Posts Tagged ‘Lake Placid’

Monday, October 1, 2007

Adirondack Snowmobile History, Part One

The snowmobile (or more generally, motorized snow travel) owes it existence to early developments in the motorized tractor, automobile, and motorcycle industries. In 1907, the year the future father of the modern snowmobile Joseph-Armand Bombardier was born, a “high speed motor sleigh” was featured in Popular Mechanics magazine. It had the body of touring car on skis but was propelled by a spiked wheel. “The motor sleigh is making slow progress,” the article’s author noted, “but will some day become a very popular form of sport.”

By 1912, a plethora of motorized sleigh prototypes appeared in the magazines pages. They included a half track, and a converted motorcycle. Among the most popular were those that used a large propeller for propulsion. Although dangerous and useful only on wide trails or open ground, the areo-sleighs avoided many of the problems spiked wheels and skis had with deep or wet snow. (As a side note, Adgate Schemerhorn of Ausable Chasm was rescued by an areo-sleigh after spending nearly two weeks in a snow-covered Idaho wilderness in 1943).

Ray Muscott of Michigan was issued a Canadian patent for his motor sleigh – “traineau automobile” in 1915 and the following year received the first American patent for an early snow vehicle design that included a tread belt and steerable skis mounted on a stock truck chassis.

Several others produced copies of a similar design, but the first snow vehicles that were produced in any numbers were Model A Fords converted by New Hampshire garage owner and auto dealer Virgil White. He started selling his “snow mobiles” to the general public in 1923 and sold some 25,000 before his factory burned in 1928. Although the new snowmobiles were used primarily for business – by mail carriers, doctors, logging and utility companies, farmers – as early as 1926 there was a race on a frozen Wisconsin lake attesting to the fun they could be put to. One of the first owners of a snow mobile in the Adirondack region was W.J. Dickinson, who was giving rides to his Willsboro neighbors as early as February, 1925.

In the 40 years from the birth of motor-sleighs until the advent of modern snowmobiles around 1960, snow vehicle design generally stuck to the large unwieldy halftrack type, and there were few of them. While there were more than 64,000 automobiles registered in New York in 1935, there were just 64 snow mobiles. Presumably several of these found homes in the Adirondacks – the New York State Conservation Department had some in the 1940s – but they were generally ignored by the local press. One notable exception was in 1932 when a snowmobile owned by the Gould Paper Company was sent in a blinding snowstorm to retrieve a lumberjack who had fallen from his sleigh while trying to get a runaway team of horses under control. Edward Hines, 65, was caught under the runners of the log filled sled and seriously wounded about 28 miles into the backcountry from McKeever. It took three hours to reach the lumber camp and another three to bring Hines into McKeever – unfortunately, he didn’t survive.

Another snowmobile milestone was met in 1938 when Olympic bobsledder J. Hubert Stevens, of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Commission announced that he was “experimenting with a snowmobile with which to negotiate the mountain in winter.” According to press reports of the time, Stevens hoped to use the homemade snowmobile to carry sightseers and skiers to the top of the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway during the winter. The Ticonderoga Sentinel described the vehicle:

The machine is minus wheels in front, large skis with eight inch blades being used instead. A tractor device gives it impetus… Stevens said that the machine will do 10 miles per hour in the accent and 35 miles coming down.

In January, after a few attempts to break the trail which made it up two of the eight miles to the top, Stevens abandoned the attempt and return to his workshop to make repairs. Figuring that the rear track was not wide enough he added eight inches to each side and headed back to the mountain three weeks later. This time, with local policeman Lester Beane onboard (the cab could hold eight) the made the top.

In Part Two we’ll explore the development of the snowmobile we know today and the role played by the burgeoning motorboat industry in bringing it to market.

Read the entire series here.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Local Olympic Hero Jack Shea: Camels Relieve Fatigue

Behold, Jack Shea, local Olympic hero declares in this classic ad that Camel cigarettes “relieve fatigue.” Now we know how Shea became the first Olympian to win two gold medals in the same Olympics – a feat he accomplished during the 1932 games at Lake Placid. The ad is courtesy of www.weirdomatic.com (via Boing Boing).

According to wikipedia:

Shea chose not to defend his Olympic titles at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the request of a Lake Placid rabbi for it would be in poor taste to be so “over-zealous.”
One wonders what role the Nazi Olympics controversy had in the rabbi’s urgings.

Shea twice served as the Olympic Regional Development Authority chair. From 1958 to 1974, he was a town justice, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1983 he was the supervisor of North Elba.

His son, Jim Shea, Sr., was a 1964 Olympian in Nordic skiing and his grandson, Jim Shea, Jr. was a 2002 Olympic skeleton gold medalist.

