Almanack Contributor Diane Chase

Diane Chase

Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities guidebook series, Adirondack Family Time. She writes about ways to foster imaginative play through fun-filled events and activities in the Adirondack region.

From her home in Saranac Lake, Diane also writes a weekly family-oriented newspaper column for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and keeps her own blog Adirondack Family Time. Her writing and photography has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines, marketing companies and advertising agencies.

She even finds time to assist her husband with Adirondack Expeditions guiding families and young adults in the High Peaks.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: New York Maple Sugar Days!

There are a variety of places that a person can visit to see maple sap collected, especially this weekend as maple producers join together for the first of two New York State Maple Producers Association Maple Weekends, March 20-21 and 27-28.

My husband and I have had our experiences (and disagreements) with attempting to make maple syrup. All in all and only with the ability to look back do we both see it as something that was fun. It was hard work but we can say we did it. And have, ad nauseum, to anyone within hearing, to the point where our friends that actually produce syrup roll their eyes and remind us we made one gallon. Yes, but one gallon of pure liquid gold. Either way for now we are leaving it to the experts.

At Cornell University-Uihlein scientists and maple producers, on their 200+ acre forest research station, are perfecting ways to increase production rates so that the sap is collected and boiled at the same rate. In the Sixties scientists worked to improve sap collection by applying suction to existing networks of tubes that rendered the bucket collection technique inefficient. Now sap buckets are only used for demonstration purposes, school trips or home sugaring operations.

Another way the maple industry continues to evolve is through the New York State Maple Producers Association with its 502 members and 150 associate members. According to Helen Thomas, Executive Director of the New York State Maple Producers Association, the organization has many goals such as keeping its membership informed with legislature in New York and Washington. Members receive the publication Maple Digest and the NYS Association newsletter. Incorporated in 1954, NY Maple Producers Association provides educational training, energy grants, networking opportunities and maple promotion opportunities.

“It is an interesting sugaring season,” says Thomas. “We have two climates in New York, the Adirondacks and downstate. The north didn’t get the heavy snowfall and seems to be having a good year. It is a concern for downstate as well as Ohio and Michigan. That heavy snowfall they received didn’t allow producers to get started until the middle of March, which cuts into the average season. It is also warming up fast.”

“We think it will be a short season for sugaring but there will be plenty of syrup for everyone in the New York State,” she laughs. “So not to worry.”

In order for the sap to flow temperatures must rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing at night. The recent melts may be bad for the ski industry but it’s good for maple producers.

Last year the snow level was so high that the tubing remained under the snow. In some locations maple production was low because the sap remained frozen in the line. This weekend should not be a problem. It is supposed to be high 40s, low 50s allowing the sap to thaw and flow throughout the day.

“This is a great weekend activity for families. There is a producer in just about every county in upstate New York. There is someone within an hour drive,” assures Thomas.

Each producer may have different activities planned such as samplings, face painting, petting zoos and horse-drawn wagon rides. It is best to check with each location.

An all time favorite for this family is the pancake breakfast. It is a perfect avenue for my ten-year-old to attempt to fill his bottomless pit while I stock up on the maple cream. I am not a maple connoisseur and have no interest in being able to distinguish the various grades of syrup available, but with each pancake I eat, I do appreciate the amount of work each drop took to bring it to my table.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities:Pendragon Theatre Subscription Deals

Pendragon Theatre is once again offering its year-round subscriptions with some bonuses added in celebration of their 30th year anniversary. The line-up is expansive and for anyone who wants more live theatre in his/her life there are discounts available to make that possible.

Between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011, Pendragon will offer 11 productions. Productions that are set are an adaptation of Jungle Book, Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, Constance Cogdon’s adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, a return engagement of Orson’s Welle’s Moby Dick Rehearsed, and a return engagement of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (abridged). The annual holiday show and fall production are still in the process of being finalized.

Another facet of the 30th anniversary, Adirondack only year-round professional theatre, is a “Pendragon Alumni” staged reading for one night only, July 17, 2010 with a reception. There will also be Cabaret Evenings – songs from past Pendragon productions and the New Directions Series – showcasing up-and-coming directors and playwrights.

“We wanted to offer these subscriptions as a celebration of our 30th year and as a thank you to the community, a payback for all the support over the last 30 years,” says Managing Director and Pendragon Co-Founder Bob Pettee. “We hope that people will also be able to come to more performances and understand the variety we have.”

“We feel like you don’t get the full effect of what we do unless you see a range of performances. Some people ask or want to know what the one ‘best’ show is to see. I want people to know that all the shows are well crafted and together offer the audience diversity.”

Pendragon is a repertory theatre, showcasing a range of musical, dramatic and comedic material with a professional resident cast. There will be six different performances happening continuously throughout this upcoming summer season along with various other special events.

“Being a repertory allows us to perform a variety of plays. A full-length play is just that full length [with different acts and usually an intermission] while something like Jungle Book is considered a one-act as New Directions is a series of one-act plays,” says Pettee. “We also have an alumni event and about five different cabarets throughout the season.”

“The 3 for $30 subscription is for three events so you can use it see whatever you want throughout the year. People are only allowed to purchase one of these so if they want to see that fourth play, it would be full price. The year-round subscriptions save people money. If someone wants to see all 11 productions the subscription ticket price is almost half price, about $10 a ticket from the regular $20 adult price. A subscription gives people an inexpensive way to experience all that we have to offer.”

