LAKE PLACID, NY -- As the world counts down to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, another Olympian destination is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Lake Placid, New York has a rich recreational and competitive sports history that dates back more than 100 years, punctuated by its hosting of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games. This Olympic legacy has inspired continued investment in both the sports venues and the hospitality infrastructure, helping to secure this quaint Adirondack village's reputation as a major winter sports destination.
New Winter Attractions
Whether they are drawn by the rare chance to experience first-hand Lake Placid's Olympic sports venues or simply to enjoy the wide array of outdoor activities available, this year's winter visitors will find several new attractions on the scene. Making its debut at Whiteface Mountain for the 2009-10 ski season is a new, one-mile-long glade called Sugar Valley. This new run follows on the heels of last season's new ski and ride area, Lookout Mountain, whose three trails include The Wilmington Trail, a 2.5-mile intermediate cruiser overlooking the Wilmington Wilde Forest, and the expert Lookout Below and Hoyt's High. At 1/5 of a mile long, Lookout Below gets its name from the dramatic drop skiers make as they enter the trail. Hoyt's High boasts a long and consistent expert pitch over its 4,182-foot length, and was named in honor of Whiteface veteran ski patroller Jim Hoyt, Sr., who has been employed at the mountain for more than 50 years.
For the cross-country ski enthusiast, the new Wild Forest Flume Trail System at the base of Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington offers eight miles of trails for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Open to the public free of charge, the trails are also great for hiking and mountain biking in the summer.
From the Nation's First Winter Resort to a Two-Time Olympic Host
Already a sought-after retreat for well-heeled summer vacationers at the turn of the 20th century, Lake Placid's winter sports history began with Melvil Dewey, who saw potential for a winter playground in the snow-covered mountains and frozen lakes of the Adirondacks. By 1914, Dewey had garnered the support of the community and the country's first winter resort was born.
The town quickly gained international recognition on the competitive sports stage as the home of the Lake Placid Skating Association and its three star athletes of the 1920s - the speed-skating trio of Charles Jewtraw, James Hennessy and Ray Bryant. Jewtraw would go on to win the first gold medal at the very first Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924, cementing Lake Placid's Olympian connection.
It was Melvil's son Godfrey Dewey who secured Lake Placid's bid for the third Olympic Winter Games. Local skepticism turned to enthusiastic support when the bid was awarded in 1929, and a new tax was voted in to foot the town's portion of the Olympic Village development. This unique legislation created and funded the North Elba Park District which, along with state and federal funding, facilitated construction of Olympic-caliber sports venues in the heart of the Great Depression.
The Olympic venues built for the 1932 Games were designed for future use. The arena, with its refrigerated floor, allowed the presentation of ice shows year round. Home to the Lake Placid figure skating program, the arena produced a dynasty of Olympic skating athletes from the late 30's through the 70's; most notable among them Dick Button. Almost every US Olympic figure skater in the 60's and 70's either trained at Lake Placid at one time or had skated in the arena's ice shows.
Following the 1932 Games, community leaders continued to promote the area as a premier winter sports center, and in 1958, the opening of Whiteface Mountain added downhill skiing to the town's world-class winter attractions. The region's pursuit of national and international events, and its attention to maintaining and upgrading its sports facilities, helped convince the IOC to return the Winter Games to Lake Placid in 1980.
Probably the most significant consequence of the 1980 Games was the state's commitment to the sports venues. In 1981, New York State announced its decision to place the responsibility for maintaining, managing and promoting all of the Olympic venues under one organization, the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).
Over the last 29 years, initiatives have included continued bidding on international winter sports events, construction of the Olympic Training Center in 1995, construction of the new combined bobsled, luge and skeleton run in 2000, improvements at Whiteface Mountain including the addition of a high-speed gondola and high-speed quad, and most recently, the start of construction on the new Conference Center at Lake Placid.
State and Federal investment in the venues also spurred local investment in the destination's hospitality infrastructure, especially lodging. Though there has not been much change in overall capacity, almost all room stock in Lake Placid has seen a significant quality upgrade since 1980.
A World-Class Winter Playground
Lake Placid continues to lure winter visitors with one-of-a-kind opportunities, from checking out the view from the top of the Olympic ski jumps to plummeting down a toboggan chute and sliding out onto Mirror Lake. Most popular summer activities simply take on a slight twist in the frosty winter, as hiking trails and golf courses lure cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Area lakes are great for ice skating, cross-country skiing and dogsled rides. They also draw legions of ice fishermen, and many play host to popular fishing derbies throughout the winter. Old logging roads that provide mountain bikers their summer routes often become trails for use by snowmobile clubs in the area. And of course, Whiteface Mountain is the place to be for a world-class downhill skiing and boarding experience. Balancing out the town's world-class sporting options are the quaint and colorful shops and restaurants of Main Street, and a range of lodging options for every taste and budget.
Lake Placid is less than four hours by car from New York City and other major cities, including Montreal, making it an ideal destination for Northeast travelers. A two-time host of the Olympic Winter Games, Lake Placid has a storied past as a place for fun and sporting achievement, where athletes of all ages and stages of skill come to play, train and excel. Situated in a picturesque setting of lakes and the Adirondack mountains, its myriad appeals range from outdoor adventures to performances at Lake Placid Center for the Arts to the quaint, small-town atmosphere of historic Main Street, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels and other attractions. For more information, visit www.lakeplacid.com or call 1-800-44-PLACID (1-800-447-5224).