Anticipation always reaches peak level this time of year as the world’s top skiers flock to Lake Louise for the lone Canadian stop on the alpine World Cup circuit.
This season marks the 100th anniversary of Alpine Canada and the World Cup event has the feel of a homecoming for competitors and fans alike eager to begin the downhill and super-G season.
But racers must come prepared with their ‘A’ game to have success at the Alberta course, which boasts a long and rich history on the ski calendar.
“The downhill at Lake Louise is not the most challenging course in terms of speed or steepness,” CBC Sports commentator Scott Russell says.
“It can, however, be very technical. There is a section of the track known as ‘Fallaway,’ where the mountain drops off as the skier makes the turn while ascending the track. That’s the thing at Lake Louise, you have to make a number of technical turns at high speed which can be challenging.”
WATCH | Lake Louise, Canada’s crown jewel of the skiing world:
This upcoming season marks the 100th anniversary of Alpine Canada.
CBC Sports will have live coverage of Lake Louise men’s downhill on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. ET as well as the super-G race on Sunday at 2:15 p.m.
Tune into Road to the Olympic Games, our weekly program spotlighting high-performance athletes from around the world, on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET for more coverage.
Skiers to watch on the men’s side this season include last year’s winners at Lake Louise.
Austrian star Max Franz is the defending downhill champion for this event and finished ninth in the standings for this category in 2018-19.
WATCH | Max Franz wins 2018 Lake Louise downhill:
Kjetil Jansrud of Norway began last season with a win in super-G at Lake Louise and went on to finish fourth in the standings.
WATCH: Kjetil Jansrud takes top spot at last year’s season-opener:
Noticeably absent on the slopes around the world will be slalom and giant slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher, who announced his retirement in September.
The two-time Olympic champion from Austria captured eight overall World Cup titles in his career and won 67 of his 245 races.
Canadians look for success on home soil
A pair of Canadians are looking to leave their mark in the speed categories this season.
Toronto’s Dustin Cook finished 16th in super-G at Lake Louise last year and a career-best 11th for this venue in 2017.
The 30-year-old has made 84 World Cup starts dating back to 2010 and has reached the podium twice, highlighted by a win at Meribel, France, in 2015.
Ben Thomsen, 32, has also competed on the World Cup circuit since 2010 with 114 starts.
The Calgary resident earned downhill silver at an Olympic test event in Sochi in 2012. His best Lake Louise performance came last year, when he finished 15th in downhill.
Osborne-Paradis remains sidelined
After suffering a devastating injury in a training run at Lake Louise a year ago, 35-year-old Manuel Osborne-Paradis is still on the mend and his timetable for returning to competition is uncertain.
“I am not here to waste anyone’s time. I am not going to waste my time,” Osborne-Paradis told CBC Sports on the most recent episode of the Player’s Own Voice podcast.
“If at the end of this year I feel like I can’t get a medal at the Olympics or win a World Cup, with some hard work and determination, I don’t think that I am going to continue.”
The North Vancouver native, who has 11 World Cup medals to his name, will certainly be missed this weekend.
Nonetheless, all eyes will be on the current competitors at Lake Louise as the new season begins.
“It’s big time World Cup alpine skiing, and [Lake Louise] has been a staple of the circuit for decades,” Russell says.
“Ski fans in Canada treat Lake Louise as a national treasure and it has become an enduring symbol of top-flight alpine competition worldwide.”