American skiers Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) and Ashley Caldwell (Hamilton, Va.) will try to defend their World Cup crowns when the FIS Freestyle World Cup returns to Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, January 19-21. Lake Placid is one of only five U.S. sites selected to host a World Cup event this season.
Action begins Thursday, Jan. 19, at Whiteface, when Kearney begins defense of her moguls’ World Cup crown and France’s Guilbault Colas tries to hold off a deep men’s field and capture his second World Cup win on the mountain’s Wilderness Trail. Competition on 240-meter long course begins at 9:15 a.m. with the women’s qualifications, followed by the men’s qualifications at 11:35 a.m. The women’s semi-finals are scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. and the men’s semis start at 2:20 p.m. The medal rounds start at 2:40 p.m. for the women and eight minutes later men’s finals is slated to begin. Action will move over to the Olympic jumping complex both Friday and Saturday night, for two exciting evenings of aerial competitions. The 18-year-old Caldwell, a 2010 Olympian, will begin defense of her World Cup title, when she and the rest of the international field twist, flip, summersault and soar into the evening skies, some as high as 60-feet. The fun begins both nights 7 p.m.
In addition to the exciting action, there will be bonfires, music, giveaways and plenty of food and drinks provided by Centerplate. Saturday’s jumping will also conclude with a fireworks display.
Tickets to the aerial competitions are $15 for adults and $9 for juniors and seniors. A lift ticket and skis are required to view the mogul events Whiteface.
More information about the FIS Freestyle World Cup can be found online. Photo: Freestyle World Cup Moguls (Courtesy ORDA / Whiteface).
Late on the night of October 16, 1859, Adirondack abolitionist John Brown led 18 well-armed men on a raid of the federal armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry and sparked a nationwide uprising against slavery. The principal goal of the raid was to free slaves, not attack and hold a Southern state. The plan was simple: capture about 100,000 muskets and rifles, ammunition, and other supplies from the lightly guarded federal facilities at Harpers Ferry, retire to the countryside and carry out nighttime raids to free Southern slaves. The raider’s believed the southern harvest fields would be filled with disgruntled and overworked slaves bringing in the crops, a perfect opportunity to turn them to revolt. The raid might have succeeded, had Brown not made a serious error in allowing an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train the raiders had captured to proceed. The conductor alerted the main B & O office that abolitionists were attempting to free the area’s slaves. The word was immediately taken to B & O president John W. Garrett, who notified US President James Buchanan, Virginia Governor Henry A. Wise, and Major General George H. Stewart of the Maryland Volunteers that a slave insurrection was underway in Harpers Ferry. The worst fear of the southern slaveholders seemed to be at hand.
By about noon Brown’s last chance to escape into the countryside came and went – he was in command of the bridges, and held about 35 prisoners. Armed locals arrived and organized a makeshift attack with their own hunting guns. Then two militia companies arrived from nearby Charles Town – together they stormed the bridges and drove the half dozen or so of Brown’s men guarding them back.
Five raiders were captured alive. Seven initially escaped and five of them made it to ultimate freedom in the north; four later served in the Civil War. Ten men were killed. All but two were buried in a common grave on the Shenandoah River, across from Harpers Ferry. The lest resting place of Jeremiah Anderson remains unknown. Watson Brown’s body was given to Winchester Medical College where it remained until Union troops recovered it during the Civil War and burned the school in reprisal.
Brown was charged with murder, conspiring with slaves to rebel, and treason against Virginia (West Virginia was not yet a state) and after a week-long trial was sentenced to death in early November. He was hanged on December 2nd (John Wilkes Booth sneaked in to watch) and his body was afterward carried to North Elba in Essex County to “moulder in his grave.”
Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. He also wrote Confederates in the Attic, the outstanding look at the Civil War’s continued legacy in the South. Midnight Rising follows John Brown’s plot from its very inception to the savage battle, and then to its aftermath as it galvanizes the North and pushes the South closer to secession.
