There’s no better way to kick off winter in the Canadian Rockies than attending the Audi FIS Ski World Cup at Lake Louise. Every year a small army of visitors, volunteers, media, and world-famous athletes descend on the tiny resort town with big mountain terrain. It’s the start of the World Cup speed circuit where the fastest skiers in the world compete to be crowned champ as they travel around the world.
Personally, we couldn’t think of a better spot to kick off winter as it arrives early in the Canadian Rockies. Come November it’s not a question of whether they’ll be ski, but how much ski and snow there will be. With three Banff ski resorts in the area, we’re spoilt for options.
The World Cup at Lake Louise
The Audi FIS Ski World Cup is the start of the Men’s speed race. It’s an exhilarating sport to watch as the skiers rip down the mountain course in just over a minute and a half covering over 3 km in distance and 800 meters in elevation. On their way down they hit some blistering speeds at just over 120 kph. You’ll see that around a hard bank, fly through the air, and slide into the finish line in a spray of snow.
There are four separate races that take place at Lake Louise over two weekends. The first weekend holds the men’s Downhill and Super G races while the following weekends hold the same events for the women. Lake Louise is one of the few mountains that hold both the men’s and women’s races.
Trying to capture the skiers in a photo is harder than one would think as they fly by in a blink of an eye — they are the fastest skiers in the world after all! What sets Lake Louise apart from many other stops on the Ski World Cup is its intimacy.
We’d seen images before of the Ski World Cup around the world with thousands of fans in the stands craning their neck to catch a glimpse of the racers. At the Lake Louise Ski World Cup, everything feels much more cozy with close proximity to the racers or catching a world-famous athlete on the chairlift in the lead up to the race.
Tips For Attending the Ski World Cup at Lake Louise
Get The Right Base
There are several great towns to base yourself in if you’re from out of town to enjoy the ski. The most obvious choice starts off with the most expensive at the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. However, if you plan to score a room in Lake Louise make sure to plan early as the first weekend often coincides with the American Thanksgiving and holiday-goers.
Regardless there are plenty of lodging options in the town of Banff. Accommodation options are in a wide variety and there is likely something for everyone. The town also has plenty more to offer with a plethora of restaurants, bars, brewery, and even a distillery.
You won’t get bored here! Don’t worry about the drive either as free shuttles can you bring to any of the ski resorts in the area — Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise.
Bring Your Skis or Snowboard
The event goes by in the blink of an eye as skiers rocket down the course. They go so fast that the race takes around two hours for all the competitors to finish. This leaves plenty of time to hit the slopes in the morning and afternoon.
Take a lap down Lake Lindsey Way named after Lindsey Vonn. She considers it her favorite course on the circuit and has the good fortune to win 18 times in her 42 starts at Lake Louise, an impressive feat for one ski’s greatest athletes.
Or take the Summit Platter to the top of the Mount Whitehorn and enjoy some awesome early season terrain on the ridge like Upper Boomerang, a powder-filled bowl good in the early season. Finish up on the back bowl and ski over to the Larch to rip some groomers or dart in between some trees. When Late November rolled around this year, they were operating with over 75 runs open.
Score a Discounted Ticket
If you don’t have a season pass, Ikon Pass, Ski Big 3, or Mountain Collective Pass (a lot of options) you can still pick up a day pass. Or even better pick up a discounted pass for $35 CAD on the day after the World Cup for Local’s Day. Of course, this is only available to local residents of Banff, Canmore, Exshaw, Field, Morley, Harvie Heights, and Lake Louise.
Get The Vip Pass
Pick up a VIP Experience ticket to get a truly special experience. The pass provides access to the VIP Lounge in the Whisky Jack Lodge, that has brunch in the morning. You’ll also receive plenty of libations like beer, wine, and some liqueur for your hot chocolate.
When the race starts you’ll have access to the VIP Zone and Preferred Viewing in the Finish Area. It’s tremendous for the access it provides to the athletes. If you want to ski you’ll have to get a lift pass as it is not included in the VIP Experience ticket.
Check out The Free Events
If you’re on a budget and don’t want to splurge on the VIP Experience never worry there are a slew of free activities to enjoy during the World Cup weekends.
First off watching the event is totally free with a free fan cheering section and access to the ski resort. This includes a Kids Zone near the finish area with games, marshmallow firepits, and athlete autograph zone. Or check out the ‘Learn To’ day, try out snowshoeing with Parks Canada, sit skiing, and free kids lessons on both Sunday weekends.
Enjoy the Atmosphere
The atmosphere is lively on the weekend with plenty of skiers and visitors for the world cup. You’ll see flags from around the world and listen to a DJ playing music throughout the weekend. On the last weekend, you can catch the opening of the Kokanee Kabin at the Parka Patio Party. There you can enjoy craft beer cocktails and celebrate as the racers fly across the finish line.
Ski the Big 3
With all of the early season awesomeness in the Canadian Rockies, you have three great ski resorts with lifts turnings. Try to hit all three resorts in the region called Big3 or Banff Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Resort, and Mt. Norquay.
They all have their own distinct atmosphere and terrain. Of course, our favorite is Lake Louise and we hold season passes, but determine your favorite for yourself. If you do hit the trifecta the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub in Banff will give you an exclusive prize and voucher for a complimentary beer at the Elk and Oarsman, just save your lift tickets.
Explore Banff in the Winter
If you decide to make your way to Banff in the winter there is so much more to do than just ski. We like to think of the Ski World Cup as the kick-off event for winter in the Canadian Rockies. Expect to find everything you dream of here in the winter with ice skating on natural lakes, horse-drawn sleighs, dog sledding, tobogganing, and plenty of snow!