The sprint race took place in the Sunset Gully, and if it weren't for clouds moving in and out, the course was visible from the Top of the World chair. Racers and spectators, when there were breaks between races, also got to enjoy spectating some spectacular double ejections courteous of skiers attempting to tackle the bowl.
Race times were similar length to the course we raced in Europe, which provided a great analogue for what someone can expect from a sprint race course at World Championships. I've always found that once the courses are more than 3 minutes, there's a pacing and strategy aspect that comes into play, of course I had to throw that out the window and find another gear in the fast final round that saw Joel take the win, and Travis beating me out of the bootpack to skin transition to take silver.
The recent avalanche cycle has been described as "epic". Even ski areas were getting huge results on terrain that had been skied all season. Still, the team at Lake Louise and the organisers managed to deliver another quality course, and keep the finishing times roughly similar to years previous.
Highlights included the usual drag race up to the top of the Summit platter followed by not one, but two Whitehorn 2 laps with a long bootpack to bring racers back up for the second of the laps. The course then headed over for 2 laps of the Brownshirt gullies before going over to the Larch area.
It was exciting, but nervous to see lots of new faces, skin suits and skinny skis at the start line. But once the gun went off and I got to the front to set the pace, it was just the usual suspects left. Trail breaking kept the group of 4 (Joel, Me, Travis, and Rob) together through the climbs and the stage was set for the drag race up to the top of Larch (no elevator shaft this year). Unfortunately, Rob started the final climb at a bit of a disadvantage after descending down a route marked by some confusing flags on the previous descent (the ski out from the lake transition the recreational course who only did 1 brownshirt lap?). Joel strung the group out, I managed to stay just behind, it was going to come down to the descent and the "ski out". I lacked the "killer instinct" and Joel got me on the fast groomer skiing, and the tuck and skate ski out for the win. 2nd place. As usual, I finished the day lapping the lifts. Lake Louise in spring is almost as good as it gets.
Hats off to the organizers and patrol staff for whipping together a worthy course. Obviously the pile of skiers who missed the 4th climb shows the importance of really paying attention during the pre-race meeting instead of fiddling with gear or chatting, not blindly following other racers, and skiing/climbing at an intensity and speed that still allows you to sight course flags and transition areas. Some previous race and skiing experience with this venue certainly helped. While the top finishers in the Mens and Womens categories have raced Louise before, none of them missed the climb. My brother was working a transition area and reported that some people were completely out of it: they were unable to listen to simple instructions. Meanwhile, 3rd place finisher Travis always has a nice chat with the checkpoint volunteers while still rocking lightning fast transitions. Take your headphones out. Do we need bigger flags? Keep in mind that volunteers have to carry them around, snowboarders and kids steal them, and groomers chew them up.