During his last 40 years, Heiko Socher dedicated his life to the exploration and development of trails in the mountains surrounding Fernie.
Many know of Heiko’s trail; the 21 km connector between Island lake Lodge and the start of the Three Sisters hike. Up until Wednesday, August 2, this trail was called the Mountain Lakes Trail. With the help of four close friends, Heiko’s wife, Linda Socher, witnessed the renaming of this iconic trail, now appropriately called, Heiko’s Trail.
“It’s a great honour for Heiko,” said Linda. “I’m sure he’s very pleased that it will be called Heiko’s trail.”
The Sochers established Fernie’s first ski school and soon after, bought 30 per cent of the ski hill shares in 1973. It was Heiko’s love for the outdoors that transformed a ski hill that was losing money, into an internationally-renowned resort.
“He could just see the potential that the ski hill could have,” said Linda.
In 2004, Heiko hiked the Mountain Lakes Trail with Linda, their children and their daughters-in-law. He had spent three summers cutting and grooming it, because he saw a need for East Fernie to be connected to Island Lake. He had a vision of transforming it into one of Fernie’s best trails.
Linda remembers him leaving the house at 7 a.m., every morning, to groom trails. All he would bring was a power saw, his axe and his lunch. Heiko would not return until six or seven in the evening.
“It was a passion, to make the mountains available to everybody,” said Linda.
Linda and Heiko are originally from Europe and moved to Fernie in 1966 when Heiko got a job in forestry. It is customary for every trail in the European Alps to have a name. Upon completion of the trail in 2004, Heiko named it the Mountain Lakes Trail. He was far too modest to name it after himself.
When he completed the trail, Heiko invited the Forest Service in Cranbrook on a tour. They were thrilled with the trail and approved it right away.
“He did not go out and try to get a permit first. He did the work first, and then he got a permit,” said Linda, laughing.
Last spring, Heiko’s daughter-in-law’s father wrote a letter to the Mayor of Fernie, suggesting it be renamed, Heiko’s Trail. With the permission of Linda, it became so.
The original sign still stands tall, but the name has been replaced. This work of art was created by the hands of Robert Champagne.
“I was really honoured to be asked to create the sign,” said Champagne. “Heiko is basically a mentor, he’s a hero.
“I’m also into the trails very much, and just to see what he’s done, the persistence he’s had to make things happen, it’s made me gain a ton of respect for him.”
Beside the sign bearing his name, stands a photograph of Heiko doing what he loved best – exploring.
Kootenay Signs and Brian Pollock Photography helped in the creation of the photograph, which has been printed on aluminum.
Heiko was instrumental in the creation of three trails in Fernie; the Mountain Lakes Trail, now called Heiko’s Trail, the trail up to Fernie Mountain that connects with Heiko’s Trail at Windy Pass, and the trail to Heaven’s Gate. He also wanted to build a good trial to the ammonite, but faced opposition from biologists who were concerned about the preservation of the artifact.
Some did not have the privilege of meeting Heiko, who unfortunately passed away last autumn.
“He was a very gentle man, with a great sense of humour,” said Linda. “Everything was always done with a great sense of humour. He accomplished a lot in his life by just pursuing things.”