It takes a lot to pull a girl away from the warm and sunny wintertime days in Florida, but the allure of fun in Lake Placid, New York’s winter wonderland was hard to pass up. So much so, that’s exactly how I found myself gathered with a group of girlfriends in the Adirondacks a few weeks ago on a perfect winter getaway to Lake Placid.
Armed with a huge suitcase filled with nearly all of the warm clothes I have, I flew from the Sunshine State to New York State’s capital, Albany. From there, a two and a half hour drive through the mountains delivered me right to the charming mountain town of Lake Placid, home of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Before we get much further, I must point out that the town of Lake Placid overlooks Mirror Lake, not Lake Placid; that lake can be seen from high atop Whiteface Mountain, but more on that in a bit…
There’s so much to do in Lake Placid and the surrounding areas, it was hard to choose where to start. In the end, we decided what better place than Whiteface Mountain, which towers above the landscape and is just a short drive away.
I’m more familiar with sand than snow, so I took a beginner’s ski lesson to acclimate to the slopes and the slippery terrain. Eric from the ski school couldn’t have been more patient as he went guided me through the basics of skiing, from foot positioning to balance to turn and stopping. Whiteface Mountain offers its trademarked Parallel from the Start program which teaches first-time skiers – or those who need a refresher – all of these basic skills, but on shorter skis and without poles. I must admit I was pretty proud at the end of our two-hour lesson: I didn’t fall once!
After (not really) perfecting my skiing skills, we rode the gondola to the top of Whiteface Mountain to take a look at the spectacular scenery; others more daring rode the slopes from the mountain’s peak to its base. At the top of Whiteface Mountain is where views of Lake Placid can be found, as well as more of New York State and Vermont out in the distance. The trees were blanketed in a gorgeous powder-white snow, and I could just imagine how that same landscape would look in the spring, summer and fall – it must be stunning year-round!
Downhill (or bunny hill, as the case may be) isn’t the only skiing to be found in Lake Placid, however. Mt. Van Hoevenberg offers cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails for miles. We opted to venture out with a guide, Mike, some of us on skis, the others on snowshoes. And those of us on snowshoes got a spectacular treat – a blanketed path through the woods, still and beautiful and musically alive with birdsongs. It took us a bit longer to catch up with the skiers, but there were too many vignettes at which to stop and admire and snap a photo, we couldn’t hurry.
To really test our balance, we left the solid, albeit snow-covered, ground behind and laced up our skates to take a lap around the Lake Placid Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Being as this is where the Olympic athletes competed in the 1980 Games, there isn’t that handy wall to hang onto to find balance that’s found at skating rinks, and so I had a skating friend guide me around…an amazing experience all the same!
We had just two days to spend in Lake Placid, and there are so many other activities I would’ve loved to have tried – dog sledding, snow sledding, and even bobsledding at the Lake Placid Olympic Sports Complex. The track was closed to amateurs when we were in town, however, as teams from the world over had convened in Lake Placid to compete in the Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup competitions – now those are two impressive and daring sports! There’s always my next visit to take a run at the record!
At the base of Whiteface Mountain, apres-ski is a must-do. There are seven options to choose from, depending on what kind of scene you’re looking for. We decided to go casual at J. Lohr and feasted on flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads from which to choose. We couldn’t pass up the pretzel, though, made locally and served with a delicious German mustard… need to get those carbs ready for more skiing, right?!
On charming Main Street in “downtown” Lake Placid, choices abound. We stopped into the Good Bite Kitchen, a tiny little eatery serving up vegan and vegetarian food lunches huge on flavor and filling enough to get us through our next activity or two. The black bean chili with a side of cornbread was warming and simply divine. Locals really like 46 Sandwiches at Simply Gourmet & Big Mountain Deli, too, serving, well, the “46 best sandwiches in the Adirondacks. And if there’s room, check out Cake Placid for desserts that are worth all those calories burnt, or yet to burn.
Plenty of pints are ready to be had at two of Lake Placid’s local breweries: Lake Placid Pub and Eatery, and Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Brewery. Both have plenty of brews on tap to quench any thirst, as well as menus chocked full of belly-filling bites and entrees.
My friends and I made ourselves right at home in a three-bedroom, two-story suite at the Whiteface Lodge, just a few minutes’ walk outside of town. Inside the suite, it was like our own little lodge, complete with full kitchen, dining room, living room, two fireplaces, bathrooms for each bedroom and even a patio, for any one of us who dared to brave the cold and snow for a better view of Whiteface Mountain in the distance.
It wasn’t just our suite that made it hard to leave the lodge to experience the area – Whiteface Lodge has so much to do within the property itself, we could’ve kept busy for days! There’s the onsite, two-lane bowling alley, game room, movie theater, and indoor/outdoor heated pool, all inside. Outside, there’s the ice skating rink, s’mores pit (though taken inside to a fireplace during the really cold months) and even a fishing pond on which to learn fly fishing during warmer months. Back inside, the Spa at the Whiteface Lodge was the perfect place to let go of any aches from out outdoor fun.
Dining at Whiteface Lodge tempts the taste buds. Breakfast is included with all stays, and the lodge offers casual lunches and dinners in the lounge, as well as more formal fare in KANU. On colder nights, a table near one of the two oversized fire places is the perfect spot to warm up and talk about all the fun had, and yet to come. For a real treat, ask Zachary, the bartender, to custom blend a cocktail just to your liking, like he did for us – it’s fun to taste what he comes up with using specific ingredients and flavors.
Our visit to Lake Placid was short but jam-packed, and I think I can safely speak for my friends when I say that we can’t wait to get back and experience more that this mountain town has to offer!
For more information about fun activities and events visit the Lake Placid Tourism website.