Though there are many places to enjoy throughout the Adirondack Park, the small village trails are often the sweetest treat for families with young kids or anyone just wanting to stretch his/her legs.
The Brewster Peninsula Nature Trails in Lake Placid are situated on a parcel of 133 acres of land purchased by New York State in 1960.
According to the self-guiding pamphlet produced by The Garden Club of Lake Placid (with help from the Adirondack Ski Touring Council and the NYS DEC, the Brewster Peninsula trails were heavily logged in the 1940s with the exclusion of a small 200′ strip of untouched lakeshore.
Our main purpose for being in Lake Placid is to shop but with all the holiday craziness we need to get outside so we are taking the snow pants, boots and coats for a stroll around one of the Brewster Peninsula trails. The ground is hard and not much snow but we just need some fresh air. When we arrive we diplomatically choose one of the three trails; Lakeshore (0.8 mile loop, Boundary (0.9 mile loop) or Ridge (rock, paper, scissors). We go the Ridge Trail.
The Ridge Trail is the longest trail at a 1.3-mile loop. We pass the entrance gate and watch for signs to the right. The main path is the old logging road. It is a wide, relatively smooth dirt road. The legs of my daughter’s snow pants are rubbing together reminiscent of corduroys squeaking. She informs me that they are talking to her. I ask what they say and she replies, “They want me to run.” We oblige.
My son sword-fights with tree branches that have the audacity to be in his path. The trees retaliate by dumping melting snow down his back. The path is a gentle incline and the new boots seem to up to the task.
One short, more popular path, is the Boundary Trail. This 0.9 loop trail intersects with the popular Jackrabbit Trail and leads directly to the west side of Lake Placid lake. This trail also leads to the Shore Owner’s Association (SOA) dam. Along that path are wooded footpaths, roots to explore and a beautiful view of the lake.
Look for interpretive signs along the way (designed by Adirondack artist, Sheri Amsel) as well as benches in case members of your party need a moment of solitude. Enjoy these trails all year long on foot, snowshoes or cross-country skies.
From Saranac Ave (Route 86) in Lake Placid, turn onto Peninsula Way, between Howard Johnson’s Restaurant and the Comfort Inn and drive about 0.4 mile. Follow signs for Brewster Peninsula. Parking and entrance gate is to the left. Trail maps are available at the trailhead.
The final curtain has dropped on the seven-year-long legal drama centered on a high-profile residence overlooking Lake Placid in the Town of North Elba. They are bringing down the house. In this case, literally.
The structure, owned by Arthur and Margaret Spiegel of Plattsburgh, was built on the Fawn Ridge development—at the head of the former Fawn Ridge ski slope—on Algonquin Drive starting in late 2004. As the house neared completion in 2005, it ran afoul of the Adirondack Park Agency. The Agency charged the builders with violating three provisions of the original permit for the development: building height, proximity to a slope, and vegetation clearing. The case proceeded to court while the incomplete structure remained standing, shuttered with plywood.
In August of last year, Essex County Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller rejected the Spiegel’s claim that the APA engaged in selective enforcement in the case, exhausting the family’s last legal recourse. A dispute over securing a local demolition permit delayed the building’s ultimate demise for the past year.
The first snow of the season in North Elba, which ordinarily highlights the roofs of the residences along the ridge line, instead highlighted the initial stages of demolition late this week. Chris Knight reports the complete history of the case at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
* Please note the correct time for drop off to McCauley Mountain Ski Swap is Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.!
Being an active family, my kids seems to outgrown their sporting gear before I’ve finished tying up the laces. For other parents looking to outfit their children for the winter ski season, a ski swap is a nice starting place. A ski swap can also be a much-needed opportunity to clean house.
