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Lake Placid, two-time Olympic host

© By Geoff Dale
  Footsteps from our hotel's main parking lot, hugging a corner of the community's compact, bustling main street was the kind of magnificent natural view we hardly expected to be so breathtaking. The towering, snow-covered peaks of the Adirondack Mountains magically reflected below in a body of water appropriately called Mirror Lake. A treat we were pleasantly surprised to learn would be a recurring image - often shrouded in an eerie mist - that greeted us every morning of our four-day stay in Lake Placid.
     From the moment my wife and I sauntered down the road from the main lobby of the cozy, upscale High Peaks Resort to our lake-front accommodations, it was clear that this was more than just a picturesque little Adirondack Mountain village. The thought occurred - could Lake Placid live up to or surpass its enduring reputation as the host 28 years ago to hockey's "Miracle on Ice?"
     Certainly, the multi-million dollar transformation of the former Lake Placid Hilton into the luxurious High Peaks Resort played a large role in my personal transformation. So did the presence of that playful band of mooching mallards lurking about at our lakefront door at the crack of dawn unashamedly begging for a breakfast morsel or two.
     Near the centre of the Town of North Elba, Lake Placid - along with the Saranac and Tupper Lakes makes up Essex County's Tri-Lakes region. Founded in the early 1800s and incorporated in 1900, the community is surprisingly small, boasting only 2,800 permanent residents. But that statistic is hardly an accurate gauge of the true numbers as thousands of leisure-seeking visitors from across North America and around the globe flock daily to the village - two-time host of the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980.
     The community literally bursts at the seams at all times of the day and night.


     With an endless variety of year-round activities and sweeping natural views like numerous ski trails, bobsled runs, gondola rides, the 4,867-foot Whiteface Mountain and the mystique of the Olympic Arena, our journey began with a chilly, exhilarating hour-long boat tour along Lake Placid - filled with incessant sounds of camera shutters clicking madly as our guide pointed to the old summer home of the late songstress, Kate Smith (God Bless America), a lakeshore retreat owned by Cheers creator James Burrows and composer Victor Herbert's (Naughty Marietta, Babes in Toyland) seasonal getaway.
     Later that day, it was a visit to the famed Olympic Arena where our group - a mixture of Americans and Canadians - found themselves hanging on every word of the exuberant Town Court Justice, Howard J. Riley, one of the original six who secured the tiny village's second Olympics in 1980. Wandering about the Herb Brooks Arena, we enjoyed his colourful recollections of the late Brooks and his rag-tag bunch of U.S. university hockey upstarts who defiantly throttled the mighty Russians before marching on to a golden triumph over the Fins.
     We moved on to marvel at the sight of the 72-year-old Lyudmila Belousova and 75-year-old Oleg Protopopov - the 1964 Olympic figure skating champs from Russia - defying age, gliding effortlessly along the glittering ice, dazzling us with the kind of magical choreography honed more than four decades before.
     When they're not home in Switzerland, the couple - honourary members of the Skating Club of Lake Placid - can be found five months of the year in Lake Placid, weaving their on-ice magic with their legendary death spiral move and stopping to wax poetic about the past, present and future of figure skating.
     The following day, a few of us brave souls, hiked a loop 800 feet upwards to the summit of 2,876-foot Mt. Jo. The reward - a breathtaking panoramic view of mountains, the eerily calm waters of Heart Lake below and a host of staggering natural wonders within our 180 degree arc.
     We all enjoyed shots at personal exhilaration - whether in the guise of being a biathlete wannabe, roaring down a bobsled run at break-neck speed, opting for a Cloudsplitter Gondola ride to Little Whiteface's summit or simply savouring a succulent bit of Long Island duck courtesy of the resort's Executive Chef, Chuck Brucculeri.
     All great fun with one inescapably sad truth - there was simply not enough time, so let's consider this chapter one.


Geoff Dale is a freelance business/travel/agricultural and entertainment writer & photographer based in Woodstock, Ontario. He is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets including The London Free Press and Better Farming and writes profiles on Newfoundlanders for the Transcontinental Media chain in St. John's and Grand Falls-Windsor in Newfoundland.

Photo Credits
Geoff Dale

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