Lake Placid, in upstate New York, is not just a monster movie – it’s where the ski jumping career of "The Eagle" literally took off, and a stunning winter sports hotspot
It all started for me in Lake Placid.
I used to ski in the resort when friends introduced me to ski jumping. I remember taking part in my first ever competition there; it was the Empire State Games and ever since most of my ski jumping career has taken place in Lake Placid.
The resort famously played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics. I lived there for two and a half years and then again for three years when I was in training ahead of the 88 and 98 games. Lake Placid is fantastic. It’s a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and trees, which are all reflected in the deep lakes.
What to do
Lake Placid bills itself as the winter sports capital of the world. There is so much to do. I really enjoyed skiing there in the early days of my career on Whiteface Mountain. It has a good set up for skiing, considering it isn’t a massive ski resort. There is a ski school on the mountain and it’s only about ten miles from the town of Lake Placid. The skiing isn’t too extensive. I could probably ski all the runs in a day; some of them are black, some are double black. But there’s enough for everybody.
We would ski jump there all summer and the top of the jump is a wonderful place to be. On a beautiful day you can see for 100 miles; every mountain surrounding you is visible. The Lake Placid ski jump has a 26-storey tower that you can buy a ticket for and go to the top, admiring the views from the observation tower.
Another fabulous thing to do in winter is experience what it’s like to be a bobsledder at the Olympic Sports Complex on Mount Van Hoevenberg ($75; 518 523 4436; www.orda.org; email email@example.com). That’s a lot of fun. Or you can have a go at the luge or the skeleton. The sports complex has a range of activities on offer using the facilities that were used for the 1980 Olympics. There’s anything you can think of in terms of Olympic winter sports. There is always some sort of competition on too: Alpine skiing, ice hockey, cross-country skiing, shooting, curling – it’s a really sporty, active place.
Winter, spring, summer or fall
Lake Placid is a lovely little town. In the winter the water freezes so they have lots of activities on the lake such as ice-skating. They also have tennis courts in the town and there are four Olympic-sized indoor ice rinks. Many big concerts are hosted in Lake Placid at the Olympic Center (www.orda.org/newsite/togo/olympiccenter.php) because the ice rinks can hold thousands of people. They’ve had lots of big names there such as Bob Dylan and Shania Twain and even WWF wrestling!
There are also some really pretty golf courses to play on during the warmer weather.
The town attracts many tourists. Americans drive up there and Canadians drive down there. In the autumn, or fall in America, the trees change colour and around the Lake Placid area it is absolutely spectacular. It’s in the Adirondack Mountain region and there are hundreds of thousands of miles of trees that turn red and gold and auburn. It is truly nice. It’s great for wildlife too; there are bulls and bears, coyotes and eagles.
Though Lake Placid is in upstate New York, you might be better off flying into Montreal, hiring a car and driving the hour or so south. You could fly into any of the New York City airports but you’ll face a drive of about eight hours through New York State. The nearest domestic airport is the Adirondack Regional Airport at Saranac Lake; you could fly into New York and get an onward flight to Saranac.
Where to stay
The nicest hotel is the Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa in Mirror Lake Drive. The town of Lake Placid is actually around Mirror Lake. The hotel is right on the lake and it’s constantly winning awards for the quality of accommodation and service. This hotel has a range of different rooms and suites, all beautifully furnished and offering treats such as lake views and hot tubs. It’s a sensational spot. At night hundreds of thousands of fairy lights decorate the exterior of the hotel and it looks like a fairytale. You can go straight out of your room and onto the lake to go boating or ice-skating.
The Crowne Plaza Resort Lake Placid - Golf Club is in Olympic Drive, not far from the Mirror Lake Inn. They often have lots of tempting offers on for guests. It’s up the hill a little so you get stunning views across the lake. The amenities here to wind down after a hard day out on the mountains are brilliant.
Art Devlin's Olympic Motor Inn is a cheaper option but visitors love it. It’s central for everything in town and has a nice homely feel, while not pinching too hard on the wallet. Prices range from about 70 dollars.
Where to eat
The Mirror Lake Inn has a beautiful restaurant called The View (518 302 3000; www.mirrorlakeinn.com/dining-theview) where they serve delicious hearty food like beef, reindeer and catfish. I used to eat there when I was doing interviews with newspapers and magazines, if they were paying. If it was my turn to pick up the bill I would go to a little café on Main Street and buy muffins and cookies.
The Brown Dog Cafe & Wine Bar (Main Street; 518-523-3036) features decent food and a friendly atmosphere. It’s only a small place, but you often find the staff can take more time in places like this to tell you some of the highlights of their town.
The Howard Johnson Restaurant (Saranac Avenue; 518 523 2241) wins rave reviews for its burgers. It’s a family restaurant where the emphasis is on piling food high. You’ll never leave hungry.
Get active in Lake Placid
Lake Placid is most definitely a “do-ers” resort. Even if you aren’t into the traditional winter sports you can go hiking all year round, or try dog sleigh or horse sleigh riding.
The scenery is incredibly beautiful and if all you want to do is just look, you’ll love it. But you would certainly have a better time if you were more athletically minded. There are things to do in abundance - and I can’t wait to get back there again.