Generally the ski swaps are consignments where you drop off your gear, helmets, and winter clothing a day before the event. If the gear sells then you will receive 80% of the set sale price. Usually the funds generated benefit a special organization like ski clubs or ski patrols so the 20% commission goes to support the sport. It is best to ask what each ski swap’s arrangement is, as it varies with location. Keep in mind no “collector’s items” like wooden skis and only clothing in good condition. Ski Club Swaps
Lake Placid: November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon In Lake Placid, the Lake Placid Ski Club/NYSEF Ski Swap is asking for any winter gear from cross-country skis, boots, roller blades, helmets as well as current downhill ski equipment. Any winter clothing in good shape will be accepted. For questions please call Lake Placid Ski Club President Carol Hoffman at 524-6914. This is the first year that Lake Placid Ski Club and NYSEF are doing a combined Ski and Skate Swap at St. Agnes Gym in Lake Placid. 80/20 split, no rear entry boots or straight skis and no gear donations. Drop off equipment to consign on November 4 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Queensbury, November 5 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. November 6, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. This annual event at West Mountain is touted as one of the largest ski swaps in the area. Drop off for consignments is Friday (11/4) from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and Saturday (11/5) from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.. They are accepting any new and pre-owned ski or snowboard gear. No straight skis or rear entry boots. They are looking for any outerwear and accessories as well as skis, boots, helmets and snowboards. Proceeds benefit the West Mountain Ski Patrol and Race Team.
Old Forge, November 5, 9:00 a.m. – noon This annual Polar Bear Ski Club Ski Swap at McCauley Mountain will be the place to find deals on new/used ski and snowboard equipment. Drop off is Friday evening from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday between 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. They are looking for any winter sporting gear and winter clothing in good condition. This event is not restricted to ski or snowboards but will accept helmets, ice skates, hockey equipment and cross-country ski gear. This event will benefit the Polar Bear Ski Club, which sponsors ski races for youth in cross-country skiing, downhill and biathlon.
Speculator, November 19, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. This is a new event for Oak Mountain and a bit different from the traditional ski swap. For a $20 “table” free (if reserved by the 16th or $25 after the 16th) the consignor can sell anything from boats, ATVs, snowmobiles as well as skis, gear and sport clothing. The only requirement is that it has to be sporting goods. The table fee will benefit the Friends of Oak Mountain, which continues to support upgrades to Oak Mountain. There will also be refreshments for sale.
Fact: Google employees have mandatory snack time and a fleet of color-branded bicycles to get from building to building on their headquarters campus.
For two years in a row, my coworker and I have attended the eTourism Summit – a conference that brings travel industry experts together for presentations and networking to discuss cutting-edge online marketing issues and strategies – specifically for destinations. It’s a great opportunity to learn from, and with our peers from around the world, learning from experts on all things Internet, including representatives from the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn. This year, the conference began with a tour of Google headquarters – a rare chance (they don’t typically welcome groups) to see the work environment at the world’s largest search engine. We toured their pampered campus, and it was easy to see why their employees work 10-12-hour days. Sample of perks included in their salary: laundry service, beach volleyball courts, several fitness clubs (fully staffed with trainers), endless pools, a bowling alley, and regular visits from dignitaries like U.S. Presidents, Nobel prize winners and Lady Gaga, who was there a couple weeks before us. It is a world designed to encourage interaction, collaboration and creativity.
Our group was able to choose from any of the four gourmet, themed restaurants for lunch. We then were treated to an intimate presentation from Google’s travel team, complete with a panel of their experts for Q&A. Of course, they are privy to the ultimate Google Analytics; and took us through a few online travel research scenarios. There are tricks to influencing travelers, and as marketers, we must understand and capitalize on the search process, placing our destinations front and center at that “zero moment of truth”, when the traveler is on the cusp of making that booking decision.
As if we didn’t gain enough insight at the Google tour, we still had a couple days of information to absorb at the conference sessions. And this year, our very own VP of marketing, Carol Joannette, was chosen to be one of the esteemed presenters. As a relatively small Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) (there were many much larger in attendance, like Tourism Ireland, New Zealand and several U.S. States), it was quite an honor to be part of this mix of industry experts.
