Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing

Mike Wiegele Interview: Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing Innovator and Industry Icon

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing


Interview by Tom Jackson, HELISKI.com

Mike Wiegele or Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing (of course…) is one of the legends of helicopter skiing Canada. A pioneer, an innovator and one of a few industry icons, it is our pleasure to have a conversation with Mike Wiegele!

1. What made you decide to start your company, Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, back in 1970?

I was at the stage in my life where I was looking to be an independent business owner, to find my identity. There was an opportunity to do so at that time.

mike wiegele heli-skiing

Mr. Wiegele:  Why Start a Heliski Business? Asked and Answered

2. What was heli-skiing like when you started?

It felt like such an incredible luxury that went beyond my mountaineering background. The quickness and ease of the heli felt surreal…what previously took 8-10 hours of touring, carrying our own equipment and seeing a bird’s eye view of the mountains took mere minutes. It was a completely foreign and luxurious change.

3. How many days and how much vertical have you heliskied in your career?

It varies every year and has increased over the years with the improvements in powder specific equipment and my own ability. On average I ski around 1.3 million vertical a year (some years more, some less)… [Wow, that’s more than I get! I calculate over 50 Million Vertical Feet!!]

mike wiegele heliski, mike wiegele helicopter skiing BC Canada
The ORIGINAL Guide

4. Your first operation was in Valemount. Why the move to Blue River?

As great as the skiing was around Valemount, I was not satisfied. I wondered why locals kept talking about Blue River, an hour’s drive farther south. My encounter with “Grandma” Molly Nelson was one of the greatest turning points of my life. Molly Nelson, an amateur meteorologist, had kept meticulous records for the previous 34 years of the weather patterns around the Blue River region. When I read that annual snowfalls of thirty feet or more were common, my heart raced with excitement. Storms dropping three or four feet of snow at a time were a regular occurrence, and the wind patterns were far gentler than further north. I noticed how big and large the snowflakes were…no wind, more mountains and more snow…so I decided to move my operations south to Blue River in 1974.

5. When you look back at your 40 years owning Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, what are you most proud of?

The friendships and relationships I’ve built with guests and employees. I am also very proud that I have been able to sustain a family owned and operated business with the continued support and involvement from the people I care most for in the world. There has to be something said of watching and helping adventure tourism guiding flourish into a meaningful and professional career It is rewarding to see the image of guiding evolve from ski bum to a meaningful career that can support a family. [Why didn’t I think of that?!?]

wiegele heli-skiing, mike wiegele

6. How would you describe your philosophy?

I try to make a difference and make things better 24 hours a day.

7. What % of your guests return the following year?

We have a very loyal customer base, with a 60% returning yearly and 80% every 2 years.

Mike Wiegele Heliskiing Canada, wiegele heliski

8. What has changed now that your daughter Michelle is President of ‘Mike’ Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and how is it working with her?

I love it…it allows me to ski more! It is good working with someone I trust so wholeheartedly, she challenges me and is not afraid to stand up to me, which is good for the operation. It is nice to have another opinion.

Wiegele heliskiing,Mike wiegele heli-skiing
Nice Family….Business

9. So, are you also into heli-boarding, too?

No, but Michele Wiegele heliskis and heliboards!

10. The rest of the industry consists of many smaller lodges and ski chalets spread across British Columbia. Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing is unique, with one huge operation. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your setup?

We actually have both a large and small operation. In 2004 we opened the doors to our Albreda Lodge for guests that seek a more intimate boutique experience. There is definitely an advantage to having both.

As far as our Blue River location, the ambience of our Heli-Village is quite magical. Despite its size, the operation carries a very intimate feel; staff outnumbers our guests and is here to ensure our guests feel very cared for.

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The luxury of having many helis on hand is also great – we can offer a variety of packages. It is also great for safety practices to run a larger fleet of helis. Our guests enjoy the feel of interacting with various groups and meeting other people from around the world and the festive feeling that exudes from the Resort. The amenities of our larger operation are also an added bonus, we carry a variety of powder specific equipment for our guest use that we wax and tune nightly…the wide variety also allows for our guests to try new equipment and switch things up. We have an on-site medical clinic, weather office, fitness and massage centre, saunas, whirlpool, games room, lounge, restaurant, sport shop, boutique and administration building…it is a little piece of heavenly luxury in a very remote and area.

Our Albreda Lodge is beautiful and intimate for those that seek the same great service but on that smaller scale.

mike wiegele helicopter skiing albreda lodge
Wiegele Albreda Lodge

11. The Albreda Lodge and the (planned) Avola Lodge (exclusive 20-guest lodges “inspired by the old lodges of Europe”) are notable exceptions. Why the departure?

