Canadian Grit: A story for Club 5 Ski Classics

Lake Louise hosted its first World Cup in 1980 with its inaugural downhill race. Three Canadians pushed out of the start gate that day (Steve Podborski - 4th, Ken Read - 8th, Dave Irwin - 12th). Since then, Lake Louise has hosted 20 World Cup men’s events and 27 ladies’ events. The ladies first took to the Lake Louise track in 1989.
So, what does it take to host a World Cup in Canada? A village. Over 400 volunteers, preparation staff and members of a race organizing committee touchdown at Lake Louise before the snow even starts flying.
Starting in early September, the Sled Dogs, a dedicated group of Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup volunteers and Net Monkeys, the crew responsible for the course high safety installations, head to Lake Louise to begin building snow farming structures with t-steel and fencing to accumulate any early season snow fall. They also build the base for the athlete warm-up tent near the Top of the World chair. Helicopters are brought it in to help transport equipment like safety nets, tents, propane and porta-potties. Snowmaking equipment is deployed along the race-course. The bulk of the Sled Dogs then begin to arrive in mid-November to install secondary safety systems, spectator fencing and prepare for the arrival of the teams in advance of the training runs and race days.

The magic of the World Cup starts long before there is snow in the forecast. This year was no different, as we were amazed at all that was accomplished with the right attitude and more than 34,000 cumulative volunteer hours:

  • the installation of slip skirt/Vexar following closely behind the Net Monkeys as they worked 2,800 hours to install 3.6 kilometers of A-net
  • the rolling out and punching in of 12 kilometers of B-net - much of it with rock drills
  • knocking in over four kilometers of spec fence with t-steel pounders
  • the laps and laps...and laps of skiing to slip the course
  • drills, radios and batteries cycled on and off the mountain - charged and always ready to go
  • the non-stop shoveling and raking undertaken to eliminate berms or racerslowing loose snow
  • the construction of five starts and alternate starts and alternates to alternate starts
  • the timing crew working quietly behind the fences and nine kilometers of cable to ensure that we had continuity from top to bottom and to wire in each of the starts used and ensure we have interval times and speeds for every athlete
  • the stewards who stood smiling for hours to ensure the safe access to our course
  • crew chiefs stepping up to ensure projects are completed and section chiefs ensuring their part of the course was race ready
  • the medical team that was always on station and ready to go to assist athletes and volunteers alike
  • the ladies in race administration who ensured that the race documentation was accurate and available to the alpine ski world
  • the finance team who ensured every penny is accounted for and every standard is exceeded
  • gates and gate panels being installed and removed and installed on a too regular basis
  • Hillco and the Bullets ensuring things were where they were supposed to be and ready to go when they were needed night and day
  • the enthusiastic efforts of volunteer services to ensure everyone had a bed to sleep in, hot breakfast, a good lunch and a bit of fun at Camp Canada
  • the efforts of our Picasso's who's dye program helped in all lighting conditions
  • the efforts of our marketing, media and events crew that worked outside the fences to help turn our race into a place to be - ensuring that our guests and VIP’s enjoyed their time with us and that the athletes were able to focus on racing and not worry about where to get a hot cup of tea or a snack
  • the media and communications team ensuring that the stories and pictures got out there for the world to enjoy
  • the collective confidence of our volunteers...even when it was raining, when we needed a training run or when we lost power on the mountain and needed to run everything on generators, cat power and a whole mountain of enthusiastic Sled Dogs
  • the support of our partners, stakeholders and suppliers in the Bow Valley corridor and across Canada who support our event

Much of the effort was unheralded and collectively the volunteers ensured that this year the Canadian World Cup was going to “winter” start the 2017-2018 season. We were determined to host a genuine world-class event, because that is the Canadian way.
It's not too often that you get 24 hours of rain before you finally get in a men’s downhill training run and then to have it start raining mid-way through the super-G race, especially in Lake Louise.
One of our social media interns, Olivia Goemans from Mount Royal University, coined the phrase "No power, no problem - the show must go on!" during the Saturday downhill of the ladies’ event. We are pretty sure it will be available on event t-shirts next year. An incredible opportunity to showcase our Canadian grit as we pulled everyone to the start with the power of a cat.

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Special thanks to the tireless efforts of the volunteers ensuring that Canada’s only alpine World Cup was safe and successful, the multitude of partners world-wide who offered their support and thanks to our resilient fans who despite the challenges kept the faith. We were able to welcome 22 countries and 90 athletes for the men’s event and 16 countries and 60 athletes for the ladies’ event. The 2017 edition of the Lake Louise Audi FIS Ski World Cup truly was a classic.

Visit for more information and to save the dates for next year.