Ski Where the Euros Do: Favourite Western Canadian Venues

Gerry FursethDecember 24, 20122
The view from a higher point at the Canmore Nordic Centre during the 2012 Alberta World Cup, which took place Dec. 13-16 in Canmore, Alberta. It was the area’s fourth World Cup since 2005.

Note: This article has been corrected to omit the Salt Lake Olympic venue from the list of places that several interviewed skiers haven’t visited. 

Most skiers dream of skiing like a World Cup racer.

Okay, one article can’t change your VO2 max, your last eight years of training and your technique. The next best thing is skiing where the WC Euro-stars like to ski. FasterSkier asked a few at the recent World Cup in Canmore, Alberta.

Here’s what they had to say. It’s worth noting there are almost as many favourite places as there are skiers. Also, assume that everyone loves their hometown and their “home” training centre.

North America

There is a lot of what Joran at StatisticalSkier would call selection bias here. All of the favourite venues have hosted WC races. Most of the skiers interviewed aren’t old enough to have skied at Lake Placid, N.Y., or Thunder Bay, Ontario. While Quebec City throws a great party, none of the skiers got to the permanent ski areas outside the city.

— Kristin Størmer Steira (NOR):

“I must say Canmore, it is so beautiful although I also raced in Vernon/ Silver Star and that’s a beautiful place, and of course the Olympics in Whistler was great, but this scene with all this beautiful mountains, it is great. … [Canmore] is a great course.”

— Anna Haag (SWE):

“It is hard; I really like Canmore. It was the first place I saw in Canada. For sure, it is special. But then Whistler, I have my Olympic medal so that is special. But I like it over here, I like to compete in Canada. … [Sovereign Lake/Silver Star] was really nice. The amount of snow was amazing and I think we had like almost 50 centimeters of snow during the time we were there and the conditions were perfect. [Courses] are really tough over here, especially here in Canmore. I think [Canmore is in] the top three of the toughest course I ever skied, especially with the altitude it gets even more tougher. But they are really nice and they are really fair, and that is really important for competition.”

— Tobias Angerer (GER):

“Canmore. I was many times here and I love this area with the nature, with this mountains, and the track is perfect. It is so wide, and yeah, you have place for skiing. It is really good and the atmosphere is really good. I think every year more and more people are coming and the atmosphere is better every year.”

Sweden’s Jens Eriksson (l) racing to a NorAm 15 k mass start victory on Dec. 8 at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre in Vernon, British Columbia. (Eriksson photo:

— Emil Jönsson (SWE):

“You can’t be sad when you are here [in Canmore].”

— Vibeke Skofterud (NOR):

“That is hard to say. I love Canmore. I love Silver Star; I have been there for one time. To race here in Canmore, it’s amazing. It’s really hard course, but good course, it’s wide, the snow conditions is really good, and the preparation is really good, the training course is good, and we stay at the Radisson [laughs]. The nature is good. I have only positive things to say. Right now, I have to say Canmore, but also Silver Star is a really good place to stay.

— Jens Eriksson (SWE):
“The conditions in Canmore was the best I have ever competed in, hard groomed tracks and perfect conditions. … [Sovereign/Silver Star] was just a great place for anyone who loves skiing. It was really a lot of snow in Silver Star and so many nice groomed tracks every day. It was just great and very fun to train and prepare for the World Cup there.

— Angerer:
“I have many, many favourite places. Davos, maybe. Holmenkollen. Trondheim is a very good track.”

— Haag:

“I have a lot of favourites. I think since me and Emil having an apartment in Davos, I think Davos is one of my favourite places in Europe.”

— Skofterud:

“Norway is good! Davos is good. I like Kuusamo, because I always race good there. A lot of nice places.”

— Eriksson:

“It’s really fun to be part of the World Cup Final in Falun [Sweden].”

— Steira got carried away and didn’t answer the question, but she did say she is going to Davos to relax before returning home for Christmas.


Many skiers were excited about going to Val di Fiemme, Italy, but whether that excitement was for the 2013 Nordic Ski World Championships, the food, the skiing or some combination of these was unclear.

The Venues:

Val di Fiemme:
The Tour de Ski finishes here, the World Championships are coming for a second visit, and Petra Majdič (SLO) loves the food.
Swiss superstar Dario Cologna’s home, and a favourite training area for skiers from Canada, USA, Norway and Sweden.
The race trails with ocean views are on Oslo’s mass transit system. The 2,700-kilometer trail system includes Drammen, another world cup venue. More than 100,000 spectators attended the final day of 2011 World Championships.
Morderbakken and the World Cup Final. Enough said.

