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 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!
Plan Your Trip to Banff
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun in Canada. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Skin cancer is for real, even in the mountains! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Jasper. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Banff then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Canada.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me on every single hike I go on in the Rockies. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything in the mountains. Even in July, you may still find yourself reaching for a jacket!
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy a number of times. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourist that buys plastic water bottles in Jasper. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in the mountains. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding even traveling in the desert. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
The best way to get around Alberta is with your own rental car. See all our tips on how to rent a car in Canada here.
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