“What we want most of all and the reason why we made the subscription price so reasonable is we really want people to come in and understand the breadth of the stuff that we do at Pendragon.” Pettee says. “Seeing more than one event is critical to that understanding and the cheapest way is to buy a subscription.”

Pettee acknowledges all the Pendragon supporters, “The only reason we are still here is because of our supporters and the community. People have shown us they want live theatre by coming to the theatre for all these years.”

Pendragon Theatre is located at 15 Brandy Brook Lane, Saranac Lake. 518-891-1854. Regular ticket prices are $20.00 for adults, $17.00 for seniors and $10.00 for those under 18 years of age. Other productions: Jungle Book, New Directions, The Holiday Show: ages 15 and up/$10.00, under 15/$8.00. All Full Length Matinees are $12.00 (also Cabarets and Alumni Readings)

Subscription only apply to Pendragon Productions at the Pendragon Theatre location, not tour locations or special events. Subscriptions are prepaid admissions, non-transferable and do not assure you a seat. Reservations are required.
Year Round: All 11 events (including Moby Dick and Shakespeare) $120
Year Round: All 9 events $100
The 5 Show Summer Full-Length: $70
Special 30th year deal: “3 for $30” = 3 events for $30 (restrictions do apply. Only one/person/season) Good for any combination of full length, cabaret, alumni event, etc…but just three events.

*As a matter of full disclosure I am a board member of Pendragon Theatre but also a parent on a budget. If you have never attended Pendragon Theatre before the “3 for $30” would be a good opportunity to save some money and see three shows. If you attend or wish to start attending more frequently, a year-round subscription will benefit your pocketbook.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Saranac Lake Cabin Fever Film Festival

For the ninth year the Cabin Fever Film Festival will be hosting classic films in Saranac Lake each Wednesday in March. Organizer Tim Fortune says,“ We are now located at the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory. It is a great venue. This is our third location since we started nine years ago. We started at the Hotel Saranac and had one season at Pendragon Theatre. With the setting of this historic building and showing these old classic movies gives the John Black Room the intimate feeling of a home movie theatre.”

For the first time the Cabin Fever Festival committee has chosen a slightly different format. In past years the Festival consisted of a short film or cartoon and a feature film. This year on Wednesdays, episodes of the 1932 serial Heroes of the West will be shown along with six cartoons and comedy shorts. Each evening will then be a continuation of the “cliffhanger” ending from the previous show of Heroes of the West.

“We are showing all shorts,” says Fortune. “W. C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges, Our Gang, Buster Keaton as well as a classic cartoon each night.”

“We have always been fortunate in the past with local sponsors. Putting on Cabin Fever is very expensive. This year Cape Air has generously sponsored the whole festival with Compass Printing providing the posters and programs.”

Along with Fortune, four other volunteers meet to brainstorm about the Cabin Fever Film Festival schedule and provide multiply duties to pull off the event each year. Fortune credits Bruce Young, Chris Brescia, Danny Ryan and Charles Alexander with making the Festival happen.

“We are all volunteers and any profit goes toward supporting other arts endeavors like the Third Thursday Art Walks that run from June through September,” says Fortune.

Across the street from the Saranac Lake Laboratory, Executive Chef of the Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room Les Hershhorn, is creating a special weekly buffet for those interested in “Dinner and a Movie.”

Hershhorn states, “There will be a new menu each week. We will feature various international buffets for $25 per person. This week we have a Spanish cuisine with a chicken and sausage paella, salad, vegetable dish, home baked breads and dessert. Last year during the Film Festival we did a Mexican buffet, Indian night and other international flavors. The buffet starts at 5:30 and reservations are required.”

Hershhorn wants everyone to know that children are welcome and to please ask for pricing when making the reservations. He expects more families to come this year because of the “shorts” format of this year’s Cabin Fever Film Festival.

The Robert Louis Stevenson Tea Room, 78 Church Street, and the John Black Room of the Saranac Lake Laboratory are linked in history. The RLS Tea Room was the original home of Dr. Hugh Kinghorn one of the original founders of the RLS Society of America. The Stevenson Society’s goal was to preserve the Baker Cottage (where Stevenson spent time while attempting to recover from TB while in Saranac Lake), original manuscripts and a collection of his artifacts. Across the street the Cabin Fever Film Festival takes place in Dr. Trudeau’s laboratory, now the home to Historic Saranac Lake. Dr. Trudeau was not only a renowned physician but a pioneer in Tuberculosis research and a founding member of the Stevenson Society as well.

General admission is $6.00 per film or $25.00 for all five; Students and seniors are $5.00 or $20.00 for all five while children twelve and under are free. Subscriptions may be purchased up to the first day of the series, March 3. The film starts at 7:00 p.m. each Wednesday in March at the Saranac Lake Laboratory 89 Church Street. For more information call Tim Fortune at 891-1139.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Tour the Luge

The Olympic Winter Games are well underway and we are breaking the no television during the school week rule under the guise of educational purposes. I do not personally know anyone participating in the winter games, past or present. I can certainly claim six degrees of separation as can anyone else living in the Tri-Lakes area of the Adirondack Park. Those athletes, like all Olympians, are consumed with their sport. Every walking hour is spent traveling, training, and pursuing perfection.