We started noticing about 10% of our guests were going elsewhere…in search of a more boutique experience, so we opened the Albreda Lodge to cater to that clientele. Now, we have the best of both worlds.

12. All of your packages are unlimited vertical. What are the average vertical for the Deluxe and Elite guests? (80-100K guaranteed, respectively)

Well, this all depends on the time of year. On a typical day we average approximately 20,000 vertical feet per day – that equates to 130,000 vertical feet in a week.
Depending on time of year, ability of skiers, weather and snow conditions, many seven-day groups ski 180,000 to 220,000 vertical feet. Elite groups ski about 20% more. [Sweet!]

mike wiegele helicopter skiing

12. What are the biggest challenges facing the helicopter skiing industry in British Columbia?

Unregulated snowmobile activity. Snowmobiling should be governed the same as our industry – there are just too many preventable accidents occurring out there that reflect on the entire tourism industry in BC.

13. How many down days do you average?

3-5%. With such a large tenure and utilizing our 3 remote weather stations/data and 2 departing bases (Blue River and Albreda), we boast an exceptional fly rate.

14. What made you decide to add catskiing in 2007; and can guests catski on down days?

There are some people that are really hesitant to try heliskiing…although completely capable. The beauty of our Cat is that it runs on semi groomed runs, allowing guests to cut in the side and down various parts where there is powder. This really helps with their confidence and most people are in the heli the second day. Our Cat is wonderful for the kids camps we host throughout the winter.

Our Cat operation is not a typical backcountry situation…we run our Cat on semi-groomed runs that serve as an introductory to powder…not something most of guests would opt to do on a down day. We have exceptional cross country and snowshoeing trails (and equipment) that guests can use on a down day – but for the most part we don’t have a lot of down time and often the weather will break, allowing for the helis to fly.

15. Is there anything else you would like to add, Mike?

HELISKI.com readers can buy raffle tickets for a worthy cause and a chance for a 3-day, 3-night trip for two to Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing Resort in Blue River BC. West Side Family Place is a small children’s based charity in Vancouver. MWHS has donated an incredible trip which they are raffling off in order to raise money.

3 days and 3 nights at the Mike Wiegele Heliski Resort in Blue River BC. The trip is for two people. All deluxe accommodations, gourmet meals,unlimited heliskiing, ski gear and guides are included. See Raffle Details below signature.

Value: $7,596-$9,414 (depending on which week it is redeemed)

Tickets are only $20. They are selling a limit of 1000. At this point, only 100 have been sold, so chances are very good!

Go to WestSideFamilyPlace to buy them, or call 604-738-2819.

Raffle tickets will be mailed to you. 100 percent of ticket sales go to support West Side Family Place, a community center dedicated to supporting families with children under six. They offer a safe place for kids and parents to come, meet and make friends as well as offering parenting courses.

Thanks, Mike!

tj

Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
HELISKI.com
HeliskiingReview.com
WhistlerHeliski.com
HEIBOARD.com
866-HELISKI
(866-435-4754)

heliski canada, helicopter skiing canada heli ski canada, heli-skiing canada heli-ski, heli-skiing bc canada

heli-skiing canada, helicopter skiing bc canada
Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder

Raffle Details

Enjoy 3 days of helicopter skiing/boarding and 3 nights accommodation for two people at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing in Blue River, BC. You’ll be treated to world-class powder and terrain, luxury accommodations, gourmet meals, complimentary powder skis or snowboards, and the experience of a lifetime.

About Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing lies in the heart of the magnificent Cariboo and Monashee Mountains and is one of the world’s most productive regions for high quality, reliable powder snow. With more than 1.2 million acres and over 1,000 peaks, Mike Wiegele’s ski terrain offers world class skiing and boarding. The Heli Village Resort features 22 stunning handcrafted log chalets, Sports Shop, Guides House, and the Main Lodge which includes the dining room, lounge, fitness centre, boutique, and massage. We are as well known for our cusine and amenities as we are for our skiing. Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing was founded in 1970 by Mike Wiegele, who acts as Chairman and still guides every week.