Carol was asked to present because we had recently launched our flagship destination’s brand new mobile web site: m.lakeplacid.com – and it was developed using HTML5. The panel discussion included the decision to launch a mobile site in general, implications of coding formats and mobile apps for destinations. By the end, Carol was signing autographs. (OK, she was distributing her business card- but that’s similar.)
What is a mobile site? Why develop a whole different interface for lakeplacid.com just for cell phone users?
First, mobile phones – or the kind specifically called SmartPhones (iPhone, Droid and the like) are becoming increasingly prevalent, and are dramatically changing the way that people access information.
Here are some stats: 35% of all cell phones currently in use are SmartPhones. 50.4% of new cell phones bought are SmartPhones. Of all U.S. Internet traffic, 4.5% is accessed by cell phone.
In the U.S., 8.4% of mobile cell phone browser activity is travel service (UP 42% from July 2010), and the number 1 browser activity is search at 44.6%, which underscores the need for search engine optimization in the mobile sector as well as desktop.
Why did we decide to invest in a mobile site? As an accredited DMO, everything we do is informed by research and statistics analysis. We carefully monitor analytics for all of our destination websites. And, we have seen a dramatic increase in mobile access to lakeplacid.com. A mobile phone, of course, has a smaller display area, so it is important to provide a page specifically designed for that small display, with simple navigation buttons to provide the most sought-out information with as few clicks as possible.
The new mobile site automatically loads on mobile devices that access lakeplacid.com. And as our site was designed in HTML5, the site loads consistently on any platform, whether it is an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry, etc. Alternatively, our coders (at local agency Adworkshop) would have to write code for every type of platform, and to update that code as new technology inevitably arrives in the marketplace. So the choice of HTML5 coding language represents a huge cost and time savings.
The mobile site looks a lot different than the browser interface for the desktop-accessed lakeplacid.com. There are quick links to Do, Events, Dining, Shopping, Contact, and Stay, with icons to easily call or email us with one click. And, users have easy access to all photo listings in our database.
Here’s an example: our staff has been diligently updating the hiking trails in our database, complete with descriptions and photos. When the mobile user clicks on Do, then selects Hiking, they are presented with a list of hikes and details, and can select “map this” to get directions from where they are standing directly to the trailhead.
We will continue to update the mobile sub-navigation topics based on the information for which our visitors are searching, and enhancing our database to ensure that we provide the most comprehensive content.
How’s the site traffic so far? The m.lakeplacid.com mobile site was launched on September 8, 2011. To date, mobile access currently represents about 9 percent of our overall site visits. And where are users accessing the mobile site from, geographically? The largest concentrations are in New York City, Boston, Washington D.C. Toronto, Philadelphia, Ottawa and Montreal. That’s good news – we’re providing a convenient access to our destination resources to mobile web surfers in important rubber-tire feeder markets!
The Internet is an ideal marketing mechanism – especially for the travel industry. It is imperative that we remain engaged in learning and implementing strategies to leverage the ever-changing online marketing landscape. I know that my communications priorities have completely changed over the past few years from traditional media engagement to online content development, and from what we’ve learned by “going mobile”, that’s the only strategy that will allow our destinations to compete.
Still, it might not hurt to get our own fleet of Lake Placid, Adirondacks USA bikes and fuel up on mandatory snacks.
Kimberly Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid CVB/Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor to Adirondack Almanack, Kimberly Rielly. Rielly is the director of communications for the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau / Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the accredited destination marketing organization (DMO) responsible for promoting the Lake Champlain, High Peaks, Schroon Lake and Whiteface regions of Essex County.
A lifelong resident of the Lake Champlain basin, Rielly will be writing about the destination marketing and planning issues that affect the region’s tourism economy.
In a recent editorial, the Glens Falls Post-Star stated “it’s time for officials to re-think the financial and ownership model” underlying the New York State-owned winter sports facilities managed by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), including the Gore and Whiteface Mountain ski centers.
