Despite frigid temperatures this weekend, adult hockey players took to the ice in Lake Placid for the Can Am pond hockey tournament. Can Am pond hockey is a relatively new tradition in Lake Placid, introduced in 2005 to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of the 1980 Winter Games. Five years later the tournament is still going strong and teams from all over the US and Canada flocked to the Adirondacks to participate in a weekend of hockey and fun in the Olympic Village. With the age categories 21+, 30+, 40+, 50+, and 60+ for men, and 21+ and 30+ for women, there was an opportunity for almost all ages to compete. Pond hockey is a simpler variation of ice hockey. Obviously meant to be played on natural ice surfaces, pond hockey differs from traditional ice hockey. The ice dimensions are different from NHL hockey regulations, (135 feet by 65 feet compared to the NHL’s 200-by-85), there are no boards and no lines on the playing surface. While the rules might seem less-structured in a game of pond hockey, there are still limits; for example, no slap shots, abusive language, or overly aggressive physical contact.
One of the most unique challenges is weather.; when the weather is too warm, for example, skating can be dangerous on a pond, often pushing the teams onto the alternate venue. In 2008, temperatures in the 40s forced the tournament to relocate to the Olympic Oval. At the extreme opposite of the spectrum, cold weather can be difficult as well. This weekend, the temperatures on Saturday were in the negative double digits in the morning, and in the single digits all afternoon.
It’s still huge to see his name on the list. He’s a great guy and makes us proud. It’s hard to explain why people who have nothing to do with these kids’ success can feel that way, but in a small town you just do. Six athletes who have grown up in Lake Placid and Saranac Lake are going to the 2010 games in Vancouver, and so are three who moved here at a young age, as are some luge veterans who’ve lived in Lake Placid so long it’s home. In a region of .00004 percent of the national population that is sending 4 percent of our Olympic team, the degrees of separation are considerably foreshortened. These inspiring young men and women are neighbors and friends. Or we know their moms or dads, or see them skiing at Avalanche Lake, or listen to them play mandolin in the bandshell. We may have taught them history, drank their homemade cider or been next door when one of them (whom we will call “War Horse”) broke his leg in some sort of homemade man-size slingshot.
We thought Andrew would be the last of the Adirondack contenders to be named, but 16-year-old Ashley Caldwell also made the Olympic cut yesterday; she will compete in aerials for the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. She moved to Lake Placid three years ago to pursue her sport, and we’ll cheer just as loudly for her.
Even athletes who train or compete in Lake Placid gain a local following. My friend’s daughter will be rooting for the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team, several of whose members coached her at hockey camp last summer. The ladies also have fans at Lisa G’s.
Saranac Lake is sometimes obscured by Lake Placid’s 1932 and 1980 Olympian shadow, but it too has been known to send bobsledders, skaters, skiers and hockey players to world competition. This year four Saranac Lakers are heading to the winter Olympics: 21-year-old luger Chris Mazdzer, 17-year-old ski jumper Peter Frenette, 27-year-old Tim Burke of Paul Smiths (Biathlon) and 29-year-old Billy Demong of Vermontville (Nordic Combined). Tupper Lake also takes pride in Peter Frenette, who has many relatives there and who debuted on skis at age 2 at Big Tupper. We in Saranac Lake claim kinship with Billy and Tim because they attended and skied for Saranac Lake High School, plus they got early lessons here, at Dewey Mountain Recreation Area.
I love the fact that luger Mark Grimette is 39 and his silver-medal doubles partner Brian Martin is 36 and they still have wheels (wrong metaphor, but they are serious competitors). Vancouver will be their fourth Olympics.
My other favorite Olympic friendship story is that of Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid (Biathlon) and Tim and Billy (pictured). These three have skied together since they were little, and the love of their sport has taken them around the world. Haley Johnson of Lake Placid (Biathlon) joined that pack when she began traveling with Lowell and Tim in high school.
Kris Cheney Seymour runs the Dewey Mountain Youth Ski League in Saranac Lake and is a top-notch skier and coach. He grew up in Saranac Lake and has long known Billy, Tim, Lowell and Haley as a coach and friend. He is one of many coaches, mentors and sports-support staff around here who have a greater claim on community pride. When people joke that Dewey should be called “the Other Olympic Mountain” for its early role in so many good skiers’ lives, Kris says there’s something to it. Once, after a particularly steep hill on the World Cup circuit in Europe, Tim e-mailed Kris and commented that Dewey prepared him well.
We might take it for granted that so many kids here skate, ski and slide. But as Kris often points out, these sports can change lives. Not only are they fun, apparently they can take you places. Even if they don’t take you to the Olympics, plenty of locals have gone to college on their sport and competed against some of the best athletes in the world.
So, go Andrew! Go Billy, Lowell, Tim, Haley, Peter, Chris, Ashley, Mark, Brian, Bengt Walden (luge), John Napier (bobsled) and Erin Hamlin (luge)! And you too, speed skater Trevor Marsicano of Ballston Spa and Plattsburgh native Anders Johnson, who trained at Lake Placid’s speedskating and ski jumping facilities! And go U.S. women’s hockey team! Have a great time in Vancouver.
Photograph of (l to r) Lowell Bailey, Billy Demong and Tim Burke as young skiers, courtesy of the Demong family
This past week, Lake Placid once again hosted an Olympic Qualifier event for Freestyle skiing. The Nature Valley Freestyle Cup encompassed aerials, moguls, and ski cross competition at both Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Jumping Complex. For many athletes, this was the last chance to secure a spot on the Olympic team. The 2010 Olympic Freestyle Team will be announced Tuesday, January 26th. Freestyle skiing is a unique sport that involves several different events. Aerial skiing is like gymnastics on skis, in which participants flip and somersault after leaping off a ramp. Jumpers are scored on jump takeoff, jump form, and jump lading, with a degree of difficulty factored in to result in a total score. Mogul competition is characterized by skiers navigating terrain with large bumps, and requires fast maneuvering. One of the newer disciplines in freestyle skiing is Skiercross, which is based on the motorbike competition in motocross. Competitors ski in groups of four down the course, which includes jumps or banks depending on the course design, and compete to be the fastest 16 (women’s events) or 32 (men’s events). After these are chosen, there is a knockout style of series in which the first two over the line compete in the next round- in the end, the final rounds and small final rounds determine 1st-4th place and 5th-8th places.
This competition attracted some of the best athletes in the sport of freestyle skiing- World Mogul Champion Patrick Deneen competed after already securing his spot on the Olympic Team in December, placing 37th in the final round of moguls. Hannah Kearney, the World Cup Moguls Champion, won the final round. In Aerials, the highest placing US athlete was 10th place finisher Jeret Peterson, who won the event last year. The highest placing American in the women’s Aerial competition was Jana Lindsey, who finished in 8th place in the finals. The Skiercross women’s competition was won by Canadian Kelsey Serwa, and the highest placing American was Langely McNeal in 16th place. In the men’s competition, the winner of the final was Christopher Delbosco of Canada, with the USA’s Daron Rahlves in 4th place.
The state budget presented by Governor Paterson on Tuesday would cut 5% from New York’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities (AIM) program to Adirondack towns and villages. Since 2005, money from AIM has been used by local governments across the state for a range of purposes including programs to consolidate government services.
Municipalities lying either wholly or partially within the Adirondack Park stand to lose a combined $123,371. Tupper Lake tops the list of communities hardest hit by cuts to AIM with combined revenue losses to village and town of $9,341. The Town of Newcomb—where the APA’s Visitor Interpretive Center is at risk, along with snowmobile trail links that depend on transfer of former Finch Pruyn land to the state—would suffer an excision of $9,149 in AIM revenues.
Communities that have recently moved to consolidate services are also among the hardest hit by the proposed AIM cuts: Harrietstown/Saranac Lake would lose $5,826; Moriah/Port Henry, $4,033; and North Elba/Lake Placid, $3,039. Long Lake completes the list of towns with the most to lose with a potential cut of $5,451. UPDATE: The town and village of Dannemora combined stand to lose $6,530 as well.
