Posts Tagged ‘winter sports’

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Synchronized Skaters Perform in Lake Placid

Despite a snowstorm, approximately 2,300 figure skaters, along with their coaches, parents, and friends, poured into Lake Placid for the 2011 Eastern Synchronized Figure Skating Championships. A qualifier for the National Championship, skaters from as far north as Maine and far south as North Carolina competed in the Olympic Center February 3rd through 5th.

Changes to the schedule were made due to the storm; Thursday night the competition lasted until early Friday morning (around 1 am).

In the Senior Championships, the well-known Haydenettes team based in Lexington Massachusetts placed first. They are the reigning National Champions. For more information about the Eastern Synchronized Figure Skating Championships, visit usfigureskating.org.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Long Time Saranac Lake Resident Phil Wolff Passes

Philip George Wolff, 95, a Saranac Lake resident and florist for decades and an Adirondacker well known for his public service and wry wit, died Thursday February 3, 2011, at his western home in San Diego.

Phil, as he was known to friends and several governors, was the oldest living licensed bobsled driver, the chief of staff of the 1980 Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, and the proud founder of the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum. He achieved State Historical Site recognition in 2009 and National Historic Site recognition in 2010 for the 1932 Mt Van Hoevenburg Bobsled Run. Phil’s hand-restored 1921 Model T nicknamed “Jezebel” was donated to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.

Phil was a veteran of WW II, serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in the South Pacific from 1943 to 1945. At the end of the war, he was among the troops sent to occupy Japan, where he and several fellow soldiers on an assignment there just six days after the atomic bombings that ended the war saw a road sign for Nagasaki, and out of curiosity, detoured into the heart of the destroyed city and took photos of one another at ground zero. The adventure became one of the many stories of his incredible life that Phil loved to tell, showing the snapshots that proved it. He received the Purple Heart, Silver Star and other citations before returning to Saranac Lake and a reunion with his wife Elsie (Hughes) Wolff, who had built up their business during the war years and given birth to their first daughter, Cynthia, during his absence. Phil served an additional 17 years as an Army Reserve officer, starting an Army Reserve unit at Paul Smith’s College. He retired with the rank of Captain.

Born in Buffalo on October 19, 1915, he attended Cornell University where he was a member of the ski team and met his wife of 70 years. Another of his favorite stories was of the night he was playing bridge with classmates, discussing whom they were going to invite to an upcoming campus event. When a fellow card player said he was going to invite Elsie Hughes, Phil excused himself from the table the next time he was dummy, went to a phone and asked her himself.

Phil, who earned the money for college by selling furs he trapped on his way to and from high school, took a year off from college for his first job, that of designing and constructing Saranac Lake’s Riverside Park in 1937, before graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in landscape architecture in 1938. Elsie gave him an ultimatum — he could be a farmer without her or a florist with her, and they were married in 1940, opening and operating a greenhouse in Ray Brook that year and a florist shop in Saranac Lake called Wolff Your Florist, which closed in 1981, having delivered thousands of distinctive white corsage boxes to young women over the decades.

Phil became an early 46er in 1940. He loved hiking the High Peaks (in moccasins) with his scouting friend Frosty Bradley. Adirondack Life magazine published his memoir of those trips and his meetings with hermit Noah Rondeau in the April/May, 2010 edition, making Phil, then 94, perhaps the oldest author to have an article published in the magazine, complete with photos he took of Rondeau. He was proud of his paycheck from the publication.

Phil was active in the community, serving as president of Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. He was a member of the Town Board of North Elba, Chairman of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival, a member of the Northwood School Board of Directors, the Saranac Lake Golf Course Board of Directors, He also was the Treasurer of the Cornell Alumni Association Class of 1938 (until his death), and a founding member and treasurer of AdkAction.org, an Adirodack advocacy group founded in 2006 when he was in his early 90s. He was elected Town Justice of the Town of North Elba in 1960 and served for 16 years, performing many marriages including those of his children. He was seen during Winter Carnival over the years with other Rotarians as Miss Piggy, among other caricatures. In San Diego, California where he and Elsie took up winter residence in 1987, he enjoyed serving turkey to the “older folks,” most of whom were younger than he, at the Poway Rotary Thanksgiving Dinner for Senior Citizens.

Phil was an Eagle Scout and member of Troop 1 in Barker, NY, where he returned in 2010 to bestow the Eagle badge on their latest recipient in August, 2010. He founded the first Boy Scout Troop in Saranac Lake in 1939.

Phil was a member of the 1976 and 1980 Winter Olympic bid committees. In 1978 he was appointed Chief of Staff of the 1980 Winter Olympic Organizing Committee, a position he held until the LPOOC’s closure in 1987, volunteering his time during the last three years of that assignment. He also served as chief of the Security Committee for the 1980 Games. One of his proudest accomplishments was being the founder and president of the 1932 and1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympic Museum, where he remained on the board until his death. He was inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 2002.

Phil will be remembered by family and friends for his generosity and thoughtfulness, his ability to fix anything, his love of golf with his friends, the intricate ship models he constructed in bottles, his broad thinking about solutions for the Adirondacks he loved, his bad jokes, his love of his alma mater, his collection of Olympic and Adirondack books and memorabilia, and his love for his wife and family. His favorite saying was, “Isn’t it nice to have the WHOLE family together.”