The Post-Star argues that declining taxpayer support for these facilities (the state currently contributes $4.6 million dollars to ORDA’s $30 million annual budget, down from a $7 million contribution in 2008-09), jeopardizes their future viability. “For the sake of the Adirondack economy and for the towns and counties that thrive on the successful operation of these venues” the Post Star’s editorial staff suggests “a different approach is needed.” » Continue Reading.
Matt McNamara, Founder and Chairman of the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), has some great ideas for easy places to mountain bike. McNamara recommends that young mountain bikers start with simple trails such as the Hardy Road trail system in Wilmington. He recommends this coniferous trail because for the most part the trail is smooth with no significant climbing.
“In the Adirondacks it may be difficult for people to know where to start to begin mountain biking with children,” says McNamara. “It is always about having fun and finding your comfort level.” » Continue Reading.
WAMC, the National Public Radio affiliate based in Albany, this week switched on a new broadcast translator in Lake Placid. On Tuesday, W204CJ (FM frequency 88.7) became the latest nodule in AMC’s spreading network of stations. The move into the resort community was first attempted in 2007 when WAMC’s President and CEO Alan Chartock tried to take over the FCC license for a frequency that was being renewed by NPR’s Canton, New York affiliate North Country Public Radio.
WAMC operates twenty-four broadcast and translator towers that send its programming to parts of over 40 counties in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The broadcaster’s expansive vision occasionally runs up against its original mission. Earlier this year on the final day of the legislative session in Albany, with votes on New York’s same sex marriage and budget bills still up for grabs, WAMC devoted both hours of its premier news analysis program, the Roundtable, to promoting a music festival in western Massachusetts. This week, WAMC’s new Lake Placid listeners tuned in to Dr. Chartock’s signature frenetic exhortations during one of the station’s periodic fundraising membership drives. While they say there’s no second chance to make a first impression, public radio devotees in the Olympic Village might yet find some advantage to the timing of their new suitor’s arrival. North Country Public Radio holds itsfall pledge campaign this coming week.
UPDATE:The trail was cleared for WAMC to operate the Lake Placid translator as part of an agreement reached in December 2007 when NCPR was seeking to upgrade to a full power signal from the weaker translator signal. WAMC sought a license to operate the same full power signal, but settled for the weaker translator in the wake of negative publicity. A third party broadcaster, Northeast Gospel Radio, Inc. from Rensselaer County also sought the full power license.
(Disclosure: Mark Wilson is a member of NCPR and contributes cartoons to the NCPR.org)
Each year Smithsonian Magazine teams with museums around the country to host its seventh annual Museum Day, allowing everyone to enter special organizations that cater from everything from the history of the Adirondacks to the Olympics.
Free admission is only available for those that sign online and download the ticket form. The ticket is good for two people per mailing address and valid email.
For our family it isn’t a matter of participating in Museum Day but which museum to attend. My son wants to venture far afield and go aboard the USS Slater. Unfortunately that particular adventure will have to be timed with a trip to Albany. Since we will be attending Indian Lake’s Great Adirondack Moose Festival, a trip to the Adirondack Museum will fit right into the plan.
Once again the Adirondack Museum will offer anyone signed on for a Museum Day ticket the right to enter its doors free of charge. (New for 2011, year-round residents of the Adirondack Park are admitted free every Sunday during the Adirondack Museum’s season as well as any open days in October.)
The Adirondack Museum houses twenty buildings on 32 acres of land, beautiful gardens and ponds. There are many interactive elements like the Rising Schoolhouse filled with paper crafts and era-specific wooden toys, a treasure hunt in the “Age of Horses” building, or explore “The Great Outdoors.” Keep in mind all paid admissions are valid for a second visit within a one-week time period.
Another museum offering a free pass is the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. This nod to Lake Placid’s Winter Olympic history offers great insight into the magnitude the Olympics played on the growth of Lake Placid in the Olympic arena. Guests can view an array of Olympic torches, an evolution of sporting equipment and a special video documenting the 1980 historic USA hockey gold medal win.
There are more museums just beyond the Blue Line that are participating as well. Take this opportunity and explore new areas or old favorites this Saturday, September 24th.
(Even though museums are generously offering a free day to all keep in mind it still costs money to run these wonderful establishments. A small donation can go a long way to help continue to provide these excellent facilities.)
A federal court judge this week dismissed civil rights claims in a case arising from a planning board decision to modify plans for a proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake in the Village of Lake Placid.
This is the second legal challenge in the past year to the authority of Lake Placid/North Elba’s Joint Review Board to regulate boathouse construction. Both challenges have been shepherded by Lake Placid Attorney James Brooks. Chief United States District Court Judge Norman Mordue on Wednesday dismissed all charges that the community’s planning board violated the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection when it required a private property owner, developer Keith Stoltz, to shorten the length of the dock he sought to build behind his Main Street storefront. The court also remanded an Article 78 challenge of the review boards’ procedures to state court.
On August 23rd, in a separate boathouse case litigated by attorney Brooks, acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer issued a summary judgment supporting Mr. Brooks’s argument that municipalities have no regulatory authority over boathouses built entirely above navigable waters. Mr. Brooks, who is Judge Meyer’s former law partner, contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the sole responsibility to permit and regulate such shoreline-adjacent construction throughout the state.
Attorney and SUNY Albany School of Law Dean Michael Hutter and attorney for the Town of North Elba Ron Briggs have appealed Judge Meyer’s decision as well as a number of the jurist’s intermediate procedural orders. Arguments in the case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s Third Appellate Division in Albany by year’s end.
Also on August 23rd, in related criminal indictments handed up by the Essex County Grand Jury, general contractor Dan Nardiello of Lake Placid and builder Robert Scheefer of Saranac Lake were arraigned on misdemeanor charges of construction without a building permit. The property owner William Grimditch of Lake Placid was subsequently arraigned on the same charges. Judge Meyer will hear the cases against the three men—all represented by attorney Brooks—later this Fall.
Disclosure: Adirondack Almanack contributor Mark Wilson serves as President of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association. The Association has filed a friend of the court brief supporting North Elba’s appeal of Judge Meyer’s decisions.
Earlier this summer close observers noticed a small white soul patch etched on the southern (Lake Placid) face of Whiteface Mountain. Tropical storm Irene embellished it into a brilliant, narrow v-shaped slide. Whiteface mountain today (and ever after) is showing a bit more of the anorthosite that gave it its name.
What follows is a guest essay by Kate Fish, Executive Director of the Adirondack North Country Association and a member of the North Country Regional Economic Development Council.
Recent news that the Lake Placid to Saranac Lake rail side recreation path project received a $1.2 million grant should put to rest any debate about what “should” be done with the northern portion of the 119-mile Remsen-Lake Placid Travel Corridor.
The Federal Highway Administration grant has been awarded to the Adirondack North Country Association on behalf of New York State Department of Transportation through a very competitive process – 1,800 applications were submitted, requesting more than 30 times the funds available — for projects under the National Scenic Byways Program. This grant is one of the largest amounts received in this round of funding, indicating strong support at the national level to boost recreation and improve infrastructure simultaneously. » Continue Reading.
In 1962, Oleg and Ludmila Protopopov arrived at the World Championships, and were spotted by Dick Button, who was commentating for ABC sports. On Saturday night, the third of September 2011, he sat next to them during the Tribute show in their honor at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid.
In an interview before the show, Button recounted what is special about the Protopopovs. “They had tunnel vision”, he said, “They are a vision of classical skating personified, skating at its very best. The Protopopovs started a generation of style on ice, which was carried on by skaters like John Curry and Janet Lynn”. After that championship in 1962, the Protopopovs skated to two Olympic titles and four world titles. As professionals, they skated in the World Professional championships, (capturing 4 titles) and performing with companies including the Leningrad Ice Ballet and the Ice Capades.
The Protopopovs defected from the Soviet Union in 1979, becoming citizens of Switzerland. They divide their time between Switzerland, their winter home, and Lake Placid, where they skate from June until October in the Olympic Center.
Their eventual landing in Lake Placid was very sudden. In 1997, the Protopopovs found themselves in the Olympic town after being told of the excellent facilities.
“Our friends were telling us, ‘you must go to Lake Placid, they have beautiful ice arenas’”, said Ludmila Protopopov. “We also wanted to learn from Gus Lussi, who was coaching there. Unfortunately, he had passed away, but when we came to Lake Placid we stayed forever”.
Ironically, Button’s story was similar.
“Everyone told my father, if you want him to get better at skating, send him to Lake Placid”, remembers Button. “Gus Lussi was considered the coach to work with, and we had a magical relationship…. I am still tied to Lake Placid, my family owns homes here”.
Watching the older couple skating on the rink, it is not apparent that they played an important part in the evolution of skating. Not many realize that the Protopopovs were the creators of a variation of the death spiral. The death spiral is a skating move, defined as “an element of pair skating performed with the man in a pivot position, one toe anchored in the ice…. holding his hand, the woman circles her partner on a deep edge with her body almost parallel to the ice”. The original death spiral was first executed in the 1940s, but the Protopopovs created their variations, the Cosmic, Life, and Love spirals, in the 1960s.
“It was a mistake on practice…I slipped from an outside edge to an inside edge. That is what we named the Cosmic spiral.
After the Cosmic spiral, (performed on the backward inside edge,) the Protopopovs invented the Life spiral (forward inside) and the Love spiral (forward outside).
Throughout their careers, whether they are competing, performing in shows, or practicing, the Protopopovs possess a unique dignity and class, both on and off the ice. Dick Button, himself a skating legend, has nothing but compliments for the pair.
“The Protopopovs were the first to be very different. They had a classical, pure style of skating; they were musical and uniform in their skating together. They are classic, balletic skaters; utter perfection. You don’t see skaters like them anymore”.
Button certainly knows what he’s talking about; the Emmy award-winning commentator has been involved in skating since the 1940s, when he was competing himself. He became the 1948 and 1952 Olympic champion, and 5 time World champion. His commentary career started in the 1960s, when he provided commentary for ABC sports. He continued to be a celebrity in figure skating, commentating at most major competitions, organizing several skating shows on television, and serving as figure skating’s most knowledgeable figure. Oleg Protopopov, despite his many achievements, still considers Dick Button an inspiration.
“When I was a boy, my mother brought me an American magazine with Dick Button on the cover. He was doing a split jump, and his position was so extended, his toes were pointed…my mother said, ‘one day you must skate better than him’. It never happened’ ”. Dick Button, however, considered them to have surpassed his skating achievements.
“After the Protopopovs skated, I learned what position and quality truly meant in figure skating”.
Both the Protopopovs and Button believed that skating should be an art form, equal to dance, music, and other creative forms of artistic expression. While current audiences seem to expect a sport instead of art, Button and Protopopov assert that attention should be given to the artistic side of the sport as well, not just the technical.
“What I encourage skaters to do is to take what they learned in a ballet class, or other sort of dance class, and incorporate it in skating”, said Button. “Figure skating can take elements of dance and use it…. it is interesting for me to note where figure skating has gone and where it hasn’t gone over the years”.
But the Protopopovs have held up artistry over the years, and continued skating. Even after Oleg’s stroke in 2009, they continued skating. Only a few weeks after his stroke, the Protopopovs were seen at the rink, Ludmila Protopopov patiently helping Oleg to re-learn how to skate. Skating served as his rehabilitation, and the Protopopovs were well practiced enough to perform a short exhibition performance in the tribute show on September 3rd.
Why do they continue skating? Certainly the Protopopovs are legends, and can retire if they chose. When asked why they continue to skate, Ludmila stated it succinctly:
“I love the music, the flow. Skating is our life”.