The Torch Touches Lake Louise

Weeks of planning and anticipation finally came to an end last week as the Olympic Torch was welcomed by an enthusiastic crowd at the Lake Louise Ski Area. In the wake of the torch visit, and only a few days before he heads to Vancouver for a month of work with the upcoming Olympics, Peter Spear has prepared this article about a special day at the resort. Peter, who is also contributing articles about the history of Lake Louise, was involved with the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary as a Manager of youth programs, a job that kept him busy for over three years. Peter is familiar with the excitement that surrounds the Olympics, and has a deep appreciation of the planning, logistics, and emotions related to the event.

The Torch Touches Lake Louise

January 21, 2010, was a special day at the Lake Louise Mountain Resort, as the Olympic Torch relay that had crossed Canada, spent its last afternoon in Alberta before continuing its westward journey to the host province. A crowd of over 500? people were there to enjoy the spectacle of Olympic history in the making and join in all the related fun activities.

The day started out in spectacular fashion, as those of us coming from Calgary were treated to the early morning sunlight touching the peaks in the midst of a deep blue sky.  This was the omen for a great weather day. As we cruised around the area on the blue runs, everything was in top condition as the groomers had done an extraordinary job of treating us to special “corduroy surfaces”. The weather was mild, the Continental Divide peaks were in all their glory, and we all had a great time slope side.

The crowds began to gather around 2:45 to get prime viewing spots along the fence edges of the celebration area and filled the balcony areas of both lodges. There were young children and adults having a marshmallow roast and chatting excitedly about the upcoming event.

At 3:35, the Torch arrived at the front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks as it had been relayed by runners from the Lake Louise town site. The Torch was handed off to Charlie Locke, the owner of the Lake Louise Mountain Resort and he ran down the stairs, under the passageway and entered the open area where the crowds cheered the arrival. Entering the enclosed area, Charlie climbed to a special box that was on the back of a Bombardier grooming machine (Bombardier had also built all the Olympic Torches). The groomer then travelled 150 metres to a special jump that had been constructed earlier. The groomer came to a stop parallel to, and at the base of the jump face.

That was the signal for the Lake Louise Ski and Snowboard School to descend Easy Street from the Loretta Lumber site and the skiers put on a display of synchronized skiing until they reached the jump base where they formed ranks. From the same high point, skiers and snowboarders in pairs descended at full speed cleared the jump, Charlie and the burning Olympic Torch and landed on the painted Olympic rings just beyond the groomer. When that display  was concluded, the groomer descended to a low point, at which time Charlie got off the groomer, waved the Torch to all assembled, and an emotional singing of “Oh Canada” was sung from tight throats ( some misty eyes). The Torch journey went to the end of the enclosed area where the flame from the Torch was transferred to two miners’ lamps, and the Torch extinguished. The Torch custodians then left the area and went to the top of Kicking Horse Pass, relit a new Torch and former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, passed the Torch to Wally Buono, coach of the B.C. Lions.

Meanwhile, the party began. Literally, hundreds of photos were taken by guests with the Torch over the next few hours. Two hundred guests rode the Grizzly Express Gondola, and ski instructors led them in ability groups to Whitehorn Lodge. There they were treated to snacks, beverages, and the Suds musical duo at their best. Yes, proud parents Charlie and Louise, saw their daughter Robin win the limbo contest for the umpteenth time. Just after 6:00, ability groups were then formed outside and the diligent instructors led the Torchlight Parade back to the base area.

At 7 PM, the Alberta “flaming beef” dinner started with the chefs rolling in the meats on a cart with 60 cm. flames catching everyone’s’ attention. Yes, the dinner was superlative!

Then Suds got the group of over 250 involved with dancing and line dancing.

Thanks to Charlie and the hill staff at all levels for putting on a wonderful day for all guests. By the grins on your faces, you had fun too!! Until the wee hours, the celebration continued. Bring on the Winter Games !!!

Peter Spear

One of the activities available around the base area. (photo: Peter Spear)

Ski School demonstration makes its way to the torch. (photo: Peter Spear)

"Witches" circle the flaming beef! (photo: Peter Spear)

Suds and their backup singers get the crowd rockin'. (photo: Peter Spear)

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