Lake Louise World Cup – Pt I

Once again the Lake Louise Ski Area is hosting World Cup ski racing, with the men’s Downhill and Super G this weekend, and the Women’s Downhill and Super G the next. These events are always an exciting and hectic time in the life of the resort, as athletes, coaches, trainers, race officials, media, volunteers, and fans come from all over the world to take part. Like getting the ski area ready for the season, there is a mammoth effort involved in making all the preparations necessary for a successful event, and most of it happens out of sight of most skiers and starts long before the first snowflake hits the ground. 

The ability of Lake Louise to reliably hold these races early in the season, year after year, depends almost entirely on our massive snowmaking system, which makes us much less reliant on Mother Nature to provide the white stuff. It doesn’t hurt that ski racers like their courses to be boilerlplate ice, which is a result easier to obtain given that man-made snow is generally moister and denser than its natural cousin. Every year, our snowmaking system fires up on October 15th, and goes non-stop (provided that temperatures cooperate) until the course is complete and all equipment is removed prior to the start of race training.

What does it take to bring the World Cup to Lake Louise? To make a long story short, here are a bunch of facts and figures that shed a little light on how big an operation it really is:

Safety Equipment

  • 4m-high “A” net – 4,000m
  • 2m-high “B” net – 11,000m
  • 2,600 pulleys
  • 20,000m braid rope (to tension nets)
  • 6,000m plastic snow fence
  • 300 air-filled bladders (to pad hard objects outside but close to course)
  • 30 F1-style air fence (large air bladders for larger objects)
  • 6,000m of 1/2″ cable
  • 6,000m of 3/8″ cable

The course set-up is supervised by Equipment Manager Doug Savage, who organizes everything from helicopters to porta-potties. Randy Pruden is the Chief of Safety, and along with his crew of ‘net monkeys’, oversees the installation of nets and other safety equipment, provides on-scene crash expertise, and supervises course preparation and repair during racing. Net installation begins at Thanksgiving, and after approximately 2600 race runs involving World Cup and NORAMs, tear down commences in January, and takes three weeks. At the height of course construction, there are up to 500 volunteers on site.

Snowmaking & Grooming

  • 5000′ water hose (longest single set-up: 2300′)
  • 12 snowmakers per 12-hour shift, working 24 hours a day until done.
  • 16,000,000 gallons of water to make snow
  • 20 snow guns running at once, with 53 possible placements
  • 600-700 snow cat hours

And finally, below are some photos from various stages of course set-up:

Randy Pruden

Rolls of net await a helicopter to be flown into place. Photo: Randy Pruden

Randy Pruden

Nets are flown to their respective locations. Photo: Randy Pruden

Randy Pruden

Nets are strung and await tensioning. Photo: Randy Pruden

Early stages of snowmaking.

Early stages of snowmaking.

Randy Pruden

Snowmaker dragging hose. Photo: Randy Pruden

Nets are tensioned, now waiting for more snow.

Nets are tensioned, now waiting for more snow.

Randy Pruden

Anchoring bases of nets into the snow. Photo: Randy Pruden

*****

More World Cup action to follow…

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