Hall of Famer
Born in Feiztritz, Austria in 1938, Mike Wiegele grew up in Lading Kärnten, Austria and moved to Canada in 1959. In 1960/1961 he worked with the legendary Ernie McCulloch at the Mont Tremblant Ski School, Quebec. From Mont Tremblant he moved to Sugar Bowl Ski Area, Lake Tahoe, California where he worked for another skiing legend, Junior Bounous.
After moving back to Canada, he obtained a Level IV Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) certification and for a while operated a ski school and ski shop. For 4-years, he coached the Lake Louise Ski Club racing program which, from 1978 – 1983, was the best represented ski club of the Canadian National Alpine team, producing such well-known athletes as Mike and Bill Irwin, Chris Kent, Ken and Jim Read, Dianne Lehodey, Bobby Allison. He was also a founding member of the Banff Alpine Racers club which subsequently produced a number of National Alpine team members.
Mike Wiegele’s interests also extended to the study of avalanches and snow research. He built the Grizzly Hut to support avalanche research and development, in cooperation with the University of Calgary and the Canadian federal government. The hut also serves as an emergency shelter and a centre of operation for the education and training for the Canadian Ski Guide Association, an organization that he also founded.
In the mid-60s when Hans Gmoser’s heli-skiing operation started up (Hans Gmoser was Mike Wiegele’s best man at his wedding to Bonnie in 1967), Wiegele was taking a keen interest in the mountainous region around Valemount and Blue River, British Columbia. In 1970, he began taking skiers into the mountains around the small town of Valemount. Always searching for better snow, the region’s weather patterns were of particular interest to him. Valuable help was available to in the form of data accumulated by “Grandma” Molly Nelson, an amateur meteorologist, who had meticulously recorded precipitation, wind, snowfall and sunshine for the previous 30-years.
That information would prove invaluable in determining the eventual location of a permanent heli-skiing operation. In 1974 he moved his business to Blue River, located between the Cariboo and Monashee mountains north of Kamloops, British Columbia.
As his business expanded in response to the skiing public’s considerable interest in this newest branch of alpine skiing, he began accumulating land in the 1980s to support a full-service resort for his growing worldwide clientele. Today, Mike Wiegele’s vast heli-skiing operation at Blue River, some 1.2 million acres in extent, is the world’s second largest.
Mike Wiegele is also a recipient of a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada. This medal is awarded to persons who have risked their lives to rescue or protect other from harm.
A man of many interests and roles in his lifetime, competitor, coach, pioneer and entrepreneur, Mike Wiegele continues to leave his indelible mark on the sport of skiing on Canada.
Please Note: The ski information gathered here is compiled from a number of sources; it may not be inclusive of all accomplishments.
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