Doesn't have to be winter for bobsledding at Lake Placid

Watch jumpers practice in off-season or take gondola ride

Bob Dunn--photos by Olympic Regional Development Authority

New York’s Adirondack Mountain region is great to visit during any season. I guess it helps if you enjoy winter sports for a winter visit; but even if you just go to watch the ski-jumping events and the bobsled races it would be a blast.

Town of Lake Placid and the lake.

Lake Placid is the area’s center and has been the site of two Winter Olympic Games — in 1932 and 1980. As a result, the area has some great winter sport facilities: 90-and 120-meter ski jumps; a mile bobsled run with an average grade of 9.8%, a vertical drop of 127 meters, and twenty curves (average speed is 133 kmh); a luge rocket run; an Olympic size ice arena; Whiteface Mountain Ski Center at 4,867 feet of elevation; and the Olympic Museum.

View of the many trails and slopes on Whiteface Mountain.

The direct drive from the Seacoast region is about five hours. A really great time to visit is during the fall foliage season. A relaxing and most interesting route to take is to drive about three hours to the Burlington, Vermont, area and spend a night near Mount Mansfield, Stowe, where you can either ride the ski lift to the top of the mountain for some great views or drive up the auto road. The auto road is four and a half miles, with views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks from the top. Another interesting site in the area is the Inn at Shelburne Farms just south of Burlington, where a night at the Inn and visiting the Farm and Cheddar Cheese site will be memorable, along with a visit to the adjacent Shelburne Museum. Spend a day or two at either location and then catch the car ferry in Burlington over to Port Kent, New York, a nice cruise of about one hour; and when you reach the New York side, you’ll have only a one-hour drive to Lake Placid.

Tower at the top of Whiteface Mountain. It is accessible either by hiking up many stairs or an inside-the-mountain elevator from the top parking lot.

Lake Placid was originally called North Elba and was known in the 1800’s for its timber and iron ore deposits. It became popular in the late 1800's as a destination for the rich and famous, when huge compounds were built around the Lake. The true history of Lake Placid started with the 1932 Winter Olympics when 306 athletes (274 male and 32 female contestants) from 17 nations arrived for the various events. The Lake Placid Club, however, dates back to 1895 when the name of the town was changed to Lake Placid. The Club was the site for the International Olympic Committee in 1932 and again in 1980 for the Olympic Games. In 1980, 37 nations and 1,200 athletes arrived for the events (with the famous upset in hockey when the USA beat the favored Russian team). Interestingly, although the number of nations and competitors increased, the population of the town had actually diminished by 200 to 2,731 citizens.

The "Cloudsplitter" gondola that will be the fast way up Whiteface Mountain.

The summer ski jump with the pool landing area. Look closely for the jumper doing a flip.

During the spring, summer and fall, ski jumping practice takes place at the resort, and the view of the many jumpers flying off the jumps and doing various maneuvers to land in the large pool attract many sightseers. A truly fun thing to do is to ride the wheeled bobsled down the half-mile track and feel the thrill of the winter bobsledders. During the winter the half-mile bobsled run is available along with a solo luge rocket run. Swimming in the lake or the many pools and just walking around the lake and the town is most enjoyable.

The summer jump crowd to watch the flips.

The Veterans Memorial Highway, extending eight miles up Whiteface Mountain, was constructed in 1930. Be sure to climb or take the elevator from the top parking area to the top of the mountain for views (on a clear day) of Montreal, the Vermont Green Mountains and the other high peaks of the Adirondacks. If you prefer, take the “Cloudsplitter” eight-passenger gondola. The ride will be faster and also enjoyable.

The summer bobsled ride on a wheeled sled.

A number of golf courses are in the area; the Lake Placid Club is 45 holes of scenic and challenging golf. And a short drive away is a great course, designed by famous Scottish architect Seymour Dunn, at the Saranac Inn.

“Time’s a-wasting” -- the next ferry from Burlington leaves at 8 a.m.

September, 2009