  • Elevation: 1,400 meters. Annual snowfall: 2.4 m (8 feet). Trails: 20 k in early season, or ski to the next town (Banff) once the snow starts falling. Season: October 15th to mid-April.
  • Events this year: World Cup, various regional XC and biathlon events.
  • Past Events: 1998 Olympics, 2005 World Cup, 2008 World Cup, 2010 World Cup.
  • Funding: 65% government support, 35% users fees. $925,000 in special grants for 2012 World Cup.
  • Short story: Frozen Thunder opens the new season with leftover snow from the previous winter. The natural snowfall is fairly low, but the largest nordic snowmaking system in the world provides great skiing. The facilities are as spectacular as the scenery: the Alberta government provides funding that other regions can only envy, and that money has been spent well. Accommodation is in Canmore, with the downtown less than 2 k from the stadium.
  • Skiing: The Olympic (classic) 3.75 k loop is brutal, even by World Cup standards. The Centennial (skate) 3.75 k loop is much more flowing and can be enjoyed by middle-aged, middle-speed masters. The descents on both trails are on the challenging side, with no recovery except on the final drop into the finish straight. The recreational trails vary from beginner-friendly to very advanced. By Christmas, it is possible to ski to Banff and catch a bus back.
At Whistler Olympic Park in April 2009, some of the nordic combined Olympians arrived early at the start line for the Woppet. Claudia Nystad was the women’s winner that year, practicing for her Olympic gold medal. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

Whistler Olympic Park:

  • Elevation: 900 m. Annual snowfall: over 4 m (13 feet). Trails: 56 k. Season: Mid-November to mid-April.
  • Events this year: Nationals (cross country, biathlon, nordic combined, ski jumping), Payak, BC Cup.
  • Past Events: 2010 Olympics, 2010 Paralympics, 2009 World Cup, 2008 Nationals.
  • Funding: A mixture of Legacy funding and user fees.
  • Short story: If you want to ski a 50k/30k/15k race without worrying if there will be snow, try the Payak. This is a place with a lot of snow at low elevation, with an average 1.9m snow base by February, and much more in April. The season length is limited more by post-Olympic mandate/funding constraints than snow. Accommodation is at Whistler or Squamish. The 2010 Olympic season was by far the worst snow in the short history of the venue.
  • Skiing: The Olympic loops are fairly easy by WC standards, with easy descents that allow recovery. Despite this, big pack finishes were rare. The Olympic loops flow through many transitions and are fun to ski at easy pace. There are also 42 k of recreational trails.
Top of the Upper World Cup 5 k in October at Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

Sovereign Lake/Silver Star/Vernon:

  • Elevation: 1600 m. Annual snowfall: 7 m (23 feet). Trails: 50 k + 60 k. Season: mid-November to mid-April. There is often a May re-opening for team camps.
  • Events this year: NorAms, BC Cup, Sovereign Lake Loppet.
  • Past Events at Sovereign: 2011 World Masters, 2005 World Cup.
  • Past Events at Silver Star: 1991 World Cup.
  • Funding: Sovereign is a non-profit club: one third season passes, one third day passes, the rest is event fees, fund raising and government grants. Silver Star’s nordic financials are blended in with the resort.
  • Short story: Although appearing as Vernon on the FIS results, this is actually two interconnected trail systems. Vernon is a town of 30,000 people (20 minutes drive and 1200 m below the skiing). Sovereign Lake is a ski club of 1,700 members that hosts races, and Silver Star is a ski resort (alpine, nordic, and village with accommodation). Most visitors buy the dual-area pass and never notice the area borders.
  • Skiing: The 3.75 k World Cup loops used in 2005 are fairly easy, as World Cup trails go, and were designed to be skied by club members between races. The lower (skate) 2.5 k loop and upper (classic) 5 k loop look FIS moderate on the course profile, but feel harder at race pace. Pacing an individual start on the upper 5 k is particularly challenging. Upper world cup 5 k has one challenging hairpin, otherwise descents are easy and allow recovery. The Master’s World’s 15 k loop is very flat and easy skiing. The recreational trails are only hard in the sense that climbing to the viewpoint at 1890m elevation can leave you breathless. Luckily, a dual-area pass includes one chairlift ride to the top viewpoint.
The view from 1,870 metres at Sovereign Lake on Sunday. (Photo: Gerry Furseth)

Gerry Furseth

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  • davord

    December 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Guys, Angerer and Skofterud DID in fact race in Salt Lake City in 2002. They did quite well. Angerer won a bronze medal with the relay team and had a 7th in the sprint while Skofterud was 8th in the 30km classic.

  • Gerry Furseth

    December 26, 2012 at 10:40 am


    I made a list of which ‘older’ skiers had been at each event. Those two weren’t on my list for SLC so I didn’t ask them about it.

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