Gearing up to attend the 2009 Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup, which took place over the last two weeks in Alberta, Canada, I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to a World Cup ski race, and I wanted to know what all the hype was about. So I went up to the Lake Louise on two consecutive weekends to take in the competition vibe. Here’s what I learned.
Lesson #1: World Cups are all about cowbells. Standing between two spectators clutching two bells each directly in front of my ear drums, I also learned that the ringing only increases in volume as skiers crossed the finish line. My suggestion? Stand away from the cowbells if you have sensitive ears.
Lesson #2: Spectators occasionally roast marshmallows at the finish line and sing “Maria” from West Side Story when German skier Maria Riesch races the course. The mercury dipped to a chilly 13 below, but these die-hard skiing fans from Europe, Canada, and the U.S. didn’t seem to care.
Lesson #3: Ski racers have quads bigger than the size of my whole body. And it’s no wonder they are so ripped: Racing at over 77 mph, skis rattling across the snow, these athletes have to somehow turn their way down the hill and stop at the finish line, which sets off a veritable tidal wave of snow.
Lesson #4: The racers are also, surprisingly, down-to-earth. Catching up at the finish line with Canadian favorite, Emily Brydon, I learned a lot about what it means to compete on home soil, particularly with the Winter Olympic Games coming to Vancouver and Whislter in February. “It’s good to deal with the pressure and expectations of competing at home, and get that out of the way before taking off on the World Cup circuit for a bit,” Brydon said at the finish. Eager to get away from the media before hopefully competing in her third Olympic Games, Brydon mentioned that she just needs to carry the momentum forward from Lake Louise.
So far, my introduction to World Cup skiing is off to a great start. I could dig the laid-back, fun-loving culture of ski racing, for sure. For complete results on the Lake Louise World Cup click here.
Meghan J. Ward is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast based in Banff.