Jack Shea carried the Olympic torch into Lake Placid in 2002 but was tragically killed in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver just before his grandson won the gold.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

ORDA: Lake Placid / Whiteface 2007-2008 Events

From ORDA’s recent press release:

The season will commence with World Cup luge. After a one-year absence, the world’s top sliders return to the two-time Winter Olympic village Nov. 15-18 at the Olympic Sports Complex. A brand new men’s luge start, to be constructed this summer at the track on Mt. Van Hoevenberg, will be employed for the first time in a major event. Under the banner of the International Luge Federation, races in men’s and women’s singles, doubles and the team event are on the Lake Placid slate.

One week later, Olympic gold medalist and skating legend Scott Hamilton will bring Smucker’s Stars on Ice back to the Olympic Center for the national debut of his 2007-08 tour. It will take place Saturday, Nov. 24, in the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena.

The International Federation for Bobsleigh and Tobogganing has a World Cup bobsled and skeleton event on the Lake Placid course from Dec. 10-16. Men and women will compete in a total of five events down the mile-long, 20 turn chute of ice.

Athletes in these sports will continue to enjoy ORDA’s continuing efforts to protect the course from inclement weather as roofing will be added to more curves during the off-season.

In January, the scene changes to Whiteface and the Olympic Jumping Complex for three freestyle skiing events scheduled for Jan. 18-20. The International Ski Federation as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association will conduct World Cup moguls on the Wilderness trail at Whiteface Jan. 18 and 20, while aerial skiing will occur on Jan. 19 at the jumping site in Lake Placid.

Whiteface skiers and riders will be counting down the days to the mountain’s 50th birthday celebration, officially on Jan. 28. But in reality, the party will last for weeks. It begins Jan. 25 and continues with theme weekends until March 8-9.

The Junior Luge World Championships will be contested back at Mt. Van Hoevenberg from Feb. 4-10 as the future stars of this exciting sport negotiate Lake Placid’s difficult track.

February also brings the annual Empire State Winter Games, where New Yorkers compete on the same 1980 Winter Olympic sites. Over 1,000 athletes will converge on the community Feb. 22-24.

March, in many years the best month of winter, maintains the pace with World Cup snowboarding at Whiteface March 1 and 3. The schedule brings snowboardcross to the Boreen trail on Saturday, while parallel giant slalom returns on Monday along Draper’s Drop.

The North American Series Alpine Skiing Finals will be held at Whiteface March 12-16, featuring up-and-coming skiers from the U.S., Canada and abroad.

The final major event is on tap March 22-23 when the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena hosts the NCAA Men’s Div. III Ice Hockey Championships.

In addition to these headline events, during the 2007-08 season, ORDA will present:

• Continental Cup women’s ski jumping Aug. 29-30

• International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix Skating Aug. 30-Sept. 2

• Flaming Leaves Festival Ski Jumping Oct. 6-7

• Masters 90 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 29

• NY Ski Educational Foundation 120 Meter Ski Jump Dec. 30

• U.S. National Bobsled Championships Dec. 30-Jan. 6

• ISI Figure Skating Competition Jan. 17-19

• Continental Cup Skeleton Races Jan. 22-28

• Lake Placid Loppet Citizens Cross Country Ski Race Feb. 9

• Harlem Globetrotters Feb. 19

• New York State High School Alpine Skiing Championships Feb. 26-27

• Masters Alpine Skiing Regional Championships March 6-9

• International Bobsled and Skeleton Drivers School March 16-29

• Adult National Figure Skating Championships April 8-13


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Adirondack Council Releases "State of the Park" Report

From John Sheehan, Communications Director for The Adirondack Council, we recently recieved the Council’s 21st annual State of the Park Report. You can view and download a low-resolution version from their website at www.adirondackcouncil.org.

According to Sheehan:

State of the Park is a non-partisan report card on the political decisions and actions that had the greatest impact — good or bad — on the health and well-being of the six-million-acre Adirondack Park over the past 12 months. You will find that State of the Park is the most detailed and comprehensive annual environmental review produced for any park in the United States. However, it is written for a general audience, not scientists, making it a useful tool for environmentally minded voters.

The Adirondack Park comprises 20 percent of New York State’s total land area. It has only 130,000 permanent residents, but hosts nearly 10 million visitors a year. The park contains 90 percent of all roadless Wilderness from Maine to the Everglades.

In furtherance of the Adirondack Council’s goal of holding public officials accountable for their actions, the Council doesn’t accept public grants or taxpayer-funded donations of any kind.