The Almanack compiled the following full list of AIM cuts to Adirondack localities (click to enlarge):
This weekend Lake Placid was filled with figure skaters, parents, and coaches for the Ice Skating Institute Lake Placid Championships. This event was hosted in the Olympic Center, and has been an important part of the Lake Placid competition lineup for many years. The Ice Skating Institute was founded in 1959 as “a nonprofit organization for owners, operators, and developers of ice skating facilities”, and facilitates participattion in ice skating by rink owners, skaters, coaches, and vendors. According to the ISI website, the organization provides information for the development and construction of ice arenas, organizes consumer shows in conjunction with its recreational skating events, and produces trade and educational publications and literature. ISI also holds an annual educational conference and trade show for arenas managers, skating directors, instructors, and skating industry manufacturers, suppliers and retailers, provides ice skating programs for skaters of all ages and abilities, and hosts four recreational skating competitions annually. Most of all, ISI encourages participation in ice skating as a recreational sport.
The ISI organization encourages recreational participation in ice skating instead of qualifying competition like US Figure Skating. This is perfect for skaters who wish to skate and compete for fun instead of to qualify for National and International Competition. ISI also incorporates more unique events like showcase events (in which skaters can use props and vocal music to establish a theme) and group numbers (where many skaters can skate together). Most of all, ISI aims to allow skaters to compete for fun and satisfaction rather than for qualifying spots at the Olympics. Still, many skaters are members of both organizations and compete on both the US Figure Skating and ISI competitive tracks. One of these skaters is local skater Carly Brox.
Originally from Canada, Carly was one of many competitors skating this weekend; she also was the only skater representing Lake Placid in this competition. Carly lives and trains in Lake Placid, and represents the Skating Club of Lake Placid. She placed 1st in compulsory moves, 2nd in stroking, and 2nd in the freestyle program. As Carly stated as she finished this year’s competition; “I was honored to represent Lake Placid in this competition, and I look forward to competing next year”.
Every now and then a person from our parts makes a splash. Phil Henry is one of those people. His enthusiastic approach to life and music is catchy. Getting to enjoy his performance in a small venue is a treat. I trust it will be a great show to check out on Friday or Saturday night. Thursday, January 14th:
In Tupper Lake, Chaz DePaolo is performing at p2’s. Chaz is an electric blues guitarist and will performing songs from his latest CD, Bluestopia. The show starts at 8 pm.
Friday, January 15th:
In Tupper Lake, The Phil Henry Band is at p2’s. The show starts at 9 pm. Phil, a Saranac Lake native, has another local, Brendon Coyle, playing drums with him with Tupper Laker, Wayne Davidson on sax and Vermont bassist, Jim Gilmour. He will be debuting his new album as well.
In Saranac Lake, Professor Chaos CD Release party will be happening at The Waterhole. I saw the phrase “four piece from hell” on their website, I don’t think more needs to be said.
In Lake Placid, Martha Gallagher, “The Adirodack Harper” will be at LPCA. This is her fourth annual concert starting at 8 pm and tickets are $15.
In Ausable Forks, Chaz DePaolo will be entertaining at 9:30 pm at 20 Main.
What do racing cars, bobsledding, and Lake Placid have in common? They were all represented at this year’s Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge, held this weekend at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid.
The premise of this bobsledding race is unique; instead of bobsled athletes racing against each other, race car drivers and drag racers compete on the famous Lake Placid track. Some notable racers included Morgan Lucas (youngest professional driver on the NHRA tour), Jeg Coughlin (5 time world champion), Shawn Langdon (back-to-back world champion in 2007-2008 in the Super Comp Class), Melanie Troxel (only woman in history to win national events in Top Fuel and Funny Car, the top categories of drag racing), and Joey Logano (the youngest winner in two of NASCAR’S three top divisions). The challenge is about more than bobsled racing; the Bodine challenge also supports Olympic bobsledding. In 1992, NASCAR veteran Geoff Bodine carried out his idea of introducing US-made sleds to the US Bobsled team. At the time, the US team was racing with European sleds and had not won a medal since the 1956 Winter Games. Bodine decided that, like racing, successful bobsledding depended on having sleds equipped with the most current technology available. The sleds were designed with NASCAR technology, and eventually the US Team broke the Olympic drought when they won silver, bronze (4 man event) and gold (women’s competition) in the 2002 games. Now they are consistent competitors on the World Cup circuit.
