Whiteface Mountain – Lake Placid, New York
Strictly in terms of skiable terrain, Whiteface would fall somewhere in the middle of the pack of northeast resorts. But, it more than compensates with its dramatic vertical drop, the biggest in the East at more than 3,400 feet (you must hike to it).
A quarter-century after it hosted the Olympics, Lake Placid is still all about winter games. Race down the ice chute feet first on a luge sled and try not to stretch your toes to save that extra .001 of a second on the clock…try not to push just a little harder as you ski into the cross country finish stadium – try not to put a little extra lean into the scoreboard turn under the lights at the speedskating oval – look down the in-run of the 120-meter ski jump and – well, let’s not go overboard here! You get the picture. This is not your average ski town.
Welcome to Lake Placid, the surprisingly unspoiled and quiet village that has been host to two Winter Olympics, 1932 and 1980, and the 2000 Winter Goodwill Games. The memories these stir, combined with the plethora of ongoing outdoor activities and events, set Lake Placid apart as a winter sports mecca.
As you drive past the dramatic Olympic jumps, just south of the village, you’ll know this isn’t an ordinary winter vacation spot. The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) operates the multi-facility recreational area. More world-class winter sports athletes train and compete here than anywhere else in North America. The facilities also attract competitions in all of the Olympic winter sports, so athletes of all ages, nationalities, and abilities fill the town throughout the season, constantly refreshing the village’s Olympic atmosphere.
Even in non-Olympic years, there is always lots of top-level competition in Lake Placid. For instance, winter starts off with World Cup Bobsled and Skeleton races in December. There is a World Cup Freestyle competition in January and World Cup Snowboarding in March. The NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championships will be held at the Olympic Arena in March. These events are a great opportunity to see Olympic level competitors, up close, in international competition, at neighborhood prices. A Kodak Sites passport, available at the ORDA Store on Main Street and at ORDA Facilities, will gain you access to venues and activities at a reduced cost.
The town of Lake Placid, situated between two Adirondack lakes, is home to the ice arena where America watched its Cinderella hockey team enter the history books with the “Do you believe in miracles?” victory over the heavily favored Russian team in 1980. The Mt. VanHoevenberg Sports Complex, six miles to the southeast, has the bobsled, luge, and skeleton runs, as well as 50 km of cross-country ski trails and the biathlon stadium. The MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jumping Complex, where jumping and freestyle aerials take place, is on the edge of town.
The Alpine trails are not in Lake Placid, but 9 miles to the northeast, at Whiteface Mountain, officially in the town of Wilmington. Whiteface is one of those rare ski areas that have more to offer experts and beginners, but it still has plenty for intermediates. Experts will find the upper half of the mountain challenge. Beginners will find almost everything accessed by the Face Lift high-speed quad much to their liking. Intermediates probably will find plenty of cruising and opportunities to advance their skills from the top of the mountain. The trails, for the most part, are nice and wide, which makes some of the black-rated steep runs manageable for solid intermediates.
Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort Facts
- Summit elevation: 4,386 feet
- Vertical drop: 3,166 feet
- Base elevation: 1,220 feet
- Expert: ++++
- Advanced: +++++
- Intermediate: +++
- Beginner: +++++
- First-timer: +++++
- Address: Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY 12946
- Ski area phone: 518-946-2223
- ORDA phone: 523-1655
- Snow report: 946-7171
- Toll-free information: (800) 462-6236
- Internet: www.whitefacelakeplacid.com (ORDA)
- Number of lifts: 10—1 eight-passenger heated gondola, 1 high-speed quad, 1 quad, 1 triple, 5 doubles, 1 surface lift
- Skiable acreage: About 221 acres
- Snowmaking: 98 percent
- Uphill capacity: 13,270 skiers per hour
- Parks & pipes: 2 parks, 1 pipe
- Bed base: 5,000
- Nearest lodging: 1/2 mile in Wilmington, about 9 miles in Lake Placid
- Resort child care: Yes, 12 months and older
Whiteface Mountain Skiing
Whiteface has the biggest lift-served vertical drop in the East at 3,166, 3,430 feet if you count hiking to the nearby Slides. It stands majestic and unshielded, lording over a vast valley of forests and frozen lakes. Its position makes for spectacular views, but winter winds do whip across the valley and up the walls of Whiteface with regularity. Veteran eastern skiers do complain that Whiteface is often windblown, cold and icy. Of course, you can’t fault any area for bad weather, and the addition of the Cloudsplitter gondola does provide relief, as well as comfort. On an ideal day, Whiteface is as good as it gets in the East, and spring here can be particularly good.