I have tried to educate my son on how lucky he is to live near a town that hosted the 1932 and 1980 games. He shrugs his shoulders and asks when he can skate on the Olympic Oval or nonchalantly tells our extended family he (yawn) tried a ski jumping clinic at the Whiteface Olympic Jumping Complex. It is hard to describe to a child the privilege of being in an area where athletes are constantly training so that they can represent their country in a quest for the gold. For mine it is an everyday occurrence.

USA Luge Marketing Director Gordy Sheer is no stranger to the Olympics. He and luge partner Chris Thorpe won a silver medal in the Nagano Olympics in 1998. This was the first medal ever won by a US luge competitor.

Sheer says, “We try to host Luge Challenges throughout the season. It’s essentially luge on ski hills. We use a recreational sled that isn’t fiberglass and steel. It doesn’t weigh as much as the regular sled. Basically it is an opportunity to experience the sport in a family-friendly environment. We also keep our eyes open for any kids that show potential.”

According to Sheer another opportunity to achieve this particular Olympic experience is through the Slider Search. These events are conducted on city streets in the summer months with sleds on wheels. The USA Luge Official web site has an up-to-date schedule of events.

The USA Luge team, headquartered in Lake Placid, gives free tours of their facility every weekday at 2:00 p.m. This week the Olympic luge team and most of the staff are in Vancouver supporting their athletes so tours will resume the week of the 22nd.

Considering it is the official headquarters for the US Luge, it is an unassuming structure, more warehouse than office building. It’s a casual tour where athletes may be fine-tuning their sleds or watching videos of individual practice starts.

The tour starts with a 20-minute introduction video that can jump-start anyone’s luge education. The movie is just as fast and furious as the sport. The indoor facility, the only one in the US and one of seven in the world, is quite impressive. Athletes use three refrigerated ramps to improve their start techniques with the latest technology, shaving milliseconds off their time. There is even an opportunity to try out a practice sled (not to slide on) and find out how to steer using your legs to squeeze on the curved part of the runners (kufen), to direct the pod, the custom-formed fiberglass shell.

For those that have tried luge and want to continue sliding the Adirondack Luge Club may be the place for you. The club season starts in January and continues through March. Membership and track fees do apply. Practices take place on the Olympic Sports Complex Slide Track, one of only two refrigerated full-length tracks in the United States. The other one is located in Park City, Utah.

The Luge Rocket Ride is only available Christmas Day for anyone wishing for an opportunity to slide on the official training track without having to join the club. The sled is slightly different than the competitors’ sleds. It contains a shield that covers three-quarters of the slider’s body. Yes, it looks like a small space ship for the 1/4-mile ride. All participants must be 13 years or older.

We will watch the luge team from the comfort of our home. The women’s singles medal round is today, February 16 at 4:00 p.m. EST. The men’s doubles medal round is February 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST. After all, we can build a luge track outside the house. Why not? Last year we had a bobsled run.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Biathlon

With the amount of local talent being sent to the Vancouver Olympics this weekend, I feel it is only fair to make sure my children get as much Olympic exposure as possible. Since Lake Placid has generously hosted the Olympics twice, it is no hardship for anyone entering the Park to get on their Olympic Spirit.

For those wishing to achieve a bit of instant gratification, on February 12-13 the Lake Placid Biathlon Club with the Saratoga, Syracuse, and Western NY Biathlon Clubs is hosting the North American Championship Cup 5 (NorAM) in cooperation with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA).

According to Rick Costanza, President for the Lake Placid Biathlon Club, there will be about 50-75 competitors this weekend in a variety of events.

The NorAM’s will be a good introduction to the sport and observers are encouraged. Costanza advises observers to pull into the Bobsled Parking lot of the Olympic Sports Complex and it is just a short walk to the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Biathlon Range. Races will begin at 10:00 a.m. The 1st day (Feb 12) is a Sprint (10K) and a Pursuit format on the 13th.

“Most people like to watch the shooting. There is a nice sloping hill where people can observe the shooting range,” Costanza says. “One thing we drill into the kids is safety. Biathlon is challenging. The skiing is aggressive and then you have to switch gears to marksmanship. The shooting is more Zen. This sport is one of the best uses of firearms we have. It teaches kids a lot of good habits in a strict environment.”

For those that wish to observe the sport from the comfort of their own home, Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson of Lake Placid and Tim Burke of Paul Smiths are part of the US Biathlon National Team and 2010 US Olympic Team. These local competitors are blogging and writing about their Olympic experiences. It is certainly an amazing opportunity for any young adult or child to realize that dreams can come true.

The Vancouver Olympic Biathlon roster will consist of the following: Men’s 7.5K Relay, the Women’s 6K Relay, Men’s 10K Sprint, Women’s 7.5K Sprint, Men’s 12.5K Pursuit, Women’s 10K Pursuit, Men’s 15K Mass Start, Women’s 12.5K Mass Start, Men’s 20K Individual, and the Women’s 15K Individual.

According to the Olympic Biathlon Organization, Biathlon is said to be of Greek origin meaning “two contests” combining the endurance of long distance skiing and control of sharp shooting.

