In the mountains with Elias Ortner

When Elias Ortner first thought of working as a heli-ski guide for Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, he was working as a ski instructor and supervisor at the Skischule Heugenhauser, in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, Austria. After 10-years working within the Austrian Alps around Salzburg, Elias says he began dreaming of experiencing the famous powder and the 1.2 million acre unlimited vertical terrain, in Blue River.

In August 2007, Elias says he met Mike Wiegele for the first time in Austria. Three months later, Elias joined the Wiegele team and began the next leg of his skiing and guiding career.

Fast-forward one whole decade later, and Elias is now a MWHS Senior Lead Guide and the Assistant Guiding Operations Manager. Throughout the ski season, Elias spends his days in the mountains, leading groups through the Cariboos and Monashees and assisting in organizing the daily MWHS guiding routine, so all the details at the resort run smoothly, efficiently and safely, for all the guests who come to Wiegele’s from around the world.

Since his first week as a guide in 2007, Elias says he has chosen to use Atomic Skis. In the 1990’s, Mike Wiegele paired up with Atomic Skis and revolutionized powder skiing by developing the “Fat Boy” ski. Elias’s testament to Atomic is that his family now skis only Atomic; his 6-year-old daughter has been learning on Atomic Skis since she was 4, and has his wife, Maria Davis is now skiing on the new Atomic Vantage X. Obviously, Elias is still a big fan of the original fat ski brand and is currently testing an Atomic model designed for backcountry skiing that will be launched in 2018-19.


Elias tree skiing through some of MWHS’s world famous deep powder. John Schwirtlich Photography

What is your favourite Atomic ski gear?

I started with the Atomic Sugar Daddy. Then I was on the Bent Chetler and now the Automatic 117 is my favourite. They’re easy to turn, they float really well and I think it’s a well-rounded ski for an athletic powder skier.

I also like their boot, the Waymaker Carbon 130. It’s very light, and is super comfortable and has a sole with a good grip, the ice doesn’t stick to it so it’s easy to get in the bindings. Which is really good for taking skis on and off in the powder. And after three-years of wearing it all day from 8:30 to 4, 120 days-a-year the boot is still comfortable.

Elias Ortner; Atomic; Skiing

Elias carving some fresh lines on Mud Glacier, in the Monashee mountains. John Schwirtlich Photography

What is it like to go from using Atomic skis in Austria, to getting to test them seasons in advance of their release?

That’s a big honour to do that, and we are in email contact about feedback about the skis constantly. We have a strong support from them.

Mike was always working with Atomic and we had a meeting at the World Cup opening in October 2016 in Austria with the CEO and the head developer to strengthen our partnership so I’m on the test ski and there’s a lighter version of the same ski coming soon.

Everyone jokes “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. Those weather changes can have you on a huge variety of terrain and conditions in one day. Do you find the skis can keep up?

They are very versatile, they hold up in all the variable conditions like deep powder to corn skiing in the spring – just perfectly.

The best is mid-February when you can start in the alpine and ski all the way to the valley floor and finish in the trees. If you ski Ski World from the top at 10,000 feet, it’s all glacier to 6600 feet then you go into Ski World Trees and finish at 4700 feet. So it’s more than 5000 feet and that ski is perfect to start on the glacier, transition on the ski line and then ski the trees and drop some pillows and have an epic run.

Elias Ortner; Atomic

Elias and his favorite Atlas Atomic Skis, on top of Galaxy run, in the Monashee mountains. John Schwirtlich Photography

Interview by 10-year MWHS heli-skiing addict and guest MWHS blogger Jean Strong @jeanbstrong