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Calgary, Alb., Oct. 2, 2000–A grove of about 100 trees is blocking the path of the Lake Louise downhill course both literally and figuratively, say organizers of the men’s and women’s World Cup events scheduled to start November 25.
According to Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA), Lake Louise might permanently lose the opportunity to host the races unless those trees can be removed for safety reasons, but Parks Canada has not given the necessary permission to allow cutting of trees in Banff National Park. And if Lake Louise loses the races, the early date could mean Canada will never again host a World Cup event.
According to Nick Wilson, ACA Events Director, a long and involved environmental review process has stalled after local officials promised to plant 1,000 replacement trees at other locations near the course and committed to instituting an environmental education program for school children.
“We seem to have stumbled out of their process in the last three weeks,” said Wislosn, explaining that Parks Canada had removed Lake Louise from their agenda and has asked Canadian Heritage Minsiter Sheila Copps–who won’t be back from the Sydney Olympics until the weekend–to decide the fate of the trees. “For whatever reason,” said Wilson, “it does seem to have gotten a bit political.”
The race organizers are under the gun to prepare the course or International Ski Federation (IFS) officials will reschedule the downhills at another venue. The FIS has said because of increased speeds of racers, the trees (none of which apparently exceeds three inches in diameter) have become a danger. While Copps’s press secretary had recently speculated that the races could be held at Whistler/Blackcomb, the ACA pointed out that after cancelling three events there from 1996-1998, the FIS won’t even consider that venue for an early-season race.