It originated with hunters as a means of providing food during long skiing expeditions. Gradually the sport became an alternative means of military training for Scandinavian border patrol. The first competition took place in Norway around 1776. Since then it has become the modern day demonstration sport of cross-country skiing and precision target shooting.

A biathlon is divided into both standing and prone target shooting positions. Each participant must ski a specific distance, shoot from the shooting lanes and then continue skiing. Throughout all, the athlete is required to carry a rifle in a sling. Typically five targets are required during each stop. 100% accuracy is required. Either a time penalty or penalty loop is given for each target missed.

The Sprint is a timed event skied over three laps with the athlete shooting twice at any shooting lane, once prone and once standing for a total of 10 shots. In the Pursuit the starts are staggered and based on a previous race so the individual crossing the finish line first wins. The Relay consists four athletes skiing one leg of three laps with two shooting rounds. The Individual is another timed event usually skied over five laps with the athlete shooting four times with penalties given for each missed target.

If just observing Biathlon isn’t enough, ORDA offers individuals the opportunity to become a biathlete at the Olympic Sports Complex with a freestyle skiing lesson and (under strict supervision) take a shot (I couldn’t let that pass) at the target range. This particular exercise is available most Saturdays and holiday weeks at a cost of $33.00.

photo used with permission from Marque Moffett.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Good Curling

Curling is a game rooted in history. The name refers to the rotation the game piece or “stone” takes as it spirals along the ice. The “rock” will curve (curl) depending on the direction the rock spins.

Traced back to 16th century Scotland, the game called Curling was brought to North American 200 years later by Scottish soldiers. It is commonly referred to as “chess on ice” due to the subtle finesse and strategy required of its players.

According to Historic Saranac Lake curling got an early start in the Tri-Lakes when the Pontiac Bay and Pines Curling Clubs was formed around 1897. These two clubs later combined to form the Saranac Lake Curling Club.

During its heyday the Saranac Lake Curling Club held numerous competitions on the national and international level. Curling made its first Olympic appearance in Chamonix and was a demonstration sport during the 1932, 1936, 1964, 1988 and 1992 Olympics. It wasn’t until the 1998 Nagano games that curling became an official Olympic sport.

In 1943, due to wartime economic reasons curling waned in popularity and the Saranac Lake Curling Club closed. It wasn’t until Ed and Barbara Brandt came to Lake Placid in 1981 and started the Lake Placid Curling Club that the Adirondack tradition was resurrected. Over twenty-five years later, the Lake Placid Curling Club is going strong and continues to grow and promote the sport.

On Saturday, February 6, the Lake Placid Curling Club will present a demonstration during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival on Lake Flower, near the original site of the 18th century Pontiac Curling Club. A bagpiper will escort the players from the Saranac Lake Free Library to the state boat launch on Lake Flower. Game play is at 11:00 a.m.

According to Amber McKernan, membership secretary for the Lake Placid Curling Club (LPCC) the sport is not only competitive but also social. “We travel to other curling clubs and are always interested in new members. We had a very successful Learn to Curl event in the fall. We recently welcomed two young members, both teenagers, to the club,” she says. The LPCC curls on Sunday evenings at the USA Rink of the Olympic Center.

For those not in the know: skip is not a person’s name, but the captain of the team. The skip is the only team member allowed in the house (the circular scoring area with a bull’s eye center) so he/she can direct the stone’s delivery. One doesn’t throw the stone but deliveries it to the house. A team is known as a rink and consists of four players: lead, second, vice-skip, and skip. A game usually consists of eight ends (similar to an inning in baseball.) The end is completed when all the stones have been delivered to one end. A competitor curls the stone by causing the stone to curve strategically toward the scoring area and gets the closest to the center of the circle. Only one team (rink) can score per end. One point is awarded for each stone closer to the center than the opponent’s.

What was traditionally a smooth rock is now a polished circular-shaped granite “stone” that meets the requirements of the World Curling Federation. Weighing in at 42 pounds, each stone’s path is steered by players sweeping a path in front, reducing the friction and increasing the stone’s peed.

Similar to golf, another Scottish game, curling has as many rules on etiquette as it does on play. For example each bonspiel (tournament) starts and ends with a handshake wishing the opposing team “good curling.”

So whether you choose to watch curling from the comfort of your own home, at the Vancouver Olympics or watch a demonstration of a local club, enjoy a sport formed of good sportsmanship, skill and tradition.

photo of the Lake Placid Curling Club on Lake Flower used with permission of www.adkfamilytime.com


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: North Creek Happenings

We take our children every where from plays to play dates. Sometimes because of the experience and other times out of necessity. Our interests vary with what is available to us. One moment we may want to try new foods, the next time perhaps enjoy an award-winning show. In betwixt and between we always find time for the snow.

The Adirondack Art Center is bringing back an encore production of Almost Maine by John Cariani on January 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Indian Lake Theater and January 23 at 2:00 p.m. at Old Forge Arts Center.

Assistant Director Laura Marsh encourages all ages to attend, “We have had children as young as four come and enjoy this production. It really depends on the child and if they can sit still for 1-½ hours. The play is a series of vignettes, all set in the same small town in Maine. Almost Maine is about finding different ways and means of love.”

According to Marsh some other activities to look forward to will be held on site at the Art Center. Chef Mary Frasier from Camp Timberlock will start the first of a cooking series with “Soups and Breads” and on Sunday, the 23rd will be the beginning of Winter Tales, a live reading of a chosen play.

“These are all family-friendly events,” says Marsh. “A member was the inspiration behind Winter Tales. The first play we will be reading is Romeo and Juliet. Anyone that comes in will get a part and we then read the play out loud.”

On January 23 the Upper Hudson Musical Arts of North Creek brings award-winning pianist Eugene Albulescu to the Tannery Pond Community Center from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for an evening of solo piano and chamber music. Tickets are $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students. Children pre-school and under and free.

According to board member Jane Castaneda, Albulescu has been performing in the community for the past few years though he lives in Pennsylvania where he is an associate professor at LeHigh University.

Born in Romania, at age twelve Albulescu won Romania’s national music competition, the “Golden Lyre.” In 1984, he and his family emigrated from Romania to New Zealand where he made his concert debut at fifteen. One year later he won the Television New Zealand’s Young Musicians Competition. At sixteen-years-old, he was the youngest winner of record.

By nineteen he had completed his musical studies at Indiana University and became the youngest person to teach as an assistant instructor. Albulescu continues to receive awards and accolades throughout the United States and abroad. On his website he states that some of his most memorable moments have been playing at Carnegie Hall and during the White House Millennium Celebrations.

For those wishing for a bit more of an outdoor twist, starting on Monday the 25th, it’s “Bring Your Daughter to Gore” week. All daughters 19 and under can ski, ride and tube for free with a full paying parent. It actually specifies “parents” so anyone out there wishing to borrow a child is not eligible. Season pass holders, frequent-pass holders and Empire cardholder are included in this promotion. So enjoy a bit of bonding with your daughter and let your son stay in school.

Grab your ice skates and go to the pavilion at the North Creek Ski Bowl for free ice skating. The rink is open as long as the Bowl is open.

To round out the schedule is Gore Mountain’s Full Moon Party on the 30th at the North Creek Ski Bowl where Gore Mountain is opening the doors to night skiing discounts and tubing with a warm-up of hot chocolate and those gooey campfire treats. Participants can ski or tube for $10.00 for two-hours between 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. and then warm up inside by the fireplace with free s’mores.

photo taken by Gore Mountain staff


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adirondack Family Activities: Skiing, Boarding Discounts

Though some people choose to stick to their favorite mountain for the ski season, others move around to experience all the downhill opportunities available in the Adirondacks. For those with ski passes don’t forget about the Reciprocal Pass Program between Gore, Titus, McCauley, Mt. Pisgah and Whiteface. This program allows the season pass holder to either ski for free on certain days or at a reduced cost.

There are also significant savings available for the mid-week non-season pass holder. McCauley Mountain holds to their Crazy Eight Days. Each Friday from January through April offers adult lift tickets for just $8.00. (Check for blackout dates.)

Present any Coca-Cola product at Gore and Whiteface and receive a one-day adult lift ticket for $38.00 (excluding 2/17/10.) This offer is only valid on Wednesdays. It is a great deal whether you are on vacation, have the day off or opt for a bit of “ski hooky.”

In addition, Whiteface has its Stylin’ Sundays wherein five select Sundays (December 13, January 10, February 7, March 14 and April 4) of the season feature $35.00 lift tickets for adults, $30.00 for teens and $25.00 junior tickets. Six and under are always free. Each of those select Sundays have a theme like Island Madness, Shamrock or Retro with slope-side games, live music and events.

Big Tupper Ski Area recently opened, after a ten-year hiatus, to much fanfare with a one-day adult ski pass for $15.00. Big Tupper is staffed with volunteers and relies just on nature for snow making so it is best to check their website to make sure they are open and that Mother Nature is cooperating.

Oak Mountain Ski Center in Speculator offers Fire Department Personnel, EMS Workers Hospital Employees and Law Enforcement Personnel $10 off a full day lift ticket on Thursdays and Fridays throughout the season. Residents & homeowners of Arietta, Hope, Lake Pleasant & Wells and the Village of Speculator ski for free every Sunday throughout the season.

Malone’s Titus Mountain offers a Super-Saver Special from Thursday – Saturday when all day passes are good until 10:00 p.m.

Smaller family mountains such as Bear Mountain in Plattsburgh presents $18.00 lift tickets to non-members and Mt. Pisgah in Saranac Lake offers a $10 lift ticket for anyone coming for the last hour and half of the day. That includes those evenings the mountain is open for night skiing.

West Mountain in Queensbury, Whiteface, Gore, Titus, Oak Mountain and McCauley offer a military discount as a thank you to active service men and women. If you or a member of your immediate family is an active service member, please ask about discounts.

Hopefully this list will help keep the jingle in your pocket while enjoying the beautiful Adirondack Park.

Photo courtesy: www.adkfamilytime.com


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Saranac Lake First Night

With First Night® Saranac Lake we are getting set to blend our own New Year’s traditions with new ones. Parades, dancing, magicians, refreshments, music and fireworks are becoming an expected part of our beginning year rituals. My children have yet to decide on their New Year’s resolutions. I can certainly think of a few things that would be a welcome change. Their first instinct is not self improvement. The first round of resolutions usually has the word television attached to them.

Each country seems to hold strongly to its own traditions around New Year’s. I always think I will continue to have a lucky year with my first taste of black-eyed peas. My children are “having a feeling” we should stick strictly to the band and bypass the legumes.

To kick off this New Year’s Eve a snowperson building contest will be held at Riverside Park December 31st from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. This event is open to all children and adults. It is touted as a “bring your own accessories” for your snowperson and prizes will be awarded. Then head over to the Petrova School Gymnasium for a mask-making workshop.

Masked and costumed balls have long been a custom, symbolizing the evil of the past. The goal is to throw off the mask with the old year and any bad spirits with it and count down to the new and start fresh with a kiss. My daughter gets a bit starry-eyed at the mention of the kiss.

The mask-making workshop is being offering to adults and children and being held from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Using a mixed medium, anyone can decorate a mask in anticipation of the opening ceremonies at 5:30 p.m.

First Night® Saranac Lake is one of 130 events held around the world providing family-oriented, alcohol-free activities while showcasing arts and community.

There is still plenty of time to get your First Night® button ($12 for adults). It can be purchased at Ampersound Music, Price Chopper Supermarket, Books & Baskets, Blue Line Sports, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce or Lake Placid Visitor Bureau .

Children twelve and under are admitted free but need to display the First Night® button designed especially for them, which is to be available at all venues.

So whatever your traditions are, perhaps new ones can be made here or at one of the other First Night® venues.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Newcomb VIC

This is a last weekend in many ways; last weekend of Hunting Season, ending of Hanukkah and the final weekend for holiday shopping. If you want to get all “glass half-full” then it is the beginning of snowshoe season and the start of the ski season and beginning of holiday sales! For us it is a time to get outside and safely enjoy one of the many reasons we chose to live in the Adirondack Park.

It is easy to get caught up in the pressure of the holidays no matter what we celebrate. So whether you are looking for a safe place to hike to avoid any hunters using the last eligible days to tag a deer or wish to spend time rather than money, the New York State Adirondack Park Agency Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Newcomb is well worth a visit.

Open since 1990, the Newcomb VIC is part of the Huntington Wildlife Forest preserve owned by Syracuse University and maintained by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The 236-acre property consists of an Interpretive Building that houses educational exhibits and a trail system for seasonal activities.

There are four trails to choose from: Rick Lake, a .6-mile loop; the 1-mile Sucker Brook (which allows for skiing along the northern section only); the Peninsula Trail, a .9-mile loop which intersects the Rick Lake Trail and the R.W. Sage Memorial Trail, a 1.1-mile trail open to both skiing and snowshoeing. The bonus track is the .7-mile connector trail from The Sage Trail that links to Camp Santanoni, a 12-mile round trip ski.

Snowshoes are now required so no foot travel is allowed on any of the trails. If you don’t have your own snowshoes, you may sign out a pair for free; just provide a license as collateral. For small children (seven-years and younger) sizes may not be available so bring a sled or your own equipment.

Please keep in mind that dogs are not allowed on the trails in the winter months to enable naturalists to lead winter tracking clinics so visitors can see wildlife rather than dog prints.

The Newcomb VIC is located 12 miles east of Long Lake on Route 28N. The trails are open from dawn to dusk while the building is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.) No dogs are allowed on the trails during the winter months because of Call 518-582-2000 for current trail conditions. The VIC is free and open to the public.

Photo: Rich Lake Outlet in Winter courtesy Newcomb VIC


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Champlain Valley Film Society

The Champlain Valley Film Society will be celebrating its 100th film with a free showing of classic Katharine Hepburn/Humphrey Bogart film The African Queen. In 1952, this film won Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar though he had been nominated for Casablanca and The Caine Mutiny.

This movie is based on the classic novel by C.S. Forester of the same name. Set during World War I, disgruntled trader Charlie Allnutt and an English missionary Rose Sayer find themselves thrown together aboard the steamboat, The African Queen, in the heart of the African jungle. As in the book, the audience will find themselves immersed in suspense, military maneuvers, and narrow escapes.

One of the CVF Society’s Founding Member David Reuther, says, “The Society started with a group of four friends coming up with the same idea at the same time. We were not able to see the type of movies that we wanted to see.”

So in 2003, Larry Barns, Thurston Clarke, Bill James and David Reuther pooled resources to pull together a showing of Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the Willsboro School theatre. They attempted to show the films in summer and outside but really hit their mark in the winter of 2006. By showing critically acclaimed films indoors the crowds grew in size. With the support of a developing and enthusiastic audience the group was able to garner such films as the Oscar-winning Capote and the classic foreign thriller Z.

Reuther says, “This started because we felt there is something quite different about seeing a movie on a big screen and seeing it with an audience. It is like seeing a concert rather than listening to a CD or the radio. Movies are made for the big screen. We wanted to create that opportunity for people to have a conversation about film.”

The Champlain Valley film Society now has a working board of 15 people and a 30-member advisory board that helps select the films. The organization shows films year-round with an average audience of 100 people a show. With a diverse schedule so far the 2010 schedule includes Julie & Julia, District 9, (500) Days of Summer, the Hurt Locker, the Cove and An Education. The spring shows are still being arranged.

