Off the Beaten Path in Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid. It sounds deceiving, like when you get there, the trees will be snoring; the kind of place you better bring a good book, a new girlfriend or one you really love (we suggest all three, but maybe not at the same time), but this little Adirondack mountain town is hardly as calm as its name suggests.
It’s most well known as the host of the last of the small, non-commercial Winter Olympics. This was in 1980, and the Winter Olympics blew up afterwards, many say, because of the Miracle on Ice, when the US hockey Team, a scraggly bunch of college kids and newcomers, defeated the heavily favored Soviet team. It was the original Rocky IV and, according to Sports Illustrated, the top sports moment of the 20th century.
Ah yes, those halcyon days of American exceptionalism. Since then, there hasn’t been much attention paid to this upstate New York town, so as Team USA gears up for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia, Lake Placid should be back on your radar.
Beyond doubt, Lake Placid is cold and snowy, which makes it an ideal long weekend for skiers, snowboarders and lovers of small Christmas villages. Whiteface Mountain has the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies and with 86 trails that traverse 22 miles. It is where they threw down in 1980 and where most of the snow-based activities take place today, like skiing, snowboarding, the sport of skeleton (sledding on crack), snow tubing (where you fly on a tube out of a 700 foot chute), snowshoeing (snow-hiking), ice-climbing and cross country skiing. You can also tag along on a bobsled ride or, if you’re there from December 10-15, watch the Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup, before the teams head to Sochi. If you’re feeling real Olympic, you can head to Lake Placid from Feb 6-9th to watch the Empire State Winter Games as the Sochi games are broadcast on TV.
On your off time, the quaint village turns into a scene straight out from under a Christmas tree.
Just as ski season goes away, golf season starts. There are 12 golf courses in the area, some of which date back to the 19th century and are gorgeously manicured lawns, flaunting themselves before the rugged wilderness that surrounds. Craig Wood Golf Club, designed in 1925, is a perennial favorite, but also check out Whiteface Club and Resort, Saranac Lake Golf Club and Lake Placid Club Golf Course. On the flip side, whitewater rafting in the entire region is also booming at this time of year.
This is high season around these parts and there’s no shortage of things to do. Gneiss Cliffs have been a rock climbing must for decades. The west branch of the Ausable river is a fly-fishing favorite and thousands of reflective lakes make for some gorgeous boating. There’s also rapelling and kayaking in the same area. Cycling is a great way to see the area and there are some choice downhill spots. Check out Placid Planet Bikes or High Peaks Cyclery to get more info. Hiking and mountaineering but are popular through summer. Most trails/routes are safe enough to do on your own, we suggest the Cascade Pass trail for a good half day trip, and there’s an EMS right in town where you can pick up maps or a guide for more complicated trips.
No doubt most of the summer activities last well into fall, but as the crisp enters the air, it’s time to harvest. As in eat. Being surrounded by all manner of farms and farmer’s markets makes Lake Placid a top farm to fork destination. Leading that movement is Generations, an unassuming spot with a green roof that overlooks Mirror lake and where anything edible has been cultivated in a farm within 40 miles. By far the most sophisticated is Liquids and Solids at the Handlebar, which feels plucked right out of Portland, Oregon or Brooklyn, New York. Here’s where you go for any kind of beer your heart desires. You can also hit up the farms themselves. Snowslip Farm has a horse program that specializes in something called Horse Therapy, which is run by world renown horse whisperer Kathryn Kincannon, but they’ll also saddle you up for some good ol’ horseback riding. Which is nothing short of angelic from the last week of September to the first week of October when the leaves are at their most colorful. Check out 800-CALLNYS to find out the best leaf viewing times and routes.
There’s also a burgeoning mountain biking scene, with Barkeaters Trail Alliance leading the way in creating new, mountain biking paths through some of the area’s topiary wilderness.
Anytime of Year
An Olympic tour. You need about a day and a half to see everything Olympic from the famed 1980 Miracle on Ice rink, the Olympic jumping center, the Olympic museum. There’s a Passport that gets you access to all. You’ll see a lot to do on the Olympic list, but know that everything is pretty close.
Lake Placid Lodge is by far the nicest place in town and the only that’s directly on Lake Placid, but we also loved Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, a family run, green hotel on Mirror lake. The prices are much cheaper and despite being within walking distance of Lake Placid’s main drag and the 1980 Olympic Center, rooms with balconies make it feel like you’re far away from it all.
But if you don’t have a car, there are a few less than perfect options here.