Skating on a frozen Adirondack lake: A 2017 must-do activity!
There's something about skating on a lake that is a bit magical. I have friends from the south that are terrified at the thought of standing on the ice in the middle of frozen body of water, but it's definitely an experience to put on your must-do list when visiting Lake Placid. Surrounded by snow-covered peaks and bordered by an alpine village decorated for the holidays, Mirror Lake really is a picture perfect place to take that cherished selfie.
If you've never been on a lake — or, like me, it's been many, many years — this is the place to learn. I mean, winter sports are kind of our thing! Last year, skating somehow managed to make it onto my bucket list — and by somehow, I mean my son begged me. Surprisingly, it's an experience I not only don't regret, but that I have repeated!
Flashback to childhood
I don't know about you, but I grew up skating on a lake. My old blades were scuffed and dull and known to take on frozen branches, bumpy ice, and the occasional large crack. I came home with bruises and bumps, rosy cheeks and tales of someone's blades going through a slushy out-of-bounds spot as they accepted a double-dog dare.
Eventually I gave up skating. Honestly, I realized just how uncoordinated I was and that I sported many less black-and-blue marks when I chose to stay inside and read a good book by the fireplace. As the years went by I often tried different winter activities, and even put on skates a few times - each time realizing I am still not fluent on blades.
When I finally discovered cross-country skiing I was hooked — I mean, I still fall and show-off my uncoordinated skills, but at least the landing is a bit softer! As an added bonus, my little guy, Oliver, loves to join me on our wintery, x-country adventures (Admittedly, his favorite part is the après-ski hot chocolate)!
So, you can imagine my horror when my Oliver, my trusty ski partner, begged me to go ice skating. It had been probably 25+ years since my last attempt (yes, I just dated myself), and my poor bones were immediately aching at the thought of the hits they were about to endure. But, I'm a sucker. Remembering the fun of my childhood, I eventually acquiesced.
Lace 'em up
Our first foray was to the popular Speed Skating Oval. With public ice time and skate rentals available onsite, I figured this was the place to try out our skates. The ice is groomed, the music is playing, kids are laughing, everyone is happily circling the oval, I'm horrified. Oliver puts on his skates and takes off. He is a natural - or at least, as natural as kid on skates for the first time. Within a minute he is down on the ice and I am struggling to stay upright as I weave through the more fluid skaters and try to help him back up. Hmmm, suddenly the length of the oval seems to grow to epic proportions as we slowly make our way around. One time.
I sit out the next loops, and let my partner, Greg, take the lead. He has Oliver in tow and together they circle by a few times while I contentedly sip hot chocolate and snap pictures. They are laughing and tired as they exit the ice. Damn, I do feel as if I am missing out.
Oliver, of course, loved the experience! Not one to give up that easily, I changed tactics. Our next time out we took to the familiar — the lake. I figured I grew up skating on a lake, and so should he. Well, imagine my surprise when I was presented with a lovely, smooth, groomed surface; this was not the submerged roots and cracked ice of my youth.
With an uncrowded loop extending in front of us, we set out. Right away I am somewhat more at ease. I can go at my own pace, I'm not worried about Oliver knocking over a group of adults, and if I stay close to the edges and aim carefully, my falls will be into a snowbank - not unlike my skiing antics. This is my kind of ice!
With no specific rules or guidelines to follow, we have the option to skate back and forth in one small area while we get used to the feel of the ice under our feet. There are hockey players enjoying a pickup game to our left and dogsleds ahead in the distance. Oliver is astounded by the sounds of the lake - rolling bubbles making echo-y grumblings beneath us. The air is brisk, the sky is blue, we are making memories - and I am part of them!
Eventually we make our way from the Town Beach toward the Boat House restaurant and back. There are no distance markers on the ice, but since we often walk or jog the lake, I am going to guess that this section of the track might be just a bit under a mile round-trip — not bad for our first time on the lake! At the end of the adventure, we are smiling, happy, and hungry! It's the perfect time to head down the main street and find something to warm us up.
Since that first trip, I'm happy to say we have headed to the lake several times! I will admit, I have taken to letting the boys skate while I cross-country ski in the tracks that run parallel to the ice loop. It's a win-win situation!
Mirror Lake Skating Loop - The 411
Mirror Lake, in the middle of the village, is action-packed on a winter day with a mix of dogsleds, pond hockey, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and recreational skaters taking advantage of the plowed skating track that circumnavigates the entire lake.
The 2-mile Mirror Lake ice track is an example of an effort that benefits both the residents of and visitors to Lake Placid. The Mirror Lake ice track was first cleared during the winter of 2013-14, and saw a great deal of activity. In order to maintain the ice track, the ice must be a foot thick for one of the North Elba Park District trucks to plow it. And so, money was raised via a community crowdfunding effort to buy a Polaris machine with snowblower, plow and brush attachments. As opposed to a commercial truck, the Polaris only requires the ice to be 6 inches thick in order to maintain the track. Once the ice forms to a safe thickness, the track is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In February, 2017, the track will host one of the newest sports in the Empire State Winter Games; a marathon skating event that includes citizens and kids races!
This winter when visiting Lake Placid, be sure to put a trip onto Mirror Lake on your bucket list. Whether you skate, ski, slide, or simply stroll, there really is something magical about standing in the middle of the lake in winter - come see for yourself!
- Kim Andresen is the senior content manager for the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, and a not-amazingly-outdoorsy-but-trying mom always in search of fun adventures to keep a very energetic little boy occupied!
ADK winter bucket list items: