Since the 1920s, the Skating Club of Lake Placid has been an integral part of Lake Placid’s skating culture. The first formal group skating in Lake Placid were the “Sno-Birds”, sponsored by the Lake Placid Club. They organized their own competitions and were the group in charge of assembling the U.S. and Canadian Skating Associations in 1921. The United States Figure Skating Association was formed at this meeting; making the Sno Birds very important in not only Lake Placid’s skating history, but the country’s skating history as well.
According the Skating Club of Lake Placid historian Barbara Kelly, figure skating in Lake Placid really started to develop in the 1930s. The Sno Birds hosted their first indoor competition in 1932 in the new Olympic Arena. This was also when the skating club, then called the “Adirondack Skating Club”, was formed after the Olympics. The board of directors were influential local people, among them the manager of the Olympic Arena Jack Garren and Chairman of the North Elba Park Commission Rollie J. Kennedy. In 1937 the name was changed to the “Skating Club of Lake Placid”.
The “Golden Age” of skating continued through the 40s, when skaters flocked to Lake Placid to train in the summers with the best coaches in the world. This provided them the opportunity to skate in the two spectacular summer ice shows, some of the most elaborate shows in the country. At this time, well-known skaters such as Dick Button trained with equally famous coaches like Gus Lussi.
Through the 50s , 60s, and 70s, the figure skating program continued to attract talented and well known skaters. Some notables included Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Ronnie Robertson, Tab Hunter, and Evelyn Mueller Kramer. Fleming and Hamill were the 1968 and 1976 Olympic Gold Medalists in Ladies Figure Skating, respectively. Ronnie Robertson was the 1956 Olympic Silver Medalist in Men’s Figure Skating, and was best known for his amazing spinning ability. Coached by Gus Lussi, Robertson’s incredibly fast spins were tested by the American Space Program to determine how to achieve balance in a weightless environment; they were baffled by his lack of dizziness after spinning. Tab Hunter was a movie star and recording artist best known for his good looks and roles in movies such as “Damn Yankees”. Hunter was a figure skater as a teenager, competing in both singles and pairs; he was another of Gus Lussi’s famous students. Evelyn Mueller Kramer trained alongside Ronnie Robertson and Tab Hunter, and is currently a well-known skating coach.
In 1979 the first Skate America competition, now a part of the annual Grand Prix series, was held in Lake Placid. It was considered a “test event” for the 1980 Olympics, and was obviously a success, since the competition was also there in 1981 (the competition was not held in 1980). Since then, Lake Placid has continued to host several important figure skating events. Most recently Lake Placid hosted the 2011 Eastern Synchronized Skating Championships, which determined the synchronized skating teams that qualified for Nationals. Previously, Skate America returned in 2009, along with Regional and Sectional Qualifiers, the annual Lake Placid Free Skating Championships and Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships.
Ice shows such as Smuckers Stars on Ice and Disney on Ice return annually and
Summer skating continues every year, bringing skaters from all over the world to train with a variety of coaches. Celebrity skaters train here as well; the most well known are Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov, 1964 and 1968 Olympic Gold Medalists in Pairs Skating. Part time residents of Lake Placid, they train here every summer and can often be spotted practicing on one of the rinks (see photo above).
The Saturday Night Ice Shows have also continued. Skaters taking part in the summer skating camp have the opportunity to skate alongside “guest” skaters who are National and World caliber. The shows are weekly instead of just twice in the summer, allowing for more skaters and more memorable performances under the spotlights in the 1932 Arena. Notable guest skaters have included Johnny Weir, Ryan Bradley, Kimmie Meissner, and Rachel Flatt, as well as many others.
For more information on the figure skating program, visit the Lake Placid Skating site. For more information on the Skating Club of Lake Placid, visit their website.