We know the Council has had its absolutley crazy moments – like when it supported Bush’s “Clear Skies” b-shit early in his first term.

Remember this, from Bush’s visit to help clearcut Whiteface?

I also call for new clear skies legislation, to set new tough standards to reduce air pollution. For decades, New Yorkers have been fighting acid rain. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments helped reduce the problem. And now we should do more at the Federal level. Some of the biggest sources of air pollution are the powerplants, which send tons of emissions into our air. Therefore we have set a goal: With clear skies legislation, America will do more to reduce powerplant emissions than ever before in our Nation’s history.

Sure folks, clear [ahem] skies.

Anyway, while they certainly disappointed us then, the Adirondack Council actually spends time and energy trying to protect the Adirondacks – for that they deserve our thanks.


Monday, August 28, 2006

A Weekend in the Adirondacks

Every Monday the blogsphere includes a few blogs about travels to the Adirondacks. For your reading pleasure we have two from this summer. Check out Big Daddy – Hubba Bubba’s trip from Rochester to Hadley Mountain by way of Little Falls:

“Saturday, Dylan woke up in a massively bad mood (see lower left photo). We all hiked up to the Fire Tower at Hadley Mountain. Not a bad little hike of 1.8 miles in each direction with an elevation climb of a little more than 1000 ft. It is a very rocky climb. I carried a 32 lb child in a backpack up this little mountain. It was brutal but extremely satisfying once we got to the peak. The firetower is really cool and there were delicious wild blueberry bushes all over the place. We had a nice rest and Dylan had a great time. The view is spectacular from the peak and is in the photo of us with Dylan in the” backpack.

And on a more poetic note, a Philly transplant to New Jersey takes on Mount Jo:

Breathing in pine and sweet damp earth
Sweat pouring down to foster my rebirth
Heart crying out to escape my chest
Pleading with Katie for “one more rest”


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

With Pipe and Book: Will Lake Placid Lose The Adirondacks’ Best Book Store?

Although it was reported a couple weeks ago by NCPR, Tigerhawk reminds us that With Pipe and Book, a landmark Lake Placid book store is closing next year after 29 years. We quoth:

While looking around I overheard a conversation between another customer and the cashier, and when my son had finally succeeded in herding me to the register I asked the cashier if what I thought I had overheard was true. Yes, she said. Breck and Julia Turner, proprietors, were retiring and the store will be closing next summer. It was sad news, but I was heartened to hear that, if the store must close, it is the choice of the owners and not due to lack of business or escalating rents. I will miss it terribly, and after it is gone my family will find me far less interested in driving the 35 miles from our quiet lakeside camp to the touristy streets of Lake Placid.

For those who love books and/or tobacco and have reason to be in the region, I strongly recommend you drop by With Pipe and Book in its last year of existence, and enjoy a very special store. It is located at 91 Main Street, Lake Placid, New York, and can be called at 518-523-9096.

A very special store indeed – the Almanack wishes them well. Their moving on points-up us how important local business is, particularly in this case to local book publishers and writers like the late Barbara McMartin who no doubt sold quite a few copies out of Lake Placid.

Three of our favorite local history and culture bookstores:

Owl Pen Books in Greenwhich, Washington County, NY

HOSS’s Country Corner in Long Lake, Hamilton County, NY

Old Forge Hardware, in Old Forge, Herkimer County, NY


Suggested Reading

The “Edge” of Humor and Other Stories of Lake Placid People


Monday, July 31, 2006

The Convention Center Parade Marches On

In March. the Adirondack Almanack reported on the proposal to build another Convention Center in Lake George. We pointed out that its been long understood by people who bother to look that:

a highly critical report on the convention industry for the Brookings Institution… found that various factors such as industry consolidation, telecommunication advances and rising energy costs have contributed to a nearly 50-percent drop in convention attendance since the late 1990s. But meanwhile, more than 100 U.S. cities completed or began construction of convention centers, increasing the supply of available exhibit space by more than 50 percent.

Now New York State has given $20 million to a convention center in Lake Placid and the Lake George Forum owners have offered to “expand their facility into a full-fledged convention center with an exhibition hall, ballroom and parking deck to be operated by a new public authority.” We can only hope they use similarly wacky design prinicples.

Once built, Lake George Venture Partners, owners of the Forum, would either sell the facility to the authority for $13.5 million or lease it for $775,000 annually, under a proposal to be presented to the Executive Host Committee of the Warren County Board of Supervisors at 1:30 p.m. Friday [July 28] at the Warren County Municipal Center.

Hmmmm… we wonder who makes out on that deal – certainly not the taxpayers of Warren County we’ll bet.