Prize: 3-Day Deluxe Helicopter Skiing package for 2 people

Value: $7,596-$9,414 (depending on which week it is redeemed)

Redemption dates: December 10, 2011-January 21, 2012 , March 10, 2012 – April 7, 2012

Wiegele Package Includes:

  • Unlimited Vertical Feet for 3 days
  • Handcrafted Log Chalet Accommodation (double occupancy)*
  • 3 Gourmet Meals per Day (Packed Lunch)
  • Full use of Spa Facilities, Sauna, Whirlpool & Fitness Centre
  • Bell 212 Helicopter
  • 9 guests per group, 3 groups per helicopter
  • 2 Professional Guides per Group: 1 Lead Guide, 1 Tail Guide
  • Atomic Powder Skis and Poles, or Burton Powder Snowboards
  • Personal safety gear including Ortovox Transceiver, Shovel Pack & Probe
    * $215/day surcharge for single accommodation – subject to availability
  • 5% in savings for any guests that join you on the trip

Not included:

  • Transportation to Blue River
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Massage services

There are many aspects to consider for your ideal heli-skiing Canada trip. Some of the things to ask yourself, and to tell HELISKI.com, will allow us to narrow down the dozens of destinations for your heli-skiing in Canada.

  • Do you prefer an intimate heli-ski lodge or ‘the more the merrier?’
  • Do you want to heli-ski in a group of four or are you OK in a group as big as eleven?
  • How many days or dollars can you spend heli skiing Canada?
  • Do you prefer heliskiing trees, bowls, glacers and high alpine or all of the above?
  • Do you want unlimited vertical, or do you want a base amount with the option to pay for extra heli-skiing Canada? (We are happy to do the math for you.)
  • Do you want to get to and from your heliski Canada lodge as quickly as possible, or do you have time to burn?
  • When do you want to schedule heliskiing Canada?
  • Do you want to try heliskiing Canada during or after a resort skiing vacation?
  • Where are you originating travel?
  • Do you want a remote, rustic lodge from which to heliski Canada?
  • Do you want catskiing or resort skiing options in case the helicopters cannot fly?

Canadian Mountain Holidays or CMH Heli-Skiing offers more Canada for over 50 years! Most CMH Heli-Skiing lodges are remote. Some require a helicopter ride to access the lodge. Different lodges serve different terrain, snow qualities, group sizes and trip lengths. We are happy to recommend those that fit your group best. choices than any other operator, and they have been heli-skiing.

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing is the second largest operator, and has been heli skiing Canada almost as long as CMH Heli-Skiing. There are two lodging options at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing – Blue River and Albreda. They offer different lodging and heli-ski Canada options that also vary throughout the season. HELISKI.com can help you choose.

There are dozens of smaller operators for your heliskiing Canada pleasure. Do you want a great, classic lodge like Skeena or Mica Heliski Canada? Do you want easy access so you spend your time heli-skiing Canada like Northern Escape Heli-Skiing? Do you want unlimited vertical, like Great Canadian Heli-Skiing and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing? Love trees? Consider Bearpaw Heliskiing or one of the CMH Heli-Skiing areas that specialize in trees. If you want your own food and lodging, check out RK Heli-Skiing. How about one group per helicopter at TLH Heli-Skiing Canada.

There are myriad choices. Email or call 866-HELISKI so we can get started putting together the best fit for your heliskiing Canada trip!

Heliskiing British Columbia Canada in March

Knowledge Is Powder ™ – March Heliskiing – We still have great options!

A group of 4 wanted 4 days in March. I was worried that many of our favorite operators were booked.
But we came up with six great possibilities!  Two with catskiing backup.

But, first, a cool picture:

Heliskiing British Columbia Canada in March
Still Good Trips Available for March
  • OPTIONS
  • One for $4995
  • Another one for $3820
  • One 5 day / 6 night trip for $6700.
  • One four day, plus two half-days, for a total of 5 days.  Fly up from Vancouver in the AM, ski that PM, ski 3 full days, ski AM, fly back PM.  Pretty cool.
  • One with unlimited vertical for $7555
  • Another with unlimited vertical for only $5400

Lots of great options. Of course the all vary on other criteria, like travel, location, size and number of groups, etc., etc. That’s where we come in. Given what is important to you, we can find the ultimate trip, because……..

Knowledge Is Powder!

Call or email if you want our free advice.  866-HELISKI

Happy Holidays,
tj

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing – Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing Canada

We Review Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, and all heli-skiing locations.   Our friends at Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing are offering a cool Family Holiday Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing and Snowcat Package to “experience that family vacation you’ve always dreamed of.”  Also read our Interview with the late, great Mike Wiegele.

