On Monday December 12, 2016 invited guests, staff and council members gathered at City hall to witness the presentation of the George Majic Spiritus award to the late Heiko Socher. Heiko’s wife Linda accepted the award on his behalf saying she was honored to do so. I was proud to hand over the small trophy to Linda and tell her that Heiko’s name would also be engraved on the large trophy that sits in the Library. Anne Majic was present to say a few words about how the award came about and Randy Gliege gave a short speech of remembrance about the man he had known so well for a long time.
Heiko was the son of an engineer in eastern Germany whose older sister immigrated to Canada and then sponsored him here. He studied forestry at the University of British Columbia but wanted to be close to the mountains and on finding a job in Fernie he saw an opportunity to acquire a 30 per cent share of the ski hill and went on to become general manager and majority owner.
Fernie Snow Valley grew slowly and surely under the steady management hand of Heiko. With forestry knowledge, Heiko made money selling trees cut from the ski hill using large equipment. He began to market the skihill and in the beginning attracted many skiers from Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Alongside every successful man there is an ambitious, active woman and in this case while Heiko worked on the ski hill and base lodge, and Linda ran the ski school and ski shop and took care of many other tasks.
Heiko continued to cut trails and more lifts were added to add to the skiing experience.
Even after retirement Heiko spent a lot of time building and maintaining trails.
The iconic mental image of Heiko in his pickup truck with his chainsaw ready to cut trails is etched in all who knew him and is one that will never be forgotten.
It’s difficult to say goodbye to someone who has contributed so much for so long to our town. I am reminded of something Heiko said to me last year, and that was, “I wish I had more time because there is so much more I want to do for Fernie.”
Heiko did have more plans for this small town, Heavens Gate. He wanted to see a gondola running from Second Avenue to a proposed new area for skiing and hiking that would be available for family members of all ages. He was a man of vision that turned a small hill into an international renowned one, who paved the way for new ideas and who was generous, quiet and very unassuming and most of all who worked tirelessly to the end. He really was one of a kind, caring and thoughtful of his community, of people, someone who has made a huge impact that won’t be soon forgotten.