Lake Placid, New York: Olympic Memories and Adirondack Splendor
By Kent E. St. John, Senior Travel Editor
Long before New England poised itself as an adventurer paradise the Adirondack Mountains have fulfilled the role. As I rolled up Route 73 to the Olympic Village of Lake Placid, the mountains held me captive. Nowhere else in the Northeast do the mountains kiss the sky as they do in the Adirondacks. Tall and stony with plenty of space and promises of real adventure come to mind. In fact there are 46 peaks that rise above 4,000 feet and the tallest are in Essex County, New York.
Smack dab in the middle of America’s largest state park, outside of Alaska, sits a town where sport is king, Lake Placid. If you consider finding fine food and unique lodgings a sporting event, you will be more than satisfied. Add on the outdoor activities and you will be in heaven.
Capturing the Gold
It is evident that Lake Placid is steeped in Olympic history; the intertwined Olympic rings beckon everywhere. Both the 1932 and 1980 winter games took place here.
Entering the town I passed the MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex where even last autumn on a warm day ski jumpers were flying amidst blazing reds and gold foliage. This trip, steadily falling snow made the top of the jumps invisible till a jumper swooped like a hawk to the touch down hill.
Training goes on all year due to the vast opportunities available at the Olympic Training Center. Training facilities for winter sports such as Hockey, Luge, Speed Skating and Skiing are available to athletes. In summer, training shifts to Water Polo, Swimming, Wrestling and Triathlon.
The 260-bed facility costs $60 a day for athletes and includes lodging, food and training facilities. Those kids walking down the street with skis on their shoulders may well be taking the first steps toward a gold medal.
Even with my chances for a gold medal long past, Lake Placid offers so many Olympic moments. The Olympic Center and museum holds treasures that any citizen athlete will enjoy checking out. The rink where the “Miracle on Ice” took place brought memories flooding back to the night I watched a very young U.S. Team beat the “unbeatable” Russian Team. In fact the Center has the largest ice surface in the world. The chances that some major skating event is going on during your visit are great.
If a more hands-on experience is required to stir the heart, consider the option of riding down the 1980 Olympic bobsled course. A pro driver and brakeman will take you zooming down safely at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg complex.
I headed next to Whiteface Mountain. As I buckled my boots in the lodge, the falling snow beckoned; downhill skiing on an Olympic-scale mountain is adventure.
The mountain has the biggest vertical drop in the Northeast, at 3,430 feet. With 76 slopes breaking down to 44% expert, 36% intermediate and 20% novice, thrills are guaranteed. The views riding on “Cloudsplitter” are breathtaking. It is the fastest gondola in North America and insures a maximum amount of runs.
To round out my athletic pursuits I ended the day with a few laps at the Olympic Speed skating rink. With wobbly weary legs I am sure that my form didn’t fool anyone into thinking I was Eric Heiden, I did however build up a powerful appetite.
While Lake Placid is home to one of the last Howard Johnson’s restaurants, I must admit I skipped it. One place I didn’t skip was the Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company, located on Main Street. The atmosphere was subtle and homey and the micro-brewed beer fabulous. Main Street is filled with various types of restaurants and shops and a great way to end a busy day.
On my autumn visit I stayed at the Hilton in town, this trip I wanted to stay at a place that was special and unique. I struck gold when I checked into the Interlaken Inn.
Inviting is the key word when describing the Inn. A crackling fire blazed and the comfortable couch was the perfect place for a great glass of red wine. The restaurant at the Inn is named Richard’s after the famed chef, Richard Brosseau, once Kelsey Grammar’s personal chef. He has as fine a reputation for quality as any chef in the world.
I asked him what drew him to the area and should have guessed the answer: skiing. Even chefs in Lake Placid make good use of the town’s bounty of outdoor activities.
I had a chance to view several rooms at the Inn and all were different but all fascinating and had features unique to the Inn. My large room was #10 the cottage room that included a day bed and comfy places to curl up with a book. The included breakfast in the morning was perhaps the best I have ever had in my entire life. Soufflés made with goat cheese, glazed covered plantains and local bacon glazed with maple syrup made the price of a room a steal; culinary perfection is hard to find.
On my way out of town I made one last stop at the Olympic Ski Jump Center and rode the elevator to the skydeck at the top of the 120m jump. There I could study the determined faces of those brave souls that soar into the skies strapped to long boards. The panoramic view of high snow covered peaks glistening in the sun was magic.
I have experienced Lake Placid now in two of my favorite seasons, autumn and winter and headed down Route 73 set to train for returning for summer and spring. It is not often that I reach Olympic heights; it is easy to do in Lake Placid.
The Interlaken Inn was a great place to stay, great rooms combined with great food is a testament to commitment to reaching the gold medal. This place gets Gold in every way. There are better known Inn’s in the area but I think that this one sets the standard.
The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company was the perfect place to mix with locals and visitors in a relaxing setting. The food is no nonsense plain and satisfying, perfect for heading to after day of vigorous activity.
Richard’s at the Interlaken Inn is meant for that special night with a special someone. Click here for more info about the restaurant and Richard Brosseau. If dining alone, the pub menu is perfect!
It is impossible to visit Lake Placid without some thoughts of athletics. The history of noble sporting achievements is found everywhere. Better yet is the chance to challenge yourself with various hands-on activities.
The tourism board of the area has great links to any thing you need to know before you go.
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Kent St. John was GoNOMAD’s Senior Travel Editor since the website was founded in 2000. During that time he circled the globe many times, visiting more than 80 countries. Sadly, he passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. He had an appreciation of subtleties, always finding a way to capture the nuances and essences of a destination, whether he was whale-watching in Nova Scotia, riding the rails in Australia, bungee jumping in China or worshipping the sun on a beach in Brazil.