In addition to showing films the CVF Society looks for guest speakers to sometimes introduce the films. In 2008, author Russell Banks introduced the movie Affliction based on his book by the same name and writer/director Courtney Hunt was on hand to answer questions and introduce her Oscar nominated film, Frozen River. This January 16th retired chef John ferry will open up about his long-standing friendship with Julia Child as he presents the film Julie and Julia.

There is no membership available for the Champlain Valley Film Society. Each film is $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for children. Consider the free showing of The African Queen as an early gift!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: Holiday Train

In a mad rush of holiday cheer, too many side dishes and the turkey/tofurkey debate, it is easy to forget that some people will not have an argument over the necessity to recreate meat-shaped products out of tofu. Those and many others will be wondering where their next meal will be coming from.

For the 11th year the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) Holiday Train will be pulling into over one hundred towns in seven states and Quebec raising awareness for local food pantries.

The northeast sector of the tour starts Thursday, November 26 at Rouses Point at approximately 11:00 pm. Each stop is a little over a half hour. Crowds will be treated to live entertainment as well as a festively decorated train, free of charge. All that is asked is a donation to the local food pantry. In addition, to providing the gaily lit-up train and live bands CFR donates funds to each stop’s food bank.

The US portion of the tour is hosted by Prescott a brother (Kaylen) and sister (Kelly) duo hailing from the Canadian musical legacies Family Brown (award winning country band formed by their grandfather, uncle and mother) and later Prescott-Brown (their parents’ award winning band). Prescott’s own style has them performing at such venues at the Ottawa BluesFest and welcoming their first cd, “The Lakeside Sessions.”

Singer/songwriter Adam Puddington will take the stage with his own unique brand of music lightly influenced by Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, and Blue Rodeo. Other musical guests will be Sean Verreault best known as part of the blues rock band Wide Mouth Mason and Milwaukee native Willy Porter’s blending of folk music rounds out the program.

Local food banks will be collecting non-perishable food items and donations at each location so all the audience has to do is stand back and enjoy.

Each event does take place outside so dress warmly. Some locations have vendors set up to sell hot refreshments but it is not something to count on. The focus is on the food pantries and making sure their shelves are stocked for winter.

So for whatever reason you are thankful, take an opportunity to kick off the holiday season with a lively concert and a contribution to a food pantry.

Northeast Schedule
Thursday, November 26

Rouses Point – 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Rouses Point Station

Saturday, November 28
Binghamton – 8:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., CP East Binghamton Rail Yard, Conklin Ave.

Sunday, November 29
Oneonta – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Gas Avenue Railroad Crossing

Cobleskill – 6:15 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., Cobleskill Fire Department, 610 Main Street
Delanson – 8:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Main Street Railroad Crossing
Schenectady – 9:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Maxon Road
Monday, November 30
Saratoga Springs – 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., Amtrak Station

Fort Edward – 1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., Amtrak Station

Whitehall – 3:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., Amtrak Station

Ticonderoga – 5:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Pell’s Crossing, Amtrak Waiting Area, Route 74
Port Henry – 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Amtrak Station, West side stop
Plattsburgh – 9:15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m., Amtrak Station

photograph: The Holiday Train in Montreal


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities: ADK Leonid Meteor Shower

My husband and I were up in the pre-dawn morning with probably half the world to essentially watch a fiery burning of debris enter the atmosphere. To then describe to my child a scientific reason for getting out of bed took a bit of research and a chat with an expert.

In layman’s terms (that is all I’ve got) the Leonid Meteors got their name from their apparent relationship to the constellation Leo. The meteors, some no larger than a speck of dust, derive from the parent comet Tempel-Tuttle. Ernest Tempel (December 1865) and Horace Tuttle (January 1866) individually recognized that the Tempel-Tuttle Comet was a recurring one.

The Tempel-Tuttle Comet takes a little over 33 years to orbit the sun. Each time the comet is closest to the sun it sheds particles that cluster together. Depending on where Earth passes through in the comet’s debris trail depends on the intensity of the meteors. Some years there can be as many as 500 meteors falling per hour. This year is not a “sky is falling” type of meteor year but certainly a way to introduce children to astronomy. The phase of the moon coupled with a clear night is what will make viewing the Leonids a pleasurable experience for all.

President of the Tupper Lake Observatory Mark Staves says, “The Leonid Meteor shower does occur every year but since we will have a new moon on the 18th, moonlight won’t be a factor. Moonlight usually diminishes the effect of the meteors. When the light from the meteor shower competes with the moonlight it is not as spectacular.”

He says, “After midnight start to search for meteors toward the east. As the morning progressives look toward southeast and then about 5:00 a.m. the meteors should be toward the south.”

The Adirondack Loj will be hosting a meteor-searching, s’more-eating campfire this evening at Heart Lake. Even though the early dawn of November 17th was predicted as the peak of the meteor shower the darkened skies coupled with the wide-open mountaintops over Heart Lake will present perfect viewing.

The timing of this event is late for little ones. This free program is hosted by an ADK naturalist and runs from 9:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. tonight. If you can’t make this event the meteor showers will still be able for viewing from any dark wide-open space through the 20th of this month, lessening in frequency as the moonlight brightens in intensity.