Monday, March 6, 2006

Warren County Convention Center – Another Round of Corporate Welfare?

Last week the Warren County Board of Supervisors voted to establish a “public” Authority which would use occupancy tax money to purchase the former Gaslight Village (who can resist humming the tune… “Gaslight Village, yesterday’s gone today). The $5.4 million property, owned by the Charles R. Wood Foundation, would be used for another convention center. Back in the day it was a railroad yard up the line from the Lake George [ahem] Spanish Colonial style D & H Train Station:

Back to 1998, the Albany Business journal, bastion of the coporate press and ignoring the more than half million dollar annual shortfall of the Glens Falls Civic Center, reported dutifully in an article entitled ” ‘Tin Box’ is all that’s needed for some conventions” that:

“Economically, the only way our community is going to grow is by lengthening the [tourist] season,” said Robert Blais, mayor of the village of Lake George. “The only way to do that is to make a suitable building to house the organizations we presently have coming to Warren County, as well as others who may want to come here.”

At his urging, Blais said, Warren County recently allocated $100,000 to the project, and a new convention center committee was charged with hiring a firm to conduct a marketing study to determine whether a center is feasible anywhere in the county. The spot favored by many interested in the project is Lake George, which already has proven itself to be a draw for the county.

Then we had:

Delays mean not only lost time, but lost money, however. “Warren County is surely losing millions every year by not having some sort of tin box–a rudimentary, simple convention center,” said William Dutcher, president of Americade Inc., a week-long motorcycle touring rally held in Lake George each year.

Dutcher pointed out that car clubs, motor home clubs, sports-oriented groups and regional conventions all would be attracted to the area if a facility were built to accommodate them.

Well that all worked out well for Blais and now we have the entirely architecturally incongruant and almost utterly useless tin box that’s design draws on Lake George’s lengthy local history of Greco-Roman vernacular architecture – the Lake George Forum – well that’s useless except for the local news fluff pieces on Zambonis, and events like Hockey, Bounce-A-Palooza, Hockey Camp, the Teen Dance and Bounce-A-Palooza Party, Hockey, another Brewfest, another Adirondack Living Show, more Hockey.

And still the convention center cowboys ride on…even in the face of the facts. Metroland this week [get it while it last – they still don’t have permalinks] is featuring a report on the proposed Albany convention center (stand back Jim Coyne):

‘Few cities learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of any others,” says Heywood Sanders, a professor of public administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In January 2005, Sanders became a focal point of frustration for many elected officials with their eyes on projects like the one in Albany, when he authored a highly critical report on the convention industry for the Brookings Institution, a public-policy think tank in Washington, D.C. Sanders found that various factors such as industry consolidation, telecommunication advances and rising energy costs have contributed to a nearly 50-percent drop in convention attendance since the late 1990s. But meanwhile, more than 100 U.S. cities completed or began construction of convention centers, increasing the supply of available exhibit space by more than 50 percent. This growing gap between supply and demand, concluded Sanders, “should give local leaders pause as they consider calls for ever more public investment into the convention business.

Pause be damned:

Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, who proposed the public authority operate
the Civic Center as well as the proposed convention center, said the county
could receive word from the state before legislative session wraps up in June.

Glens Falls Mayor Le Roy Akins Jr., Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais and Town Supervisor Lou Tessier all expressed support for the idea Wednesday.

Blais, however, conditioned his support on the inclusion of the Lake George Forum on the list of venues the public authority could operate, saying he’s concerned the Forum could suffer from competition with the authority-run venues.

“The Forum could suffer from competition” – do you think so Mr. Blais? According to Metroland:

Recently built or expanded convention centers in major cities (and tourist destinations) including Baltimore, San Francisco, St. Louis and Portland, Ore., all have failed to approach the number of booked conventions proposed in their initial feasibility studies, while new facilities scheduled to open in Boston, Omaha, Neb., and various other cities across the nation have struggled to prebook enough events to fulfill expectations. Like gamblers who refuse to leave the table, many of these cities have found themselves locked in one expensive, risky convention-related investment after another as they try to make up for their earlier losses.

Across the nation, the cycle has followed a similar course: New facilities are built when consultants report that the existing facilities are outdated, existing facilities are expanded when consultants determine that the current facilities are no longer adequate (the standard life cycle of a convention center is only 15 to 20 years) and massive hotels are constructed when neither of the two former plans generate the predicted financial windfalls.

So folks… does Warren County join the bandwagon – again? Maybe this time it can have publicy funded classic Adirondack Egyptian architectural details.