Get Advice for Next Trip

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Helicopter Skiing

mike wiegele hell skiing, mike wiegele helicopter skiing
Mike Wiegele says, “Take the Family” (don’t worry, the little kids will catski)

Mike Wiegele resort is a family affair for the holiday season. The cozy atmosphere, delicious food, and incredible activities offered at Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing will guarantee you and your family a vacation they will never forget. It’s available December 17, 2011 to January 7, 2012.

mike wiegele helicopter skiing, mike wiegele heli-skiing
Happy Holidays

Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing Family Holiday Package

Up to two children per family (5 to 12 years of age) to Cat-ski, eat and stay for free when both adults book a 3, 5 or 7 day Mike Wiegele heli skiing and heli-boarding package.


If you have children 12 to 18 that want to experience the thrill of the heli – take advantage of a special 20% off of Mike Wiegele heli skiing and heli boarding packages. Please note that a special Snowcat rate of 50% off is also available for additional children under 12.

See our Review of the Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and the Albreda Lodge, too.

Some popular misspellings:

mike wigley heli skiing
mike weigel heli skiing
mike wigley heli ski
mike wigley heli skiing Canada

Would you like help choosing the right helicopter skiing trip for your group?

Drop us an email or a call 866-HELISKI (866-435-3754)

Intl: 925-683-7676

 

mike wiegele helicopter skiing, mike wiegele heli skiing
Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing Warm Welcome for Families

 

The late great Mike Wiegele was one of the heli skiing pioneers.  After working with Hans to start Canadian Mountain Holidays, Mike split when he found what he thought was the best heliskiing tenure in British Columbia.  He would have laughed at the various misspellings of his name, including the top 4 ways to misspell Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing:

mike wigley heli skiing
mike weigel heli skiing
mike wigley heli ski
mike wigley heli skiing canada

So raise a glass after your last untracked heliskiing run, and cheers to Mike Wiegele, or Mike Wigley heli skiing, or Mike Weigel heli skiing, or Mike Wigley heli ski or Mike Wigley heli skiing Canada.  Cheers!

TJ

PS  Email me if you would like for me to put together the best heli skiing options with Mike Wiegele or any other Canadian heli skiing destination!

March Heliskiing – We have great options!

A group of 4 wanted 4 days in March. I was worried that many of our favorite operators were booked.
But we came up with six great possibilities! Two with catskiing backup.

But, first, a cool picture:

Heliskiing British Columbia Canada in March
Still Good Trips Available for March
  • OPTIONS
  • One for $4995
  • Another one for $3820
  • One 5 day / 6 night trip for $6700.
  • One four day, plus two half-days, for a total of 5 days. Fly up from Vancouver in the AM, ski that PM, ski 3 full days, ski AM, fly back PM. Pretty cool.
  • One with unlimited vertical for $7555
  • Another with unlimited vertical for only $5400

Lots of great options. Of course the all vary on other criteria, like travel, location, size and number of groups, etc., etc. That’s where we come in. Given what is important to you, we can find the ultimate trip, because……..

Knowledge Is Powder!

Call or email if you want our free advice. 866-HELISKI

Happy Holidays,tj

How early can you Heliski in Canada?

We are working with a couple who want to go helicopter skiing in early December. Most heliski operators start the season after Christmas or New Years. (In fact some have great deals on heli skiing around New Years and early January.

As it turns out, we found some great options with both Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing and Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). 3, 4 and 7 day heliskiing trips are available starting the last week of November!

The resort-based heli-skiing operators start around mid December. These include Helitrax Heliskiing Telluride, Whistler Heliskiing and Wasatch Powderbird Guides heli-skiing in Snowbird, UT (say that three times fast).

Resort + heliski options are available early season from Great Canadian Heliskiing, Snowwater Heli Skiing, Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing to name a few.  Snowwater and Great Canadian also offer catskiing combined with heliskiing.

So, it’s never too early to heliski!

Heli Skiing by any other name….would be as SWEET!

heliski vs heli-ski vs heliskiing vs heli-skiing vs helicopter skiing

heliski, heli ski, or heli-ski. Which is best?

Google can’t decide. The number of searches for heli ski and heli ski are the same, indicating that Google does not differentiate between the two spellings. So heli-ski and heli ski show up as one term in their search stats.

Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH Heli-Ski) invented helicopter skiing…..and they use Heli-ski and heli-boarding. But most operators eschew the hyphen and the space….go figure.

In terms of search popularity, heliski trumps heli ski and heli-ski combined, 18,000 searches/mo. to 12,000 in all search engines – good news for the recently launched HELISKI.com. The bad news is that more sites are competing to be listed in search engine results for heliski than for heli ski and heli-ski combined. And the search results show a difference. Search for heli ski in Google returns 663,000 results. For heliski, only 227,000 results.