Started in 2005, the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge is also a fundraiser to continue the advance in US Bobsled technology. It also gives NASCAR drivers a chance to drive a bobsled and hopefully inspire them to contribute to the project.
This year, the overall winner was Melanie Troxel, the first woman to ever compete in the event. She raced brilliantly, and noted the differences between bobsledding and racing. “It was a totally new experience and a lot to take in,” she said, “I noticed that you get beat around in the sled a lot more, and have to hold your position. I hope to be back next year.” For more information on the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge and the US Bobsled project, visit the Geoff Bodine challenge website.
Tucked in the small hallway within the Box Office entrance of the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, is the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. The museum is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon examining the unique artifacts and learning more about the amazing Olympic History of Lake Placid.
The Museum was established after the 1980 Olympics, and was originally located in the former Aromaround café. The circular building used to be known as the Austrian House, and proudly displayed Olympic artifacts. In the 1990s, the Museum entered an agreement with the Olympic Regional Development Authority, and stayed in the location where it is today. The goal of the Museum is to celebrate Lake Placid’s unique Olympic heritage while collecting and preserving Olympic artifacts and archival materials associated with Lake Placid’s Olympic history. So who visits the Winter Olympic Museum? Visitors of all ages can find something of interest here, from the sparkly figure skating outfits of yesteryear, to the stuffed Mascots from each Olympic Games, and even the original “Ronnie the Raccoon” Mascot costume from the 1980 Games. As for the amount of visits the museum receives, the number varies. “We can have 1500 people in one week, or we can have 100 visitors in a week”, said Olympic Museum Archivist Allison Haas. “It all depends on the season, holidays, or weather.”
The first medal awarded ever in a Winter Olympics (the gold medal won by Charles Jewtraw, a local speed skater, for the 500 Meter race in the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France) is proudly displayed in the first part of the museum, on loan from the Smithsonian. A complete collection of participant medals from every summer and winter Olympics are displayed, along with over 2 dozen prize medals from Olympic Games, (including a medal from the 2006 Torino Games).
There is also an impressive Olympic torch collection. For fans of the “Miracle on Ice”, the complete video recording of the game is played daily at the Museum, and the actual 1980 hockey goal guarded by Jim Craig, along with his goalie equipment, stands nearby. A newer feature of the “Miracle on Ice” collection are props and costumes used in the making of the Disney movie “Miracle”, based on the famous showdown between the US and Soviet team.
So what makes the 1932 and 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum such an important and interesting part of Lake Placid? “The museum is all about education, to teach the public about the Olympic history of Lake Placid”, said Allison Haas. “We also collect and preserve important artifacts for future generations to appreciate the Olympics.”
With the Vancouver Olympics only a few months away, many are curious about how these elite athletes get to the top of their sport.
Where do they live when they are away from home training? How do they stay on top of their game even when training conditions are less than optimal? The Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Lake Placid works to meet these needs of visiting athletes.
The OTC opened in 1982, in the building where the Northwood’s Inn is today. It opened in its present location in 1989, and mostly serves winter athletes. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the facility with intern Matt Bailey. Contrary to popular belief, summer athletes rarely visit the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid; most reside in the Chula Vista or Colorado Springs facilities. The exceptions are the canoe and kayak team, (who are coming to the Lake Placid OTC next week), the rhythmic gymnastics team, and Para-Olympians. The resident athletes represent biathlon, freestyle skiing, bobsledding, skeleton, luge, Nordic combined, and ski jumping. The Lake Placid OTC hosts athletes mostly dependent on their sport, but also based on availability of rooms at other training centers.
The main purpose of the Olympic Training Centers is “to assist athletes in a variety of Olympic sports, and also provide assistance to a number of affiliated sports organizations and disabled sports organizations.” The Lake Placid OTC boasts state-of-the-art training equipment, but also residence halls to house the athletes and provide a comfortable stay away from home.
Despite its smaller size compared to the Colorado and California training centers, the Lake Placid Training Center hosts an impressive amount of services for the athletes. There is a fully-supplied weight room which includes spin bikes, weight lifting equipment, shock-absorbing flooring, and even a treadmill with a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
A large gymnasium in the back of the complex boasts high ceilings (to host volleyball tournaments), basketball courts, and a trampoline for aerial skiers to practice tricks. One of the most impressive rooms in the OTC is the Coaching and Sports Sciences lab, where athletes can work on their technique with the help of technology. One such piece of equipment is a giant treadmill used mainly by biathletes, which helps them analyze their technique and stride with the help of a television monitor.
Besides helping athletes to be their best in competition, the OTC also strives to make their stay as comfortable as possible. There is an on-site cafeteria, serving meals with optimal nutrient amounts as determined by the OTC nutritionist in Colorado. Near the front lobby, a small recreation area is available for the residents to relax when they are not training.
Athletes can also spend time in the athlete’s services rooms, which include a television, Xbox gaming system, and computers (sponsored by A T & T). One of the most interesting features in the OTC is the A T & T charging station. Located across from the weight room, athletes can plug in their cell phone or iPod while working out- definitely helpful.
Some of the best athletes in winter sports are staying and training at the Olympic Training Center; Erin Hamlin (World champion and Olympian in Luge), Haley Johnson (World competitor in Biathlon), Ryan St Onge (World champion and Olympian in freestyle skiing), Mark Grimmette (World and Olympic Competitor in Luge), and John Napier (World Competitor in Bobsled). Joining them are other athletes who come to Lake Placid to train in hopes of making an Olympic team.
What is it that makes Lake Placid’s Olympic Training Center so special? The Olympic history in Lake Placid is certainly inspiring. Lake Placid is the only US city to host two Olympics Games, and the small-town atmosphere contributes to the comfortable, hometown feel. Olympic Training Center intern Matt Bailey put it this way: “The Lake Placid OTC is smaller and homier… it’s central location to all the other sports venues is very convenient for the athletes, and we have a great staff here”.
Lake Placid boasts a rich Olympic history, particularly in speed skating. In 1932 Jack Shea, a Lake Placid native, won the 500 and 1500 meter events. Another local athlete, Charles Jewtraw, trained on the oval, becoming the first gold medalist of the 500 meter event in the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. Of course, possibly the best known speed skater to deliver a record-breaking performance was Eric Heiden, who won 5 gold medals in the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, the only skater to win 5 individual gold medals in the same Olympics. This week, Lake Placid was host to a different type of speed skating; a long-distance marathon. The Lake Placid Ice Marathon, sponsored by the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club and Marathon Skating International (MSI), was the second in a series of marathons hosted by MSI, and included three distances; the 10 K, the 25 K, and the 40 K. On the 400 M oval, the 10 K race equals 26 laps; the 25 K is 65 laps, and the 40 K equals 104 laps. At first glance these distances might seem daunting, but in Europe usually the smallest distance is 40 K, while the highest is 200 kilometers, depending on the location and size of the skating oval. Like running, the distances are measured in kilometers; surprisingly, many of the skaters race all three distances.
Speed skating originated in Holland, including the practice of marathon skating. The Dutch race Elfstedentocht (also known as the eleven cities tour), is a famous marathon that started the tradition of skating long distances. Eventually this form of skating took off in Canada and the United States, and now a dedicated group of skaters participate in both Canada and in select parts of the United States. One of the select locations in the US that hosts ice marathons is Lake Placid.
One of the organizations that contribute greatly to marathon skating is Marathon Skating International (MSI). Their mission is to promote the sport of marathon speed skating in North America, and ultimately establish marathon speed skating as a sport in the Olympic Games.
Many of the athletes this weekend were from Canada, although there were some skaters from Rochester, New York City, and New Jersey competing in the marathon. Although the Lake Placid oval hosted a session for the first time of the season the night before, the ice was in good condition for the races.
The organizing committee and MSI were pleased with how the event progressed this weekend. Race Director Linda Sausa was particularly pleased with the outcome. “The ice was beautiful, and even though it was cold Saturday morning (-8 F) the sun was shining and everyone had a positive race experience. We are grateful to ORDA for their determination with ice maintenance”.
Lake Placid will be hosting two more races this season; the Charles Jewtraw All Around race (January 9th and 10th) and the Jack Shea Sprints (February 6th and 7th).
Please join me in welcoming Christie Sausa of Lake Placid as the Almanack‘s newest contributor, heading up our winter sports coverage. Christie is a member of the historic figure and speed skating culture in the Olympic Village, and writes about those sports for the Lake Placid News and on her own blogs, including the popular Lake Placid Skater which she founded in 2007.
Sausa, who attends North Country Community College (she’s pursuing a sports and events management degree), will be taking her budding journalism skills behind the scenes at local competitions, and will also be writing about our local athletes, including the many World Cup and Olympic hopefuls. Her reporting for the Almanack will include the more popular sports (like ski-jumping, downhill, snowboarding, and cross country) the sliding sports (luge, skeleton, and bobsledding), as well as the more obscure local sports like biathlon, skijoring, and dogsledding. When Sausa is not on the ice herself, or writing about what happens there, or learning about managing what happens there, she is helping her mom with their local business, the Lake Placid Skate Shop. Sausa was recently invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Lake Placid, the Connecting Youth and Communities Coalition, the Skating Club of Lake Placid, and the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club.
Figure skating icon Scott Hamilton is back, ready to thrill audiences with a new skating show, Scott Hamilton’s Holiday Concert on Ice, coming to the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Tuesday, Dec. 29, at 7:30 p.m.
For more than 20 years, the Olympic Champion and four-time World and U.S. National Champion wowed audiences with his annual Stars on Ice tour, which kicked off annually in Lake Placid. Several of those performers are set to join the skating legend again including Ekaterina Gordeeva and Steven Cousins. The show will also feature Kimmie Meissner, Jozef Sabovcik and Caryn Kadavy, all skating to music performed by a live band and American Idols Phil Stacey and Melinda Doolittle. Tickets for the Dec. 29 performance of Scott Hamilton’s Holiday Concert on Ice range in price from $90-$30 and are on sale now at the Olympic Center Box Office 518.523-3330 or online at tickets.com or whitefacelakeplacid.com.
About the Skaters: Together with her late partner and husband, Sergei Grinkov, Ekaterina Gordeeva was the 1988 and 1994 Olympic Champion. She also began touring with Stars on Ice in 1991.
Steven Cousins is an eight-time British National Champion; he competed in eight World Figure Skating Championships and three Olympic Winter Games and toured with Stars on Ice until 2007, while Kimmie Meissner won both the 2007 World Championship crown and the 2007 U.S. National Championship title. Ms. Meissner was also the youngest American athlete to compete in the 2006 Torino, Italy Olympic Winter Games.
Jozef Sabovcik claimed the 1984 Olympic bronze medal and won both the 1985 and 1986 European Championship titles, while Caryn Kadavy, a 1988 Olympian, is a three-time U.S. National Championship medalist.
NOTE: THIS POST COMES DIRECTLY FROM AN ORDA PRESS RELEASE
These aren’t little rascals, they’re good Dewey Mountain kids, helping get their cross-country ski trails ready for winter. The Harrietstown ski area, run by Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters, hosts a volunteer work day 9:30–3:30 Saturday to build a bridge and finish drainage work that’s been ongoing all autumn. (All welcome!) Dewey’s just one of many Adirondack ski centers preparing for opening day. The park of course has limitless free backcountry skiing on Forest Preserve, but a midwinter thaw can reveal the beauty of more civilized gliding. Most x-c ski centers pack the base so it holds up better after rain or heatwave. For races and growing legions of skate-skiers, trail grooming is a must. Plus, it’s just nice to have a hut when kids are learning to ski—a warm place to change boots or have a cup of cocoa. At night the lodges become the hub of ski parties.
Alan Wechsler gave us the rundown of downhill areas earlier this month, and we featured Tug Hill ski destinations this morning. So below are links to Adirondack cross-country ski centers. Some have lodging, some have food, some link to larger trail networks; no two are alike but each has something to make it worth the price of admission.
The Jackrabbit Trail is a town-to-town trail linking all the way from Keene to Paul Smiths. Definitely not a ski center, but we love it, and volunteers take great care of the trails. The Adirondack Ski Touring Council, the donor-supported organization that maintains it, reports up-to-date trail conditions for the Jackrabbit, the High Peaks backcountry and several Lake Placid-area ski centers.
The Paul Smiths and Newcomb Adirondack Park Visitor Interpretive Centers (VICs) have well-kept trails as well as warm buildings, and they’re free.
The 2009-10 FIBT World Cup bobsled and skeleton season is underway and some of world’s best bobsledders and skeleton athletes will be coming to the Olympic Sports Complex track in Lake Placid, during the second stop of the seven-race tour November 20-22. Here are the details supplied by the Olympic Regional Development Authority, who manages the Lake Placid Olympic venues: While in Lake Placid, the U.S. squad will try to match the same success it enjoyed last season when driver Steve Holcomb helped lead the team to four world championship medals on the 1,455-meter long course. The “Night Train” stood on three medal podiums, winning bronze in the two-man man race, bronze in the team competition and gold in the four-man event. That victory allowed him to become the first American pilot to claim a World title in 50 years.
Fellow American Shauna Robuck is also looking forward to being back in Lake Placid. Last season, the 32-year-old won a pair of world championship medals, piloting her sled to silver in the women’s two-man event, before helping the squad nab bronze in the team competition.
The U.S. skeleton team should be just as strong. The women’s line up is led by two-time World Cup Champion Katie Uhlaender and 2007 World Champion Noelle Pikus-Pace, while Zach Lund, the 2007 World Champion, and Eric Bernotas, a winner of several World Championship and World Cup medals during his career, headline the men’s roster.
Other sleds to watch include German Andre Lange, who won the four-man silver medal, and Latvia’s Janis Minins, the 2009 four-man World Championship bronze medalist. Other athletes to keep an eye out for include Switzerland’s Gregor Staehli, the reigning men’s skeleton World Champion, and Germany’s Marion Trott, the defending women’s skeleton World Champion.
Racing begins Friday, Nov. 20, at 9:30 a.m. with the women’s skeleton event, followed by the men’s skeleton race at 1 p.m. The men’s two-man bobsled race is slated for Saturday, Nov. 21, also beginning at 9:30 a.m., while the women’s two-man bobsled race is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. Both the four-man bobsled race and the team competition are set for Sunday, Nov. 22. The four-man race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the team event caps off the three days of racing at 1 p.m.
Daily Tickets are available for $8.00 for adults and $6.00 juniors and senior citizens. Anyone who brings a non-perishable food item for the Lake Placid Ecumenical food pantry will receive free entry. For tickets call the Olympic Sports Complex at 518-523-4436 or pick them up at the gate on event days. For more information on the Nov. 20-22 FIBT World Cup bobsled and skeleton race in Lake Placid, log on to www.whiteface.com.
A History Channel documentary will feature an Adirondack veteran of World War Two: Archie Sweeney of Saranac Lake. The 10-hour series WWII in HD, which will air over over five consecutive nights from Sunday through Thursday, November 15-19 will be narrated by Gary Sinise.
Archie Sweeney was a resident of Saranac Lake Village (where one of his sisters still lives; another lives in Glens Falls), who came to the series late in production according to Larry Miller, who did research and character development for most of the men and women in the series. “I had finished preliminary work for six characters when I got a call from the producer who told me that they wanted a character who was killed early in the war, preferably in North Africa,” Miller told me. “That was going to be a problem for several reasons. Men who died early in the war had very little time to write letters or diaries so there would probably be very little material to work with. There would be no oral histories recorded and obviously no book written.” What Miller hoped to find was a man who had surviving family members and who had saved information relating to his experiences. “Almost immediately, my thoughts turned to the Adirondacks,” Miller says. “My chances to find surviving relatives were better if I could find someone from a small town rather than, for example, Manhattan. These families were, at the time, less mobile than those from larger cities. A side benefit would be that I could work and be in the Adirondacks simultaneously.”
Miller began his search by reading the casualty lists published in the New York Times where he found three men from the Adirondack region who had been killed in action in North Africa. A search of their obituaries told Miller that two of the men were survived by only their parents – the third was Archie Sweeney, whose several siblings survived the war. “After several months of researching newspapers, public records, service records and interviewing his surviving relatives, I had gathered enough information about the young man to write a narrative of his short life and brave death,” Miller said.
Larry Miller sent the short biography he wrote about Archie Sweeney to the Almanack. Here it is in its entirety:
Corporal Archie Sweeney was twenty one years old when he graduated from Saranac Lake High School in Saranac Lake, New York. He was not their best student. Once he teasingly told his two little sisters that when you did well in high school they used the word “flunked”, so when he came home one day and told his mother that he had flunked math, the girls greeted him with hugs and congratulated him.
“Polite” was the term most often attached to his name. It helps to be polite when you share your living space with eight brothers and sisters. And it becomes a survival skill when you are separated from your family, Archie to one relative and his two younger sisters to another, because your mother has died and your father is too ill to care for you. (His mother died from cancer and his father has a broken neck that he sustained while digging trenches along the roadside. After his accident, he spent many months in a body case.)
At the time of her death, Archie was working two jobs and attending high school. He loved his days spent on his father’s farm in Lawrenceville, a tiny village in upstate New York almost as much as the times he and his brothers spent at their dad’s hunting camp Floodwood, a speck on the map located in the Adirondack Mountains, where they hunted and fished during the fall and winter when the farming was idle. It was during those frigid winters that his sisters remember Archie bundling them up, seating them in a sleigh, hitching the horse up and driving them to church.
When the war broke out, Archie was the first young man whose number was called in the draft lottery held in nearby Lake Placid. But Archie has enlisted the previous day. On New Years Day, 1941, he told his older brother that this was a good way to start the year. It was time to move on; to see what life had in store for him. Two days later he walked to Lake Placid a few miles away, to report for his physical.
He took a train, the first time he had ever been on one, to Fort Bragg, N.C. where his politeness was put to the test training with the 39th Infantry, 9th Division.
By the middle of March, he had been assigned to Company H and proudly sent his company photograph home. There he stood, right next to the company flag, all 5’ 11”, 145 pounds of him, standing ram-rod straight and looking quite serious.
Early that summer, Archie returned home and stayed at the farm. One of his sisters took a snapshot of him standing proudly in front of their barn. That evening, as she was preparing for bed, she saw Archie, standing as comfortably as if he had been sitting, watching as the sun set. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “I’m just looking. I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again.”
On 25 September 1942 the 39th, the Fighting Falcons, boarded 5 ships and sailed out of New York harbor. On the 6th of October 1942 and about 4,000 miles later, the convoy dropped anchor in Belfast Harbor. The 39th moved to Scotland and awaited the departure of the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments from the US and their first D-Day.
The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion when its elements landed at Algeria in Ain-Taya 15 miles east of the city of Algeria on November 8, 1942. Moving swiftly the 39th defeated the Vichy-French troops and had the city surrounded.
The next three months were spent guarding communications lines along their front.
Company B picked up a new rifle platoon leader during this period, Lieutenant Charles Scheffel.
The war was not going well. The Germans were retreating but we couldn’t face Rommel’s tanks with our big guns. The units that tried that at Kasserine Pass suffered a devastating defeat.
The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, to occupy the hills on opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass which would enable the armored troops to pass through the valley without being fired on from its flanks. This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing 5 tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of 9 tanks and 2 tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.
Captain Scheffel recalled that, “On March 27, 1943, my first wedding anniversary, I took out Ruth’s picture and wished I was back in Enid. I kept thinking what a shitty place to spend an anniversary. At least we weren’t fired on during the first night, and for that, I was grateful.”
On April 1, Archie was writing a letter home. “It’s very quite here this evening. I think the war may be coming to an end.” [see p 7 of my notes-when the skirmish occurred a few days later.]
His older brother, Harold, received a telegram on May 8th, 1943 informing him that Archie was “Missing in Action”. Two days later an Army chaplain arrived at his door to tell them that Archie had been killed the same evening he wrote his letter.
He was twenty five years old; the first Saranac Lake Village soldier to die in action.
Photo: Saranac Lake’s Archie Sweeney during World War Two. Photo provided.