The Leg Burner

This past Saturday saw a long-running ski patrol tradition continued, as almost one hundred competitors signed up for the annual Leg Burner at Lake Louise.

Aptly named, the Leg Burner is a race that is held after the lifts have closed and patrol have completed their sweep of the mountain, and as late in the spring as possible. Competitors race solo at thirty second intervals, and there are categories for male & female skiers and snowboarders. The route starts on Shoulder Roll on Boomerang, follows Boomerang Flats to the base of Paradise chair and down to the Ski Out, which is followed all the way to the base area. Racers must then get to the deck between the two main lodges, where they will find a full cup of nice cold beer waiting. They must drink the entire cup, without spilling, before the clock stops on their run (soft drinks are available to those for whom beer is not in their diet).

One beer, you say? No problem.

Well, try it after tucking and skating on slushy snow for over ten minutes, then running up two flights of stairs and staring that beer in the face while gasping for breath. There are few people who can get that beer down quickly without spilling any, and this part of the race is often the deciding factor in what otherwise could be a fight for the top spots. Obviously, training is required for both skiing and drinking, and those who focus only on skiing do so at their own peril.

People prepare well in advance by scouting out a couple of the different route options, even doing a number of timed practice runs to see which way will lead to the podium. At the same time, the speed of the course, and therefore the amount of tucking vs. skating, is largely dependant on the weather. Saturday was a slightly cool and cloudy, which prevented the snow from getting to slushy. The course was actually faster than usual, and racers reported being able to tuck more than usual.

Racers approach the Leg Burner with varying amounts of seriousness. Some find downhill race skis and then stuff themselves into skin-tight one-piece racing suits. Others get their hands on long nordic ski poles, which allow for more push while skating. At the other end, two patrollers installed two sets of bindings on one pair of skis, and raced tandem. As awkward as that may sound, these guys have raced like this for a few years, and managed a seventh place this year!

This year’s champion was Brian Donnelly, who had already won a few times. He attacked the beer with a focused intensity that frightened some of the children in attendance. Defending champ Matt Penner, while unable to repeat, did manage second place, trailing Brian by eighteen seconds. The jury is still out on whether his snake-skin pants helped or hindered. Below are the official results for the top ten finishers, as well as the top three in each category:

Overall Results

  • 1 – Brian Donnelly – 10:00
  • 2 – Matt Penner – 10:18
  • 3 – Paul Buck – 10:33
  • 4 – Andrew Mason – 11:00
  • 5 – Don McLatchie – 11:27
  • 6 – Laura Penner – 11:31
  • 7 – Marc Burrell-Smith and Matt Fitzgibbon (tandem) – 11:55
  • 8 – Rhys Windle – 12:06
  • 9 – Gus Wyeth – 12:10
  • 10 – Gavin Barron – 12:11

Skiers – Men

  • same as top three, above

Skiers – Women

  • 1 – Laura Penner – 11:31
  • 2 – Heather Allen – 12:59
  • 3 – Kat Simmons – 14:56

Snowboarders – Men

  • 1 – Dave Beuchler – 13:42
  • 2 – Michael Pullinger – 14:04
  • 3 – Michael Hennesse – 14:06

Snowboarders – Women

  • 1 – Zoe Brulee – 18:50
  • 2 – Irene Dupuis – 19:43
  • 3 – Vanya Fullerton – 20:05


This event is always a popular one for ski area staff and locals. If you think you’d like to participate next year, find a ski patroller around the start of April, since the date is only decided a few weeks in advance, and word-of-mouth is the only advertising.


2 Comments on “The Leg Burner”

  1. Paul says:

    ” He attacked the beer with a focused intensity that frightened some of the children in attendance.”

    I laughed my ass off at this. Sounds like a fun event, similar in some ways to the Westbeach Chineese Downhill in Whistler, in that you have to chug a beer at the finish. I am sure it is much harder than it sounds.

  2. El says:

    Goooooooooo Laura! I’m sure it was the compression suit….

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