October 18, 2017
John Cassels: Honoured Lifetime Builder
A leader who has transformed Canada’s marquee event into an international success story
Each year, Lake Louise welcomes the best ski racers in the world for the opening speed races of each World Cup season. Two weeks of action, featuring the top male and female athletes. Only three venues in the world that offer such an ambitious program.
For twenty-three years and counting, John Cassels has led a team of volunteers and officials that has developed and matured into one of the most respected organizers on the World Cup Tour. From 1994, as Race Chairman for the Lake Louise Winterstart, John has guided his team as the event matured and grew from two ladies races into an international spectacle that is recognized as one of the most valuable events of the race season.
When the Winterstart World Cup became an annual event under John’s watch, it was two races within one week. Today, Lake Louise is the only annual venue to run 5 races. The organization is the only non-European member of the prestigious Club 5 of World Cup Organizers. These opening races are seen as a perfect opening track for the men and considered one of the toughest ladies speed races. The first week now includes a gathering of business elites at the Bennett Jones World Cup Business Forum. And the Winterstart provides critical next generation support of athletes by providing the venue for Nor-Am races, which follow the World Cup.
John has also been an innovator that has brought an important foundation to the sport in Alberta. On his watch as member of the Board of Alberta Alpine, overseeing finance, the organization set up the Alberta Alpine Foundation, which continues to support the organization today. In 2002, he was a founding member of the Bennett Jones World Cup Business Forum, which will celebrate its 15th year during the men’s World Cup week at Lake Louise this November.
His accounting skills laid the foundation of his ski racing journey. “I was approached by the Chairman of AASA, Jim Miles to join the Board as Finance Director in advance of the 1988 Games in Calgary”, said John. “A three year crash course in ski racing led me to the on-hill Timing Crew at Nakiska for the Alpine Events while at the same time keeping a watchful eye on the Olympic hopefuls in Alberta and the financial health of AASA.”
Twenty-three years have now been devoted to building World Cup excellence in Canada. As Race Chairman (1994 to 2011) and Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Winterstart Events Ltd. (2012 to present). As a leader, John acknowledges the critical support of volunteers. “There are many. At the senior level of the Lake Louise ROC there are individuals who have committed a large part of their life to WC ski racing at Lake Louise. They are wise, effective and completely committed to their particular aspect of the Event. They know what to do and they get it done. They are in many ways inspirational and yet they seek no recognition.
By the numbers, John is proud to point out the Winterstart World Cup has impressive statistics. “The Lake Louise ROC has been responsible for successfully organizing 103 World Cup starts (69 Ladies races and 34 Men’s races). This is second only to Kitzbuhel, a remarkable achievement for a committed, talented and passionate group of volunteers, otherwise known as the Sled Dogs.”
What has motivated a lifetime of commitment to ski racing? “Canadians on the podium!’ says our Honoured Builder. “There is no greater feeling when you arrive into the finish area after the last racer has crossed the finish line to witness, cheer and celebrate a Canadian athlete stepping onto the podium. We have had some amazing athletes performing at Lake Louise over the years, Svindal, Miller, Vonn and many others, but a Canadian, Eric, Manny and who could forget Jan winning the gold medal in the DH! It makes the whole thing worth every minute of hard work on the race track from dawn to dusk and then some through the night at minus 30.”
The Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame is pleased to recognize John Cassels, our 2017 Honoured Lifetime Builder, as a leader and innovator in building a legacy event for ski racing in Canada, with a reputation as one of the world’s best sporting events.
The Class of 2017 will be inducted at the Hotel Arts in Calgary on Wednesday, November 8th as the feature event of the Canadian Rockies Ski Racing Hall of Fame. This is a free event for all supporters of alpine ski racers.
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