By Phil McLachlan
After fifty years of tireless dedication to Fernie’s mountains and landscapes, Heiko Socher has been named a Master of the Mountain, and will continue to be remembered as such, even through his passing.
The Fernie Museum and Historical Society kicked off a night of memories at the Fernie Alpine Resort with a slideshow, shedding light on Heiko’s life, and a few of his many accomplishments throughout his years in Fernie.
Heiko arrived in Canada in 1966 from his homeland of Germany, and took on the responsibility of resurrecting the ski hill. His passion for the hill showed through his years of work, and he had an instrumental hand in what the Fernie Alpine Resort has been transformed into today; a global ski sensation.
Approximately eighty skiers and leaders in the snow industry carried torches down the Bear and Elk run, and were greeted at the bottom of the hill by a crowd of over a thousand in attendance, silently paying their respects to the man who made Fernie what it is today. The torchbearers finished by forming the insignia of the Snow Valley.
People continued to stay, as many rose to say a few words about Heiko, and the influences he had on each of their lives.
Craig MacLeod was a dear family friend and business associate of Heiko, and worked with the ski legend and his family for decades. He saw Heiko possess a persevering, pioneering spirit, which was not easily trampled by setbacks.
“It’s befitting that we should see a company carrying the torches down, because Heiko himself carried a torch so significant that it takes a company of leaders, a company of people with like-passion to continue to carry Heiko’s vision as we go forward,” said MacLeod.
“Heiko’s vision, was larger than Heiko,” he said. “He was motivated by the generations. He was motivated to see Fernie reach its full potential. Where other people saw problems, Heiko saw solutions.”
MacLeod recalled sitting in the Griz Inn in the late 80’s, when times were tough. Lots couldn’t be given away, yet Heiko pursued the vision that fueled his heart, and it eventually paid off. MacLeod remembers him turning piles of rubble into functional cottages.
Heiko was also involved in many community projects including 901 Fernie, and the Castle on 1st, which he referred to as, “Something to be proud of.”
Heiko retired from his position at the Fernie Alpine Resort when the hill was sold to Resorts of the Canadian Rockies in 1997. However this didn’t stop the powder-junkie from leaving the hill; it had become his home. Even up to his death, Heiko has left his mark on the mountain, so significant that it will never fade.
“When people come here and enjoy this, it’s because Heiko and Linda didn’t give up,” concluded MacLeod. “It’s because they had a vision to keep going, it’s because they had a vision for Fernie.”
Dave Aikens came to the Fernie Snow Valley in 1979, and started working with the Ski Patrol, having a large hand in the development of the Avalanche Safety Program.
“I’m honoured to have the friendship with Heiko and the Socher family, for many years,” said Aikens. “You will be missed, Heiko, and long-remembered in this place and others,” he said, after expressing his many experiences with Heiko, whom he always considered a visionary.
Heiko’s son, Ralf Socher, finished off with a beautiful dedication to his father.
“Most people have heard of Heiko’s achievements, but I’d like tell you a little bit about what he meant to me as my father, and how he influenced my life,” said Ralf. “Everything I am today, I owe to [my mother] Linda and [father] Heiko. I’d like to say thank you Linda, thank you Heiko.”
“Learning from him, has made me a better man. He has taught me what dedication, perseverance and hard work mean,” added Ralf.
Ralf reminded those attending of Heiko’s personality, and made sure to highlight his uplifting and unique sense of humour. He considered his father a ‘doer’; a man who tackled monumental tasks without hesitation.
“It may sound like his life was all work and no play, but he was passionate about what he did, he was passionate about recreation and he was passionate about skiing,” said Ralf. “And that’s what brought him here to Fernie.”
Heiko continued to carve and groom trails through to the last year of his life, and he will always be remembered as the man who had a heart for Fernie, and never gave up on his dream.
“Friends, powder hounds, and Fernieites, a toast and a cheer, to Heiko,” concluded Ralf, his toast answered by a resounding cheer and deafening applause from the crowd.
Ski on, Heiko.