Didier Cuche speeds to victory in Saturday's downhill at Lake Louise. ((Frank Gunn/Canadian Press))

Didier Cuche of Switzerland won Saturday's season-opening downhill ski race at Lake Louise, Alta., assuming the alpine World Cup overall lead in the process.

Cuche, 35, who captured last month's giant slalom opener in Austria, picked up the fifth World Cup downhill victory of his career in a time of one minute, 50.31 seconds.

"I'm pretty proud of that run because I've always had trouble being fast here," Cuche told CBC Sports.

Italy's Werner Heel finished second, 0.44 seconds behind, and Switzerland's Carlo Janka was third, 0.62 seconds back of Cuche.

Defending World Cup downhill champion Michael Walchhofer of Austria was fourth.

Last season's overall champ, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, was 33rd.

John Kucera of Calgary and Robbie Dixon of North Vancouver, B.C., were the top Canadians, finishing sixth and eighth, respectively.

Kucera, the reigning downhill world champion, came in 0.81 seconds slower than the winner in a race contested under a light snowfall.

"I think it's a solid start," Kucera told CBC Sports after completing his run. "The conditions are pretty tough today. It's flat light, the track is getting pretty roughed up, but it's the same for everyone."

Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver, B.C. (tied for 16th), Montreal's Erik Guay (21st), Louis-Pierre Helie of Berthierville, Que. (22nd), Calgary's Jan Hudec (35th) and Toronto's Tyler Nella (41st) rounded out the Canadians in the field.

The race was delayed after American TJ Lanning, the 24th man down the hill, crashed and had to be airlifted off the course with an apparent knee injury.

Lake Louise will host the men's super-G opener on Sunday (Bold,, 1 p.m. ET).