UPDATE 4/5/06: Maury Thompson at The Glens Falls Post Star (get it while you can) reports, in one of the most blatant examples of advocacy journalism we’ve seen in a long time, that even though convention centers are in the works for Lake Placid, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, Lake George, Saratoga Springs, Albany, and who knows where else, well, they are just a good idea. Thompson asked the opposition – well – nothing – they didn’t figure in his idea fair and balanced reporting.

UPDATE 4/24/06: Another entry from the folks at the Post Star – this time from a more balanced Madeline Farbman. The jist? Warren County is moving ahead despite long held desires from the local water quality folks to return the Gaslight Village site to a filtering wetland (get it while you can).


Thursday, February 9, 2006

Another Wal-Mart On The Way – To Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks

The rumors were persistent, probably a sign that the deal was already done behind closed doors. Wal-Mart is coming to Saranac Lake and it’s going to be a big Supercenter: 121,000 square feet. “The Wal-Mart Supercenter would be considerably larger than the building Ames used to occupy ­– larger even than the entire plaza in which the building sits,” reports the Plattsburgh Press Republican:

In a news release, Philip Serghini, the retail giant’s public affairs manager, said, “Wal-Mart very much wants to become part of the Saranac Lake community so that consumers in the area can benefit from everyday low prices.

“We hope to design a store that is in keeping with this unique community.”

Whether Saranac Lake is as eager for Wal-Mart to join the community depends on who you ask.

Some cheered the news Wednesday evening, saying the arrival of Wal-Mart would finally bring to Saranac the kind of low-cost retail store it has been without for too long.

Others fretted, saying it could cripple local businesses and, in doing so, ruin the character of the community.

Saranac Lake and Lake Placid have both fended off Wal-Mart in the past. The nearest Wal-Mart stores are in Plattsburgh and Ticonderoga.

There will be a fight:

Mayor Tom Catillaz learned of Wal-Mart’s announcement from a reporter [a-hem… sure he did]. He, too, balked at the size.

“I really need to wait to see what their plans are,” he said. “Hopefully they’ve got plans for a smaller store.”

Mark Kurtz, whose Sound Adirondack Growth Alliance has kept a close eye on the issue, said the organization would have to learn more about the proposal before issuing a strong opinion.

Oddly enough, Carcuzzi car-repair co-owner Bob Bevilacqua (an owner of land that Wal-Mart is looking at) actually believes that “having a Supercenter here will keep tax dollars in the community.”

Who exactly is he kidding, beside himself? Apparently he’s done NO research on the costs of these Supercenters – goodbye local business, hello low wage jobs supplied with benefits from county services, hello New Jersey like development, goodbye tourism.

Good luck Saranac Lake – some resources are here.

UPDATE: An anonymous reader points us to a new blog: Adirondack Wal-Mart. A recent excerpt:

Does Saranac Lake need a large retailer? Sure it does. Do we need 121,000 sq ft of stuff for sale? Well it seems that could be a point of compromise. Would a downtown location for a retailer be a better option? Certainly a question deserving of an answer. Can the people of Saranac Lake, it’s towns and counties work together to find the answers? One would hope so.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Historic Lake Placid Lodge Burns – Lost Hikers – Adirondack Brain Drain

Three items for your Adirondacks fix today:

Photos of the Adirondack Lodge fire from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

The resort was built in 1882 as a private residence. In the 1950s, he said, the residence became the Lake Placid Manor and was later renamed the Lake Placid Lodge. It is currently owned by David and Christie Garrett, who also own The Point, another resort lodge located on Upper
Saranac Lake.

» Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rich and Famous in the Adirondacks?

The Adirondack Almanack was at the the Brass Ring in Bolton Landing (now closed thanks to the overzealous local [uh-hem] police) when Tupac came in and hung out. Another rapper, DMX, had been a frequent visitor there as well.

Shania Twain and her husband / record producer “Mutt” Lange [pdf- page 21], and George W. Bush both destroyed some of the park near Lake Placid a few years back.

Now there comes a report that Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie were spotted near Old Forge – if they’re trying to get away from the low-life attacks of the too much time in front of the TV crowd, we hope they make out better than current local celebrity Rachael Ray.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

We like beer…

Especially good local beer. Lake Placid Pub and Brewery’s UBU (as in “sit Ubu sit”) is an extra special favorite. We’ve always been a fan of the Saranac Brewery, though we were terribly distressed when regional favorite Utica Club left the shelves in droves. Sure Saranac is keeping the old F. X. Matt / Utica brewery operating, but Utica Club was a classic! So it’s with great hopes and anticipation that we look forward to the return of the old greats in a retro beer revival.

We’re glad Yuengling is back, but we still fear for Genny, and the now lamented 12 Horse Ale.