LAKE LOUISE – Many of the fastest skiers in the world are hoping Lake Louise’s world cup legacy doesn’t end this season.
With the speculation this could be the final world cup season in Lake Louise for the foreseeable future, some of the biggest names in men’s skiing shared their thoughts on the event in Banff National Park, its legacy, and what “The Lake” has meant to their careers.
“Lake Louise has always been in my heart,” said Germany’s Thomas Dressen, 2019 Lake Louise downhill gold medallist.
When Dressen tasted victory it was his comeback race after a lengthy layoff from a serious knee injury. He only hoped to snag a couple world cup points in his return to the slopes, but Dressen put on a stunning performance to pull off the upset.
“If you ask me, Lake Louise should always be the start of the downhill world cup season,” said Dressen. “It’s always nice to be here.”
From the 2019 Lake Louise downhill winner to its newest, Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde said it “would be a pity” if this was the final year.
“It’s one of the most beautiful places we go to during the season,” he said. “Staying at Chateau Lake Louise and the whole thing around it is beautiful. I would like to keep it.”
Starting next season, the women’s speed world cup in Lake Louise will be removed and a women’s technical world cup will take place in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, instead, which has led many to believe the men’s Lake Louise world cup will be next to go.
Lake Louise hosted its first world cup in March 1980 – a last minute replacement race – that helped prove Calgary would be a viable option for the Winter Olympics. From 1994 onward, the race has been a staple on the ski world cup circuit, and is often thought of as the start of the speed season.
Of course, you can’t mention Lake Louise without mentioning USA’s Lindsey Vonn, one of the sport’s biggest stars ever, who rose to international stardom and cemented her legacy with remarkable course-carving in Banff National Park. The local race was even nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” after the American skier’s knack for victory there, winning 18 golds and 25 medals total from 2001 to 2017.
Lake Louise is also the stomping ground for homegrown fan favourites, like Jan Hudec, whose biggest world cup moment came in his Alberta backyard when he won the men’s downhill in 2007.
“Lake Louise, in general, had a pretty big impact on my life,” said Hudec. “It was a special treat to race in Lake Louise, and made a huge impression on me as a skier.
“I think that was one thing that was always really special about that race, we got to connect with [the race volunteers]. I think that tied it all together always was we had a really great relationship with the volunteers, the Sled Dogs of Lake Louise.”
Another longtime Lake Louise racer and medal collector is Austria’s Matthias Mayer. He praised the community that hosts the local world cup.
“It’s a great race. It’s one of the high-speed downhill race of the season and it’s always our season kick-off and it’s great to ski here,” said the seven-time Lake Louise medallist. “The other very sad thing is, of course, the scenery here in Lake Louise in the middle of a national park in Canada, so it’s great to be here.”
Perhaps the last men’s gold medallist at Lake Louise, Swiss star Marco Odermatt, who won the super-G on Sunday (Nov. 27), said he would be saddened if this was the world cup’s final visit The Lake.
“I really like this place and it’s a great downhill to start the season and I guess most of us like to be here,” said Odermatt. “The atmosphere is just very nice, it’s calm to start, we are all in the same hotel. Most of us hope it will return here.”