Lake Placid, New York
Strictly in terms of skiable terrain, Whiteface would fall somewhere in the middle of the pack of northeast resorts. But, it more than compensates with its dramatic vertical drop, the biggest in the East at more than 3,400. There is plenty here to keep the heart rate, and the fun rate up there with the best.
Almoat 30 years after it hosted the Olympics, Lake Placid is still all about winter games. Race down the ice chute on a bobdled and try to breath normally…try not to push just a little harder as you ski into the cross country finish stadium…try not to put a little extra lean into the arena turn under the lights at the speedskating oval…look down the in-run of the 120-meter ski jump and…well, let’s not go overboard here! You get the picture. This is not your average ski town.
Welcome to Lake Placid, the surprisingly unspoiled and quiet village that has been host to two Winter Olympics, 1932 and 1980, and the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games. The memories these stir, combined with lots of ongoing outdoor activities and events, set Lake Placid apart as a winter sports mecca.
As you drive past the dramatic Olympic jumps, just south of the village, you’ll know this isn’t an ordinary winter vacation spot. The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) operates the multi-facility recreational area. More world-class winter sports athletes train and compete here than anywhere else in North America. The facilities also attract competitions in all of the Olympic winter sports, so athletes of all ages, nationalities, and abilities fill the town throughout the season, constantly refreshing the village’s Olympic atmosphere.
Even in non-Olympic years, there is always lots of top level competition in Lake Placid. During winter 2008-09 alone, there is World Cup freestyle skiing in January, the World Championships in luge, bobsled and skeleton in February, and the NorAm Alpine Championships in March. These events are a great opportunity to see Olympic level competitors, up close, in interrnational competition, at neighborhood prices. An Olympic Sites passport, available at the ORDA Store on Main Street and at ORDA Facilities, will gain you access to venues and activities at a reduced cost.
The town of Lake Placid, situated between two Adirondack lakes, is home to the ice arena where America watched its Cinderella hockey team enter the history books with the “Do you believe in miracles?” victory over the heavily favored Russian team in 1980. The Olympic Sports Complex at Mt. VanHoevenberg, six miles to the southeast, has the bobsled, luge and skeleton runs, as well as 50 km of cross-country ski trails and the biathlon stadium. The MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex, where jumping and freestyle aerials take place, is on the edge of town.
The Alpine trails are not in Lake Placid, but 9 miles to the northeast, at Whiteface Mountain, officially in the town of Wilmington. Whiteface is one of those rare ski areas that has more to offer experts and beginners, but it still has plenty for intermediates. Experts will find the upper half of the mountain challenging. Beginners will find almost everything accessed by the Face Lift high-speed quad much to their liking. Intermediates probably will find plenty of cruising and opportunities to advance their skills from the top of the mountain. The trails, for the most part, are nice and wide, which makes some of the black-rated steep runs manageable for solid intermediates. New for winter 2008-08 will be the Lookout Mountain, with its own triple chair and trails for experts and intermediates.
Lake Placid’s Main Street, with its mix of retail shops and restaurants, makes up in charm and bustle what it lacks in quaintness. Daytime or evening, many people find both relaxation and exercise on the Olympic oval (where Eric Heiden won five gold medals), lulled into an easy rhythm by the sharp scrape of their skates over the quarter-mile loop. Or, visitors can take a dogsled ride across Mirror Lake, or a three-mile walk around it. Another favorite is the nighttime toboggan slide down a floodlit ramp out onto the darkness of the frozen lake. A word of caution: Wear old clothes!