British Columbia

Canadian heli-ski legend Mike Wiegele dies at 82

Blue River, B.C., ski guide Bob Sayer remembers his good friend Mike Wiegele as a hard-working entrepreneur who loved to have fun skiing in the backcountry.

Wiegele founded Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in Blue River, B.C., in early 1970s

Mike Wiegele, founder of the Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing resort in Blue River, B.C., died at the age of 82 last week. (Wiegele Media)

Canadian helicopter ski legend Mike Wiegele has died at the age of 82.

Wiegele founded Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in the early 1970s, and soon established at base at Blue River, B.C., located about halfway between Kamloops and Jasper National Park. 

His company announced his death Thursday although he passed away last week.

In 1978, the entrepreneur staged Canada's first ever Powder 8 World Championships as a way of promoting powder skiing and showcasing his helicopter ski business. 

Born in August 1938 in rural Austria, Wiegele came to Canada in 1959 to pursue his career as a skiing instructor. He taught in Quebec, California and Alberta before building his heli-skiing enterprise in 1969 with his wife Bonnie Shubin.

Wiegele, who grew up on a farm in Austria, came to Canada in 1959 to pursue a career as a skiing instructor. (Wiegele Media)

"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," his company wrote in a statement on Thursday.

Former Powder 8 Canadian champion and ski guide Bob Sayer says he remembers Wiegele as his good friend and "second father."

"I had a great father, but I lost him years ago, and Mike took me into the ski business and drove me like a hard-driving father would, who treated me more than fairly and demanded a lot and wanted to see me grow," Sayer told Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

Sayer says Wiegele started to suffer from dementia after turning 82 and had been in the hospital since September. Up until then he was still working hard and playing hard.

"Mike loved to get out there and ski, and when he was skiing, he was completely relaxed and at ease in the mountains," he said. "Then he came back in and [went] back to the office and worked hard."

Wiegele staged Canada’s first ever Powder 8 World Championships in 1978 as a way of promoting powder skiing and showcasing his helicopter ski business. (Mike Wiegele Media)

Wiegele's contributions to Canadian skiing hit the big screen at the Whistler International Film Fest in December 2019 with the documentary premiere of Call Me Crazy: The Legend of Mike Wiegele

Sayer says Wiegele was a "real visionary" and constantly looked for change in his own business.

"I can make the machine run beautifully, but I'm not the guy to drive the machine," he said. "I needed Mike to come up with the next new idea and to come in and say, 'Well, I don't care that it's running perfectly. Change it because otherwise we're old,' " 

A celebration of life for Wiegele will be organized in Blue River at a later date. 

In the meantime, Sayer says he will miss the ski legend dearly and never forget his motto. 

" 'Never compromise and never stop moving forward' would be Mike's thing," he said. 

" 'This is the way I dreamt it. This is the way it's going to be. I don't care if it's hard, I don't care if it costs money, I don't care if we have to work day and night for the next year to make it happen. If we don't do that, it won't happen. And the world won't be as good as it could be.' "

Wiegele is a 'real visionary,' says his good friend and ski guide Bob Sayer. (Wiegele Media)

With files from Shelley Joyce and Karin Larsen


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