LAKE LOUISE – A decision on the future of World Cup races in Lake Louise has yet to be decided after reports came out that it would no longer be part of the circuit after this season.
But there were no commitments to the event, which began running in Lake Louise in 1980, was moving forward at the Canadian Rocky Mountains location.
Following days of online talk in the ski community after an initial story from the Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tageszeitung and a subsequent article in Ski Racing Media, Alpine Canada Alpin confirmed the World Cup will take place this year but the staple in the series is not yet booked for 2023 and beyond.
Kylie Robertson, the manager of communications for Alpine Canada Alpin, said they were “surprised and disappointed to see reports on foreign and now domestic websites and publications fostering rumours and speculation.”
Lake Louise Ski Resort noted the World Cup contract at the resort is only signed on a yearly basis as opposed to multi-year so discussions for beyond 2023 have yet to take place.
“The Lake Louise Ski Resort is and will continue to be a strong supporter of this event,” said Leigha Stankewich, marketing and communications manager for Lake Louise Ski Resort.
“With our winter season kicking off on November 4 along with our amazing volunteers, proven track record & superior snowmaking abilities we feel we will continue to be the best option to host World Cup speed events in Canada.”
Robertson said Alpine Canada Alpin has yet to confirm anything beyond this year's event and they’re not in a position to comment on the event going forward.
“What we are confident in saying is that Alpine Canada will work hard with all communities and organizing bodies to ensure that World Cup action remains in Canada,” she said.
She noted the organization’s attention is on this year’s event and it is excited to add the third men’s race once again.
“Consistent with our strategic plan, we are committed to producing race events that excite Canadians, including hosting annual Alpine [World Cup] events that grow the sport and fans, deliver an amazing experience for athletes and fans, are commercially sustainable, and support a strong legacy for the ski racing community today and into the future,” she said in a statement.
An email to Winterstart Events, which helped run the Lake Louise event for several years, stated it had “passed the reins of the Lake Louise World Cup back to Alpine Canada Alpin. Consistent with ACA’s ambitious five-year strategic plan, they are ready to re-assume responsibility for the event, starting with the 2022 race events.”
ACA launched its five-year strategic plan in 2021 with the goal of finishing top five in alpine medal rankings at the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The plan focuses on Next Gen athletic development, building domestic ski capacity, producing race events that “excite Canadians” and building its brand to reach a bigger audience.
Ken Kilroe, the chief of media for the Lake Louise Alpine World Cup, said they are aware of the articles on it being the final year of the World Cup and were looking towards this year’s event.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) – the governing body for skiing and snowboarding – said in a statement all “FIS long-term calendars beyond the upcoming 2022-23 season have not yet been established and will be discussed at the earliest at the upcoming technical meetings.
“All questions about specific race locations should be referred to the various local organizing committees and/or the governing national ski association.
The Tiroler Tageszeitung article cites FIS race director Markus Waldner and Austrian sports site Laola1 has Austrian Alpine Herbert Mandl confirming this year is the final year at Lake Louise.
Mandl was quoted as saying work has been ongoing with Panorama Mountain Resort, which is southwest of Radium Hot Springs, which hosted the FIS Alpine Jr. World Ski Championships earlier this year. Attempts to reach Panorama Mountain Resort were unsuccessful.
Niina Haaslahti, Alpine Canada Alpin’s senior director and advisor for FIS World Cup, referred questions to its communications department.
James Eastham, a communications officer with Parks Canada, said the federal agency works with Lake Louise Ski Resort and it is permitted in the resort’s lease agreement.
“At this time, we have no information on the status of the event in future years and we have not been approached by either the ski area or FIS regarding the event's future,” he said.
Ron Orr, the province's Minister of Culture, said Thursday (Aug. 18) it was the first he had heard of it and the ministry would be looking into the matter.
The longtime event has seen some of the top skiers in the world pick up victories at the track such as Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Bode Miller, while many Bow Valley athletes such as Jeff and Eric Read have also competed at the well-known resort.
The first World Cup drew thousands of spectators, but crowds have thinned out over the years. The short event also takes dedicated volunteers to organize and run each year.
Nestled in Banff National Park, the ski resort is a draw for skiers and snowboarders throughout each season.
The World Cup races, however, add a different dimension as dozens of Olympic competitors take to the slopes.
In 2020, the races at Lake Louise were held in Europe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The World Cup also saw cancellations last year due to heavy snowfall upwards of 40 centimetres.
The men’s World Cup will run Nov. 25-27 will have one downhill run and two super-G. The women’s World Cup will have two downhill runs and one super-G from Dec. 2-4.
Robertson added in the emailed statement Alpine Canada Alpin is working with ski resorts in Canada for hosting World Cup events.
“There are several resorts in Canada, including Lake Louise, that are keen to host [World Cup] events and we are working with them to develop the right long-term strategy in partnership with FIS for next season and beyond.”