Born in Switzerland, Joe served in the Swiss army during World War I before immigrating to Canada in 1921 and joining relatives on a homestead near Sylvan Lake, Alberta. In 1925 he happened to meet fellow Swiss Jean Weber who told him about the Canadian Rockies and encouraged Joe to join him there.
Joe and Jean worked a trap line together in an area north of Jasper National Park during the winter of 1925-1926 and from there Joe went on to work as a guide, explorer, and photographer. Of his photographs, his biographer, Helen Collinson, wrote, "The beauty, solitude and stillness of a snow-covered winter landscape must have moved him deeply, for many of his best images reflect just that silence."
Joe Weiss was one of the earliest ski-mountaineers, completing a solo trip from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield in 1929, exploring the Columbia Icefields on skis during the following winter and skiing the complete route from Jasper to Banff, and, in 1931, completing the first ski-ascent of Snow Dome. In 1933 he attempted a ski-ascent of Mount Columbia but was turned back just 100m below the summit.
In 1944 he worked as a guide and instructor with the Lovat Scouts, a group of Scottish soldiers who trained in winter mountain warfare in Jasper National Park.
During his later years, Joe worked as a fire lookout on The Palisade.
[See Mount Weiss]