“They (meteors) can be intensive,” Staves says. “It would help children to understand that what they are actually seeing is something as small as a speck of dust but traveling 50 times the speed of sound.”

When something so small hits the atmosphere so fast the heat created causes the sand-sized particles to vaporize Staves summarizes.

As for the Tupper Lake Observatory, board members are in the process of putting together the necessary permit applications to the Adirondack Park Agency.

“We have architectural renderings for a Roll-Off Observatory,” Staves says. “The 24-30’ building will have a gantry roof structure so that the whole roof can come off. All the equipment will be set up there permanently. The roof will roll off completely and have a full view of the night sky. We anticipate breaking ground summer of 2010.”

Photo Credit: Simon Filiatrault


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Adirondack Family Activities:Paul Smiths Visitor’s Interpretive Center

This morning a mob of deer casually gather in our yard. My husband makes the comment that the word has gotten out that we are non-hunting household. It seems like one has told another and soon the neighborhood has not gone to the dogs but to the deer. So while the deer spread their news we humans have our own version of meeting places during hunting season.

Since 1989, the Adirondack Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) at Paul Smiths has offered a safe option during hunting season. The 2,885-acre preserve is owned by Paul Smith’s College and leased by New York State to operate as a public facility. The many trails are available for the enjoyment of children and adults of all ages. The paths are clearly marked, mulched and cleared of debris.

We choose a combination of the Heron Marsh and the Shingle Mill Falls trails. Each trail is about a 0.8-mile loop. Together it forms a 1.5-mile figure eight with easy access and plenty of seating along the way.

My son runs ahead, the guide in our mission to successfully circumnavigate Heron Marsh. My daughter would rather spend a bit more time inside studying the interactive displays, dioramas and touch table.

We continue on another hundred yards to a boardwalk that extends out into the marsh. Signs of beaver surround us and we search for their lodge. I sit to observe the last passing moments of autumn while the rest of the family walks to the observation deck. We come to a crossroads where we can either loop back to the Interpretive Building or continue across the marsh.

We opt to cross the bridge leading over Heron Marsh. The leaves are slick from previous rain so be careful around the shoreline and bridge edge. We cross a bridge, setting leaf boats on the open water to shoot the rapids of the Heron Marsh dam. This was the original site of a gristmill then a shingle mill. It was last used in the 1920s by Paul Smiths Hotel as a source for water.

We loop back and follow the signs to the Interpretive Building because we have yet to identify correctly each birdcall to each bird. Lastly I sit for a bit of the sun while the kids expel any energy they have left on the playground.

Trails are open from dawn to dusk every day. There is no camping or fires allowed. Dogs are only welcome on the trails during the summer months. Located 12 miles north of Saranac Lake on 8023 State Route 30, the VIC building is open Tuesday – Saturday from 9:00 a.m. -5:00 p.m.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Adirondack Youth Summit’s Zachary Berger

Zachary Berger takes a few moments to answer additional questions regarding his involvement in the first annual Adirondack Youth Climate Summit.

Q: When you attended the Adirondack Climate Conference, held at The Wild Center, in November 2008, what inspired you to initiate an Adirondack Youth Climate Summit?

ZB: Last November’s conference was truly a success. I was very honored to have the opportunity to attend it, but I felt it was under represented by young adults. At this conference there were over 175 community leaders, business owners, and others, all with a concern for the environment, but there were only about 10 students, representing only one university, and one high school. From my point of view this under representation led to things being overlooked such as the lack of environmental education in public schools and the opportunity that schools have to set a model for their communities. The other students who attended the conference and I wanted to have our voices heard so we talked to Jen Kretser, Director of Programs at The Wild Center, and the planning process began.

Q: Though from Lake Placid you are now a freshman at RIT. Will you be attending this conference and if so what role will you take in this summit? If not, will you be attending the live stream and have you organized a group at your school to attend? What have you learned from this yearlong process and wish to pass along to others?

ZB: Yes, I will be attending the conference! I wouldn’t miss it for my life. Over the past year I have been part of the amazing team of people who worked endless hours putting this conference together. I will be at The Wild Center over the weekend doing last minute preparations, and during the conference I will be volunteering to keep things moving as planned.

If there was one thing I could tell others it would be: If you want to be successful in planning an event like this, find people with the same motivation and drive that you have. Having people to work with such as Jen Kretser from the Wild Center, and Mrs. Tammy Morgan from Lake Placid High School, really made this whole event come together.

Q: Why is it important for youth to have a voice on climate change?

ZB: Youth play a vital role in confronting climate change. We are investing years of our lives into our education, and will be entering the workforce very soon. Youth need to know the consequences of continuing to be carelessly affluent, what we can do both in our personal lives, and in our work lives to be more environmentally responsible. This summit will help students expand their knowledge on climate change while helping create carbon reduction plans for their schools.

Q: What is your own carbon reduction plan? What would you recommend for other young people that may inspire them to make a difference or to get involved in climate change?

ZB: Living at RIT has helped me to continue in reducing my personal carbon footprint. RIT provides every room with recycling bins for every room for electronics, plastic, paper, and cardboard. It is calculated that RIT’s recycling rate is over 70%. RIT also provides public transportation from campus into the city. Also, RIT is developing a new, web-based, rideshare website which helps those looking for rides and those who are willing to provide rides coordinate their schedules.