Home » 2001 Winter Trip to Lake Placid

Lake Placid, NY

Saturday, February 17, 2001 - 6:00am by Lolo
270 miles and 5.5 hours from our last stop - 4 night stay


Boys on slideBoys on slideWell, the reservations I had made were probably unnecessary—we were the only ones in the entire North Pole Campground. There was a ton of snow and the temperatures were frigid, about 6 degrees without even considering the wind chill. The sun was going down and we knew that it was only going to get colder. I certainly hoped that Herb’s winter prep of the RV was thorough and that we would stay warm.

The kids didn’t seem to mind the cold and went out to play. I felt very warm and cozy sitting inside watching them through the window. First, they took the cross country skis that we had rented for them at Cascade XC Ski Center and started skiing madly around the campground. After they got their fill of that, they played in the playground right near our campsite. It wasn’t really a playground, but rather a large wooden tractor with a slide coming out of it. Somehow Andrew convinced Tommy that it would be fun for him to lie face down on the slide, while he sat on top of him. It’s good to be the older brother. Tommy got a face full of snow when they hit the bottom. They then switched positions and did it again.

Finally, they came in. Fortunately, the snow was so cold and dry that it brushed right off their clothing. There’s nothing worse than dripping wet clothes in an RV. That night we spent a very cozy evening huddled together (it was warmer that way) watching a movie on Lewis and Clark. I like to slip in a little education whenever I can. I reacquainted myself with my old friend Pelonis, our portable heater (see Winter Tips), who selflessly blew hot air as I wiggled my cold tootsies in front of him.

Herb and boys skiingHerb and boys skiingThe next morning we decided to do some cross country skiing. It was a beautiful, crisp day, but very cold. Fortunately, unlike downhill skiing where you freeze on the chair lift, cross country skiing is quite aerobic, so you keep pretty warm, even on the coldest of days. It’s also a lot less expensive than downhill skiing, and there are no lift lines.

After playing around on the skis for awhile around the campground, we headed down to the Cascade XC Ski Center to park the motorhome and ski the Jackrabbit Trail. The Cascade Ski Center also has their own 20 kilometers of trails, but we were saving those for tomorrow. The entire Jackrabbit Trail is about 25 miles long and goes all the way from Saranac Lake, through Lake Placid, and eventually to the town of Keene. We, however, were just doing a smaller 6 or 7 mile piece in the middle of it. From the Center, we crossed Route 73 and then proceeded uphill for about a half mile before gliding down a gentle 2 mile stretch through stands of Scotch pine, balsam fir, and birch trees. The boys were naturals. I felt like I was shuffling along compared to their smoothly flying along the trails. We had an absolutely fabulous day.

Lolo on the trailLolo on the trailThe next morning we were back bright and early at the Cascade XC Center to once again hit the trails. Cascade maintains 12 miles of groomed trails for skiers of all abilities. I think that day we must have covered all of them. Exhausted after a full day of skiing, we asked the boys if they were ready to return their rental skis. They weren’t. They spent the next hour racing down the hill next to the lodge, much to the amusement of those watching from inside. They suckered me into racing them as well. I’m sure that was even more amusing to the spectators. Our final race was on flat ground. Herb weaseled out of it by saying he wanted to film it. The course was about 100 yards out, round a tree, and then back again. I jumped out for an early lead, but proceeded to fall flat on my face before the turn. After they flew past me, I dragged my weary body up and got back in the race. About 10 yards before a very close finish between Andrew and Tom, Andrew took a dramatic fall. I took advantage of his misfortune and snuck by him to take second. I was totally exhausted and ready to go back to the RV. When we returned their skis, we got quite a few smirks from the people inside.

The next day we switched gears, literally, and headed to Whiteface Mountain, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic downhill skiing events, to do something which in no way resembled what those athletics did on these same slopes. I’ve been skiing on and off for years, but just never seem to get out of that intermediate rut. Herb even plays these instructional DVDs to try to help me see what I’m doing wrong. I got all excited once when I saw someone on the tape that skied exactly like me, but then I noticed that they had blacked out her face so she wouldn’t be identifiable. This apparently was the “how not to” lesson. In either case, I do just fine on the beginner and intermediate slopes and have a great time in the process. Herb is a lot better on skis than I am, and the boys are really good on their snowboards. So, I am always the last one down the mountain. Usually, one of my men stays back to make sure I’m okay. I think they must choose to see who’s stuck with me.

Boys on bobsled runBoys on bobsled runThe skiing was great, and we all had a wonderful time. One of the things the boys really enjoyed was the NASTAR race course. For a little extra money, they took a few runs on the course, zigging in and out of a series of gates, just like in the Olympics. Their times were electronically recorded and at the end of the day, we went to find out how they did compared to others in their age group. It was pretty cool. Tommy won a silver medal for 9-10 year olds and Andrew won a bronze for 11-12.

This vacation was getting exhausting—two full days of cross country skiing and another of downhill skiing. A day of rest seemed like a good idea.

The next day before leaving Lake Placid to head towards Brodie Mountain in Massachusetts, we stopped at the Olympic Sport Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg to let the kids try the Olympic bobsled run. For a mere $68 dollars (the most expensive 1 minute I’ve ever paid for), they got to soar through the twists and turns of the last ½ mile of the Olympic track. They didn’t get to drive it, of course. A professional driver and brakemen did all the controlling, while they sat in between and enjoyed a very thrilling ride. They said the scariest part was that they couldn’t see, so they didn’t know when the turns were coming, and there were lots of them. They were smiling a lot though so I think it definitely was worth it.


The village of Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, lies on the shores of Mirror Lake in the northern Adirondacks. Ironically, the actual Lake Placid lies a few minutes outside of town.

At the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg and at the Olympic Center in the village, you can see many of the sites where the Olympic events occurred. In fact, you can even try a few yourselves:

  • Cross country ski on the 50 kilometers of Nordic trails
  • Ride with a professional driver and brakeman down the twists and turns of the last ½ mile of the Olympic bobsled run
  • Pilot your own luge down the last 17 curves of the Olympic luge run
  • Ice skate on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval where Eric Heiden won five gold medals

In addition to the wonderful cross country skiing at Mount Van Hoevenberg, there are many other wonderful trails, such as the 44-kilometer wilderness Jackrabbit Trail or the 20 kilometers of groomed trails at the Cascade XC Ski Center.

Downhill skiers and snowboarders will enjoy some of the best skiing on the east coast at Whiteface Mountain, where the downhill events of the Olympics were held. There are 65 trails and the largest vertical drop in the east (3,430 feet).