Ole Heie…a True Birkebeiner Warrior

Written by Dana Mauer

Young distance skier, Ole Heie’s memory was honoured last month with an event organized by the Heie Family and the Camrose Ski Club.  Tragically, Ole passed away suddenly last summer on a running trail at the age of 12, leaving his family, friends, and teammates devastated.  The “Ski Like Ole Lapapalooza” In-Person & Virtual Ski Event, was held on Jan. 2, 2022, – the anniversary of the day that then 11-year-old Ole Heie completed an amazing 102km cross country ski on Jan. 2, 2021.  A recent CBC article outlines the efforts of one Yellowknife family that skied on Great Slave Lake from dawn to dusk at -35 C to honour Ole and his love of endurance skiing.  Read the full story at https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/yellowknife-family-braves-35c-cold-ski-1.6306329

Roberta Hyland, the Canadian Birkie’s ‘Barneberkie’ event organizer noted “I skied the “Ski Like Ole” Virtual Tribute event this year because I am still amazed by Ole’s 102 km endurance ski!  I was able to ski only 15km that day in -30 C weather!  What that Yellowknife family did was incredible… like Ole.”

The young skier was also a Canadian Birkebeiner 13km Mini-Birkie gold medalist in the Under 12 category in 2020, finishing 9th overall.  His Mother, Leigh Heie, describes how Ole dreamed of his 13th birthday when on February 11th, 2022, he would be old enough to ski (accompanied by an adult) his first 31km or 55km Canadian Birkie, and hoped to win his age category.  Ole loved the “Birkieland” trails and events like the Birkie that bring people of all ages and abilities together.  He accomplished several other incredible athletic endurance endeavors, including skiing 1000 kilometres in the first 54 days of the ski season at age 11, and running his first mountain ultra in the spring of 2021 at age 12.  

Despite his youth, Ole embodied the definition of a Birkebeiner Warrior – strong in adversity, and never daunted by trial and hardships.  Although a fierce competitor, his Mother describes how Ole had a special way of connecting with people from around the world.  He left a lasting impression on people of all ages, his infectious enthusiasm inspiring everyone around him to reach for the stars.  He exuded pure joy, good sportsmanship, and was kind and encouraging to all he encountered on the trails. 

Canadian Birkie Coordinator Marion Hinteregger recalled, “Ole’s family drove the Camrose Ski Club mascot, named “Ole Uffda”, to the Canadian Birkie Ski Festival.  Ole’s Mom, Leigh, laughed how “Ole and Ole” sat side-by-side in the back seat on route to the Birkie.  We so appreciate the ongoing support of the Camrose Ski Club and of the Heie family.” 

Ole’s Mom, Leigh Heie, told us “The Birkie has been a big part of our family for many years and something Ole truly loved being a part of.  It always fell on his birthday weekend and it’s always how he wanted to spend it.  He truly would be honored to be remembered by the Birkibeiner in this way. He dreamed of doing the 31k and 55k as soon as he was old enough – and all the Birkies around the world.”

The Canadian Birkebeiner will forever miss Ole’s exemplary courage, passion, and determination on the ski trails and in life.  We hope others, young and old, will be inspired by his short but memorable life story to achieve their own dreams and goals. 

A Legacy Fund has been set up in Ole Heie’s name through the Battle River Community Foundation. This Legacy fund will help support the ski community.  To donate, follow the instructions below:

Click on this link which takes you to the BATTLE RIVER COMMUNITY FOUNDATION.
They ask that donors share their name as this allows them to issue a donation tax receipt. IMPORTANT:  In the comments, please specify your donation is for OLE HEIE & FAMILY LEGACY FUND.