ago and have raised up our sweet daughter Ali to carry on our Wiegeles traditions. We will always be thankful & feel blessed to have shared in his paradise. We know Mike is continuing to make awesome turns in the best heavenly powder ever! Cheers to a life well lived and the incredible legacy you have left behind. We will always love you! Blessings, Tom. Honey & Ali xx

Mike you deserved to have lived your Dreams. We recall with fondness the many times you and Bonnie welcomed us and relatives from our village in Austria with open arms to your homes in Banff and Blue River. Thank you Mike for sharing your heaven on earth . Bonnie, We will remember Mike along with you and always with respect and affection.
Love Tini and Maureene.

With sorrow I had to hear that Mike, a close friend over many years passed away so suddenly and we want to express our deepest Condolences to you, Bonnie and Michelle and the entire Team. Coming both from Austria, Mike and I developed a great and emotional relationship over all this years and created the 8 Peaks Panorama Rendering for him. He was a pioneer and with his vision, determination and foresight he created THE Heliski Operation in North Amerika!!! He will be missed!!!
Dr. Andreas Rauch, Skiron Inc.

1997 kam Mike zu mir in die Praxis und ich habe ihm ein künstliches Hüftgelenk gemacht.
Im März des nächsten Jahres standen wir dann auf vielen der schönen Gipfel in Blue River und im Sommer des nächsten Jahres kam Mike erstmals zu mir und wir habe lange Mountainbike-Touren unternommen.
Es entwickelte sich eine innige Freundschaft.
Mike war mir zeitlebens ein menschliches und auch sportliches Vorbild.
Ich durfte mehrfach mit ihm im Blue River Skifahren, auch mit meiner Frau und unseren Kindern.
Jährlich im Sommer besuchte er uns in unserem Haus in Fieberbrunn und wir unternahmen ausgedehnte Mountainbike-Touren in der Gegend von Kitzbühel.
Wir werden Mike sehr, sehr vermissen.
Er wird mit Sicherheit in unseren Herzen weiterleben als ganz außerordentliche Persönlichkeit und lieber Freund.
Unsere Gedanken sind in diesen Tagen bei seiner Familie.

Robert Siorpaes mit Familie.

Has been a privilege for me to have worked with Mike, although on the dark side Mikes compassion & ability to do what was best for the guest has made a lasting impression on me. I know there will be stories told for years of his adventures Bonnie,Michelle what wonderful memories you will have

Learning from Oslo of Mike's demise takes me a long way back - to the mid 60's when we were both young and filled with vision - Mike to ski his way into accomplished history - a true pied piper with countless followers, me to repatriate Ski Louise into Canadian hands from founder Sir Norman Watson. Over 50+ years Mike stuck with his vision to his family's benefit and countless followers. My vision was too grand for my followers of the time, however another pioneer - Charlie Locke, in his 40+ years at the helm, has made sure that Ski Louise well serves the interests of skiers from Canada and beyond. My brief encounters with Mike, bearing his enthusiastic and grinning countenance, over the decades are fondly remembered and my deep condolences go to Bonnie, Michelle and Charlie at the loss of such a marvellous family patriarch.

Mike, mach's guat auf deiner neuen Reise. Grüße von einem Tiroler.
Warst ein starker Typ. Unser Mathias Maresch hat es ermöglicht, dass ich dich kennen lernen durfte.

Dear Bonny, Michelle and Charlie, we would like to send you our most sincere and deepest condolences on the passing of Mike, as in a way we feel part of your extended family. Mike made us feel that way, sharing his vision and passion for the mountains with an endless generosity and enthusiasm. We feel so privileged to have shared those unforgettable moment with him in Blue River. We will never forget him and are sure he is still skiing in a perfect place.

My condolences,
We have certainly lost a charismatic individual. Developing heli-skiing in the 70's required foresight that a few very special people possessed. Mike was one of them.
Thousands of skiers have experienced our mountains through his endeavors, and many appreciated them as he did.

Dear Bonnie and Wiegele Family
Our deepest condolences, we will remember Mike as a wonderful gentle talented Man.
May he Rest In Peace and do lots of powder turns in heavenly Mountains.
Mike will always be remembered as a Legend in the Heli Ski Industry.
Rest In Peace

I worked in Banff for Mike & Bonnie from '78 to '80. A very enjoyable time and experience. Lovely people. Condolences to Bonnie & Michele.

Mike was an inspiration to many. You'll be skiing on powder clouds the rest of your life. ⛷You will be missed. 😞
My condolences Bonnie.🙏
Sincerely, Coach
Banff, Hood River

I am so saddened for the whole wiegele family. I worked there for one season, the beautiful season of Michelles Wedding and made memories to last a life time. Mike was kind, generous, and fun with a child like spirit that we all enjoyed. What a great life, what a great legend. Sending you all my deepest condolences. ❤️❤️❤️ Claire.