LAKE LOUISE — Just a season ago the World Cup men arrived
at Lake Louise to find the speed track sheathed in ice. The con-
trast to this season’s speed event openers could not have been
more vivid. “It’s so soft here in Lake Louise I feel like a J3 racing
in Grand Targhee,” tweeted Ted Ligety. Indeed, the snow was a
constant presence here for the Lake Louise Winterstart on Nov.
26 and 27 — light, but steady, having its way with the course. The
wind, too, had its way, blowing out store windows in nearby Cal-
The difference did not seem to bother a couple of the best speed
skiers of the era. Didier Cuche took the downhill, his tenth, and Ak-
sel Lund Svindal the super G, his sixth Cup win in the discipline and
third in super G at Lake Louise. Others found the conditions difficult
to cope with.
Ligety, trying to expand his World Cup repertoire into the speed
disciplines, has made it no secret he is having trouble mastering
the speed-specific art of good gliding. Adding a soft surface to the
mix proved his undoing. He did not make the team cut to even be
entered in the downhill and was already out of the points granted to
the top 30 skiers when he finished the super G in bib 31.
The first of the training runs for the opening downhill was canceled
after more than three feet of snow fell overnight. The legendary
Lake Louise course crew, the Sled Dogs, did a great job of getting
what snow they could off the course. More snow was shoveled off
the course, members of the Austrian team said, than they had any-
where at home.
For racers use to rock-hard surfaces, the track provided unusual
challenges. Lake Louise is not the steepest or most difficult on the
World Cup tour, which normally makes it a perfect course to start
the season. Execution is usually the determining factor. Hit the turns
above the flats just right and the racer can expect to wind up among
the leaders, assuming the skis are fast. These are the best ski rac-
ers in the world and they all know how to execute turns. Skiing a
soft track called for less frequently applied skills.
“With this kind of snow it doesn’t really matter if you are a meter
[off-line] here or a meter there, it is how gentle you are with the
snow and how you are able to carry your speed,” said Svindal, us-
ing his arms to demonstrate sweeping motions.
The two training runs held demonstrated that the Salomon tech
reps had the snow dialed in. Salomon took the top three places on
Thursday and the top spot Friday as well. When it counted Salo-
mon skiers accounted for five of the top seven downhill finishers.
That did not include, however, first. Those honors went to Cuche,
a devoted Head racer. Cuche built a quick lead gliding over the top
flats and was picking up a quarter of a second at each interval be-
fore revealing any flaws in his skiing. He revealed enough to make
it a close race, holding on to win by a scant 0.06 in race that had 11
skiers within a second of his 1: 47. 28 time.
“I made a lot of changes in my ski set and my boot set, to be less
aggressive,” said Cuche. “But I was hoping this morning to get good
luck, good weather, with no wind. Usual Lake Louise; you have to
get lucky.” Though he said he had gotten “stable” wind conditions
for his run, he still, he said “had to laugh when I saw it was the
green light [indicative of fastest time] for me.”
Behind Cuche were four Salomon racers: his young teammate Beat
Feuz and three Austrians — Hannes Reichelt, Romed Baumann
and Klaus Kroell — respectively. The first two of those could hardly
have been considered favorites. Feuz said he considered the result
as good as a
win in terms of
only two other
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