For more than 40 years, Lake Louise has hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup, as one of the rare destinations on the calendar for both men and women. Despite the event’s long-standing tradition, uncertainty about the race’s future is causing concern.
Last weekend the fastest male racers on the planet came to Louise for the traditional first speed weekend of the season. Norway’s Alexander Aamodt Kilde won Saturday’s downhill and Swiss Marco Odermatt won the Super-G the following day. The women’s races are scheduled for this coming weekend.
This will likely be the final event for the foreseeable future.
The start of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season has not been an easy one thus far, as a whopping seven of 10 events leading up to Lake Louise had been canceled due to either bad weather conditions or lack of snow.
Unfortunately, this weekend also didn’t start off well either. Too much fresh snow and bad sightlines made a fair race on Friday impossible. Despite the next setback in an already disappointing season, superstar Kilde tried to stay positive.
“It’s an outside sport. Can’t do too much about the weather, but it’s a challenge for sure,” Kilde said.
Perfect conditions on Saturday
The FIS’s decision to postpone the downhill race to Saturday and call off one of the two Super-Gs planned for the weekend turned out to be the right one — the track in the heart of the Rocky Mountains presented itself in the best condition possible.
And the race lived up to the tension. The few hundred fans saw a true downhill thriller, with Kilde beating Austria’s Daniel Hemetsberger by just six hundredths of a second. Although 31-year-old Hemetsberger missed out on his first ever win in the World Cup by a blink of an eye, he was happy with his performance.
“I’m not upset about missing out on the win,” said Hemetsberger. “I gave it my everything and I really think it was my best ride ever.”
The winner of last year’s overall World Cup, Swiss standout Odermatt, finished third, only one tenth of a second behind Kilde. Odermatt, however, redeemed himself with a dominant win in Sunday’s Super-G. The only one coming within half a second of him was rival Kilde.
For the Canadian Ski Team, nicknamed the “Crazy Canucks”, hopeful Jack Crawford finished 10th after a disappointing showing on Saturday. Brodie Seger (13th), Jeffrey Read (21st) and Riley Seger (27th) rounded off a satisfactory performance for the team.
Goodbye Lake Louise?
Lake Louise has become one of the most traditional venues on the World Cup calendar, with the first races dating back to 1980. Since 1993, the best skiers in the world have come to race in Banff National Park to start off their speed season every year, with the only exception being in 2020 due to COVID restrictions.
However, the current events might be the last ever races in Lake Louise – the organizers have not renewed the contract with the FIS due to financial reasons and complications with the blocking of the ski slopes. Although a contract renewal isn’t completely off the table, the athletes are disappointed that they might not come back for a while.
“The chance that there might not be a Lake Louise for me is massive. It’s such a good way to start off our season,” said Crawford. “In Canada, our loved ones can come, our friends are here and it’s always nice to have people around who you spend a lot of time with to cheer you on and it gives you a little bit more motivation to perform.”
Three-time Olympic champion, Matthias Mayer, enjoys the fact that there are no huge crowds or tons of media attention like he is used to back home in Europe.
“Lake Louise is a wonderful race in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. For us it’s a real highlight to start the season and it would be a real pity if we didn’t come back here,” the Austrian said. “It’s a pleasant change of scenery to walk out of the finish area and have a relaxing day.”
Before it’s time to say goodbye, there are still three more races in Lake Louise this upcoming weekend, as the world’s fastest female skiers come to the Rockies from Dec. 2-4.
Although this might be the end for Lake Louise, it doesn’t mean that races won’t happen on Canadian snow in the future. Other venues such as Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia — which hosted the 2022 World Junior Alpine Ski Championships earlier this year — may be interested in hosting the races in the future.