Road To The Olympic Games

Alpine Skiing

Lake Louise cancellation touches all corners of alpine skiing

After a lack of snow forced the cancellation of World Cup races at Lake Louise for the first time in three decades, athletes and officials are scrambling to deal with the repercussions.

Athletes, officials, volunteers coping with rare event

It was not a happy day for Jan Hudec when he learned that this year's men's alpine races at Lake Louise had been called off due to a lack of snow. (Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Some things just don't happen, until they do.

After weeks of unseasonably warm weather at Lake Louise — and not-cold-enough temperatures in the forecast — the decision was made Wednesday morning to cancel the men's alpine skiing World Cup races scheduled for Nov. 26 and 27 at the Alberta resort.

It marked the first time in 29 years of hosting World Cups that a Lake Louise event was called off.

Both the quantity and quality of the snow was found lacking. With the ground not yet frozen, and the moisture content of the snow too high, race chairman Brian Lynam described Timing Flats (the famous gliding section in the top third of the track) as "swampy."

'I really needed this race'

Though a rare event for Lake Louise, the cancellation of the men's downhill and super-G competitions was business as usual for most alpine racers, who are used to having their schedules turned upside down as they chase winter around the globe.

But losing this World Cup stop hurt a little more for Jan Hudec, the 2007 Lake Louise downhill winner and 2014 Olympic super-G bronze medallist for Canada who now represents the Czech Republic.

"I really needed this race," said Hudec, who had just 11 days of on-snow training this off-season due to struggles with recurring pain and injuries.  

Hudec and others were hoping Colorado's Beaver Creek would be ready for next weekend's races, but on Thursday those were cancelled too. Then it's off to Europe, where FIS (skiing's world governing body) will attempt to make up for Lake Louise by either adding races to already scheduled World Cup stops or using different venues.   

Financial impact

Roughly $320,000 in prize money would have been up for grabs over the two races at Lake Louise, and the loss of potential revenue is being felt elsewhere too. 

Winterstart, the organizing committee for the Lake Louise World Cups, has cancellation insurance and is currently navigating how to make a claim of this magnitude. Premiums, already expensive, could increase.

"We hope to claim most of our losses, but know some expenses will be lost," Lynam said. 

Alpine Canada president Mark Rubinstein said his organization's losses are non-financial, but still considerable.

"Lake Louise represents our only domestic alpine World Cup for our athletes to shine at home. They take pride in that fact," he said. "Secondly, the overall visibility of our athletes and sport is greatly diminished."

Rumour mill churning

Like with any surprising occurrence, the rumour mill kicked in.

The craziest rumour I heard was that the women's races scheduled for Lake Louise from Dec. 2-4 may be called off because they were tied to the men's cancellation insurance policy.

This is simply not true, and those I talked to felt very confident that the women's super-G and two downhills will go ahead as planned.

Everyone has an opinion on where and when the men's races will be made up. It's rumoured that three resorts in Europe (which has an unusually solid base of snow for this time of year) are vying to hold them. The strongest contender, according to the not-so-reliable rumour mill, is Val d'Isere, France.

In the meantime, volunteers are vowing to make the Lake Louise women's event the best ever, and officials have been dealing with a crush of media inquiries since the cancellation was announced.

"I wish we had this kind of interest when things go well," said Kelly Angele, Winterstart's director of marketing, events and media.

Added Lynam: "I've never had so many different media outlets request interviews."

It seems the old adage applies: you don't know how good you've got it until it's gone.

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