Every four years, many of the world’s top athletes convene at the Winter Olympic Games. Tens of thousands of spectators cheer the competitors in person, while millions around the world are glued to their televisions. All Olympians are remarkable, but what sets the Winter Olympics apart is the death-defying nature of many of the events, such as downhill skiing, ski jumping, bobsled, or skeleton, where athletes send their bodies hurtling at breakneck speed, seemingly on the edge of complete mayhem—we can barely watch, yet we can’t look away. At Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, you can experience some of these events for yourself, while visiting one of America’s most beautiful and charming towns.
Lake Placid is in the Adirondack Mountains of northeastern New York. If winds and traffic allow, land on Runway 14, as you’ll have to come in very close to the hills to land on Runway 32. Adirondack Car Rental (518.302.5097) is across the street from Adirondack Flying Service and can leave your vehicle at the fixed-base operation. The Olympic arenas from the 1932 and 1980 Games are on the south end of Main Street, 1.5 miles north of the airport, and the Olympic ski jump and training complex is just south of the airport. The Whiteface Mountain ski areas are eight miles northeast of town, while the Olympic Sports Complex is seven miles southeast of town.
The Olympic Sports Complex, at the base of Mount Van Hoevenberg, is where you’ll find 50 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails, the combined bobsled, luge, and skeleton track, and the biathlon courses. Yes, you can head to the rifle range with the Discover Biathlon program, or actually try the bobsled or skeleton yourself. For the bobsled, you’ll fly down the track with a professional driver and brakeman. In skeleton, you rocket headfirst down the track with your chin only three inches above the ice. That’ll get your heart pumping! You’ll get a photo of yourself, lapel pin, and team T-shirt too. Or, watch a race: Luge competitors go down feet first, lying on their backs, right past you at 90 mph.
For more thrills, visit the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex. Take the elevator to the top of the K-120 meter (394 feet) tower for the same terrifying view Olympic ski jumpers see. Young Olympic hopefuls still train here, year-round. In winter, nearby, you can watch freestyle skiers do aerial acrobatics on the Lake Placid Freestyle Hill. In summer, they practice by jumping into a 750,000 gallon pool during the Summer Jumping Series.
You can ice skate indoors on the 1932 Jack Shea rink where Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie became a legend or, in winter, outside on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval where Eric Heiden earned five gold medals. Hockey and figure skating events take place year-round at the Lake Placid Olympic Center, site of the “Miracle on Ice.” At the Lake Placid Olympic Museum you can browse through displays of uniforms and equipment, watch videos, and find a wealth of historical information. The village of Lake Placid stretches along Main Street, which winds past the western shore of Mirror Lake. When the lake freezes over, mushers set up shop along Main Street and will take you dog sledding on the lake.
At Whiteface Mountain, downhill skiers and snowboarders from beginner to expert enjoy greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies and some of the longest runs in North America. Private and public lessons are available for kids, adults, seniors, athletes, and the disabled. You can even go wine tasting at the Swedish Hill or Goose Watch wineries.
Accommodations run the gamut from the luxurious AAA 4-Diamond-rated Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa and its fine-dining restaurants to the cozy, Victorian, Interlaken Inn and restaurant, to the family-friendly Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort and adjacent Generations Tap and Grill. Other popular dining choices are The Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company, Nicola’s on Main (actually two restaurants, Italian and Thai), and Jimmy’s 21. So get in the Olympic spirit and head to Lake Placid for an unforgettable getaway!
Share your favorite destination in the AOPA Hangar: Places to fly, things to do, where to eat!