LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - Some consider it easy, but Canada's World Cup downhill course can make a fool of those who disrespect it.
At 3.1 kilometres long, with a vertical drop of 826 metres, the track in Lake Louise, Alta., has for almost two decades been the traditional opener to the downhill season for the world's top racers.
"I always say Lake Louise is like walking on marbles," Canada's Manny Osborne-Paradis said. "It's not the best skiing that wins. It's always the person that makes the least amount of mistakes."
Said teammate Erik Guay: "If your skis aren't running, if you're not a good glider, you have zero chance here in Lake Louise.
"I have heard in the past that Lake Louise is an easy course. There are some years it's extremely difficult though. Most of it depends on the snow."
The men's World Cup races at the resort west of Calgary were cancelled for the first time last year because temperatures were too warm to make snow.
Lake Louise got the go-ahead from the world governing body of skiing for Saturday's downhill and Sunday's super-G, but training was cancelled for a second straight day Thursday.
Rain and temperatures above freezing made the course soft. Another training run is scheduled for Friday.
Rain turned to flurries Thursday, but with temperatures predicted to fall to well below freezing overnight, sections of the track could harden significantly.
"It's rained for two days straight now. If it drops down to minus-10 it's going to be bullet-proof," Guay predicted.
"I'd expect it to be rough, bumpy, fast and challenging. But there's been other years where it's snowed before and it's been slow and easy. In those conditions, it's an easy course, but it's like that across the globe."
Osborne-Paradis is the Canadian man with the most medals on home snow in Lake Louise with super-G gold (2009) and a pair of downhill silver (2006, 2014).
The Vancouver skier finished second in 2014 after posting the second-fastest time in the lone training run. The scheduled second and third training sessions were snowed out.
The 33-year-old feels the best place to take a risk and make up time is halfway down the course at a point called "Fall Away."
"Taking a lot of risk in Lake Louise is a tough one," Osborne-Paradis said. "Because it's not that steep, there's not really a lot of places to make up a lot of time other than the Fall Away C-turn halfway down.
"If you make mistakes anywhere else, you can go from first to 10th in a heartbeat."
With a career 25 World Cup medals, Guay is Canada's most decorated alpine racer. His best result in Lake Louise is second in downhill in 2003.
Tightness in his back limited his training the past two weeks, but the 36-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., expects to race on the weekend.
Guay became the oldest world champion in February when he claimed super-G gold in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He backed that result up with a downhill silver there.
He says his experience can overcome a lack of reps when training runs are cancelled.
"One of the things I've learned with experience is you don't need as much training as a 20-year-old," Guay said.
"When I was younger, I needed a lot of volume on snow to feel comfortable, to feel calm and collected in the start gate.
"I missed the last two weeks of skiing. I tweaked my back. I haven't skied much at all.
"I was really hoping I'd get three training runs here to get my feet under me, but at the same time, I have a lot of experience. I know I can put things together in a short amount of time. I'm kind of banking on that for this weekend."