Whiteface Mountain Expert & Advanced Skiiers
For some of the best expert skiing in the East, take the Summit Quad and test your legs on Cloudspin and Skyward, where the Olympic downhill races started. For certifiable experts who don’t mind a hike to reach the best terrain, the Slides is the real deal on days when conditions permit.
The black-diamond trails off Little Whiteface—Approach, Upper Northway, Empire, and Essex—are often left to bump up, providing great terrain for advanced skiers. Whiteface has serious tree skiing, too: 13 acres of black and double-black glades can be found off Little Whiteface Mountain.
Whiteface Mountain Intermediate Skiiers
Take the Cloudsplitter gondola from the base or the Little Whiteface double from the mid-station to the top of Little Whiteface. An observation platform, off to the left at the top, gives you an unparalleled view of the lakes and valley. Then try the snaking down Excelsior run, which twists to the mid-station. You can cut the rounded corners of this baby like a bobsled, choosing your own pace. After that warm-up, tackle Paron’s Run or The Follies from the top of the Summit Quad. Before this run was added several years ago, intermediates had no way to enjoy either the awe-inspiring view or best-in-the-east vertical available from the top of the mountain. Virtually the entire lower half of this mountain is a delight for intermediates. High-speed lifts have eliminated the old bottlenecks, and there is plenty of space to cruise.
Whiteface Mountain Beginner & First-timer Skiiers
These levels have two secluded areas, the Mixing Bowl to the left and Kids Kampus at Easy Acres to the right. The Mixing Bowl allows adult beginners to progress out of the way of more accomplished skiers using Bear lift. Novices and families will enjoy Easy Acres, below the mid-station lodge, with its own secluded lift and a series of beginner glades. Boreen is also a good choice for beginners.
Whiteface Mountain Snowboarding
When cruising down Excelsior, keep up your momentum when you hit the eighth and ninth corners so you can ride out the short flat.
Parks and pipes
Terrain parks are located on Brookside, Lower Thruway and portions of Lower Valley and Bronze. There’s a superpipe on Bear trail. Whiteface grooms the 400-foot pipe with a Zaugg Pipe Monster.
The halfpipe has hosted events such as the Winter Goodwill Games and the Paul Mitchell Board Frenzy Tour. The resort will offer World Cup snowboarding March 10-11, 2007, with events in superpipe and snowboardcross.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
Lake Placid stands as a major cross-country destination with 455 km. of trails. Foremost is the Mt VanHoevenberg Sports Complex (523-2811), site of the Nordic and biathlon races during the 1980 Olympics. It has cross-country skiing you are unlikely to find elsewhere: 50 km. of marked trails that average 15 ft. wide, regularly groomed and patrolled; bridges built especially for cross-country skiers, so you don’t have to worry about traffic; snowmaking (5 km.); and emergency phones. The complex has 10 marked loops: one expert, six intermediate and three novice tours, with additional expert skiing on the Porter Mountain racing loops. The stadium finish area has a fully equipped rental and retail shop along with food service. Snowshoeing is allowed.
The Lake Placid Resort (523-2556) has 25 km. of trails and connects with the more secluded Jackrabbit Trail (ski conditions: 523-1365): 50 km. that run from Keene through Lake Placid and Saranac Lake.
Snowshoeing trails crisscross the entire High Peaks Wilderness area; get maps and advice at the Eastern Mountain Sports store on Lake Placid’s Main Street. Dewey Mt. Ski Center has snowshoe trails in addition to cross-country skiing. For a more controlled snowshoe experience, complete with bonfires for roasting marshmallows and educational stops on the trail, stop at the High Falls Gorge center (946-2278). Here you can follow a marked trek around the Ausable River gorge and be welcomed back with free hot chocolate or coffee. Reservations are recommended on weekends.
For a full moon cross country experience, check with Cascade Cross Country Ski Center (523-9605) on Route 73 near Mt VanHoevenberg.
- Whiteface Mountain – Lake Placid, New York