Svindal was a double winner in Lake Louise last year with victories in the downhill and super-G.
The downhill course was shortened for Friday's training because of poor visibility at the top of the mountain.
Svindal's time was 1 minute 24.33 seconds. Georg Streitberger of Austria was second in 1:24.47 and Bode Miller was third in 1:24.78.
Saturday's race is the first men's downhill of this World Cup season.