The same is true for heli skiing, heli-skiing and heliskiing. The space and hyphen return 483,000, heliskiing 418,000. Not much difference, but it looks like the space is more popular than the hyphen.

One thing is certain…….

Untracked powder, all day, with your buddies and a helicopter lift…

by any other name, would be as SWEET!

The Pros and Cons of Unlimited Vertical Heliskiing

Q: When heli skiing Canada, does it make more sense to pay for unlimited vertical , or to pay as you go for extra vertical?

A: It depends.

 

Unlimited vertical appeals to those who like certainty, ski like hell, or both.

For many BC heliskiing operators, unlimited vertical is the standard including Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, Great Canadian Heli-Skiing, Snowwater Heliskiing, TLH Heliskiing and now Eagle Pass Heliskiing and Heliboarding. There is no stressing over how much you have skied, and no surprises at checkout (other than your bar tab). Proponents appreciate that there is no stress about racking up the vertical throughout the week; and no $1-3K bill at checkout.  Northern Escape Heli-Skiing now offers unlimited vertical as an option, for a higher base rate.

 

Detractors point out that unlimited vertical lacks goal congruence with the operator. The hourly expense of the helicopter provides a huge economic incentive for operators to shorten the day.  Some think it may tempt operators to call it early, take a long lunch, start late, etc. or even to call a ‘down day’ early. The operator has your money and a disincentive to fly.

 

Operators who offer a basic price with extra vertical charges point out that paying in advance for unlimited vertical can be very expensive if you don’t have a great week.  It can result in a much higher price per run or per vertical foot.  For some, the break-even point can be over 200,000 vertical in a week, although prices and extra vertical fees vary.

 

Another consideration is the date of the trip. Unlimited vertical in Northern British Columbia in January is limited by the hours of daylight. And conversely, unlimited Alaska heliskiing in April could go on for 16 hours…..

 

We encourage clients to do the math before booking (or HELISKI.com will do it for you). These minimums and extra vertical fees vary (not to mention the math converting currency and meters vs. feet). Let us know if we can help.   866-HELISKI

We will help you decide which is the best heliskiing deal for your group.

 

One of my favorite operators has a low base price and a low vertical charge.  I calculate that you can get twice the guaranteed vertical for the same price that another operator charges for unlimited vertical.

 

Like I used to say to my ex, “Do the math.” Then decide what’s best for your group.

 

PS. Operators vary widely on their willingness to accommodate clients for missed vertical. In fact, some operators have been known to start late and quit early to minimize helicopter expenses.

 

PSS. Some packages include unlimited vertical. In fact, a couple of operators offer unlimited vertical on every package! Others offer it during the early and late season. It may be built into a higher price. It is worth shopping around.

 

Best Regards,

tj

Tom Jackson
CPO (Chief Powder Officer)
HELISKI.com
HeliskiingReview.com
WhistlerHeliski.com
866-HELISKI
(866-435-4754)

heli-skiing canada, helicopter skiing bc canada

Expert Advice – Knowledge is Powder

 

A Heli-Skiing Down Day Will Make You Think

Years ago I was sitting in a remodeled gas station in a remote corner of British Columbia. Fog from the nearby river combined with low clouds to keep our helicopter grounded. Our hosts suggested a road trip to Alaska so that we could say we had been there……I passed.

I said to the person across from me, “I wish I could talk to someone who has been to these places before I book.” That was the genesis of the first helicopter skiing review site, HeliskiingReview.com. It offers objective reviews and advice, based on both my heli skiing experiences and those of many others.

From that modest beginning, Heliskiing Review has grown to be the biggest directory of heliskiing Canada operators. In later years, we added Alaska heliskiing, North America heliskiing and beyond.

Heliskiing is like other high-end all inclusive holidays – the experience must meet the expectations. That’s where we come in for helicopter skiing information.

This summer my partner Mike and I introduced Heliski.com, the ultimate resource for BC heliskiing and the Canadian heli ski community. It includes details on 95% of the heliskiing and heliboarding operations in the world. Heliski.com is also a community, facilitating communication and networking among those of us who love heliskiing and heliboarding.

We have added a store, newsletter, forum, pictures, videos and a Heli Finder utility to help visitors find the best trip for their group. Also new this season are partnerships with the two biggest operators – Canadian Mountain Holidays and Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing. Check it out, join Club Heliski.com and let us know what you think.

See you there,
tj