Phil is survived by his wife Elsie, his children Cynthia of LaJolla, CA (Bill Copeland); David of Ridgefield, CT and Saranac Lake (Holly); and Steve of Poway, CA (Stephanie) as well as grandchildren Dj, Stephen, Alex, and Andrew.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lake Placid Skating, Skiing Events

More skiing and skating will return to Lake Placid next weekend.The 29th Annual Lake Placid Loppet, a series of Cross Country Ski races, will be held on February 5th. Hosted by High Peaks Cyclery, this event draws hundreds of skaters from across the US and Canada and consists of a 50 kilometer Loppet (30.1 miles) and a 25-kilometer Kort-Loppet (about 15 miles). More information can be found online.

Also coming to Lake Placid on the same weekend, the Eastern Synchronized Championships will be in town February 3nd through 5th. More than 2,300 skaters from 150 teams from throughout the eastern United States will be competing. The top four finishers in the senior, junior, novice, intermediate, juvenile, collegiate, adult and masters divisions will move on to the 2011 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, March 2-5, in Ontario, Calif. The event is organized by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Skating Club of Lake Placid. For more information, visit http://www.lakeplacidskating.com/newsite.

Christie Sausa writes about national and international winter sports and blogs at Lake Placid Skater.

 


Friday, January 28, 2011

Lake George Winter Carnival Celebrates 50th Year

By the light of a full moon, Bob Heunemann pushed a broom across the ice to prepare a track for the speed skaters who would race on Lake George the next day.
As secretary of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce, such labors might have seemed to some to lie outside his job description. But the occasion was a special one. Lake George was to host its first winter carnival in more than thirty years, and the skaters would be among the best in the country.

The spirit that animated Bob Heunemann fifty years ago continues to this day. Through years of unpredictable weather, fickle sponsors and changes in leadership, the Lake George Winter Carnival has endured and grown. Whenever it appeared as though it might be canceled for lack of interest, someone has stepped forward to give it new life.

This year, the Lake George Winter Carnival will honor all those volunteers who have helped make the carnival a success over the past fifty years.

“The volunteers know that the winter carnival brings visitors to the area at a time of year when the lights wouldn’t be on otherwise,” said Lake George Village Mayor Bob Blais. “They also know that events like the Winter Carnival draw residents from their homes and provide opportunities to work as well as have some fun together, making ours a stronger community, one more unified and better able to address the challenges ahead.”

The salute to the volunteers will take place at the Carnival’s annual dinner, to be held at the Georgian on January 28. Music will be provided by Bobby Dick and the Sundowners.

The carnival itself will kick off on Feb. 5 with celebrations in Shepard Park and a Gold Anniversary parade down Canada Street.

This year’s Winter Carnival builds upon fifty years of events.

The speed skaters whom the Chamber brought to Lake George were the International Silver Skates, Olympic contenders and team members from the U.S. and Canada. But local skaters also participated. Winners included Joanne Stafford and Nancy Earl.

Prominently featured in 1963 were Jerri Farley and Howard Bissell, a figure skating act that, according to local papers, “has won plaudits throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia, where they gave a command performance for King Saud of Saudi Arabia.”

Carnival celebrity Charlie “Papa Bear” Albert’s predecessor was a veterinarian from Westport, NY, Dr. Robert Lopez. He was the founder and sole member of the Adirondack Polar Bear Club.

Harness racing was held under the auspices of the Lake George Horse Racing Association. Jack Arehart had reintroduced the event to the area in 1960, when he sponsored races on the Hudson near his Thousand Acres resort. But Lake George had a history of harness racing that dated back to 1915. By the 1930s, the village was a capital of the sport, with purses of sufficient size to attract racers from throughout the country. Hotels and restaurants capitalized on the events, but so did homeowners, who built barns to stable the horses. Some can still recall a horse named George Washington who collapsed and died on George Washington’s birthday.

We not only had a horse racing association, we had the Adirondack Ice Yachting Association. Comprised of six Yankee and three Skeeter class boats, they raced along the lake at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. A few of these still survive, and when the lake is sheeted in black ice, you can see them whipping across the lake.

The Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament, so named by Albany Times-Union columnist Barney Fowler, made its debut in 1968. By its second year, when Mickey Sinto of Frontier Village defeated 150 competitors, the event was attracting national publicity. A few years later, Bill Dow drew international attention when he established a world’s record by driving a golf ball 865 yards down the lake.

In 1983, Gene Mundell designed a vehicle that could be attached to skis and propelled across the ice. That was the first outhouse race.

“The criteria was very specific; the vehicles had to be real outhouses,” recalled Nancy Nichols, whose restaurant, Mario’s, defeated Lanfear’s restaurant that year.

Over the years, new events have been created and some older ones retired.

This year’s Winter Carnival features a combination of both the old and the new. Events will be held every weekend in February in Shepard Park.

A complete schedule of Winter Carnival events is available online.

Photos: Yankee class Ice boats, speed skaters, hot rods, Bill Dow sets a record. Photos by Walt Grishkot

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Synchronized Skating Returns to Lake Placid

More than 2,300 skaters from 150 teams throughout the eastern United States will compete at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid during the 2011 Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships, Feb. 3-5.

The event, which was last held in Lake Placid in 1998, is a qualifier to the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. The top four finishers in the senior, junior, novice, intermediate, juvenile, collegiate, adult and masters divisions will move on to the 2011 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, March 2-5, in Ontario, California.

Organized by the Olympic Regional Development Authority with the Skating Club of Lake Placid, and sanctioned by U.S. Figure Skating, the event will feature teams from as far south as North Carolina to as far north as Maine.

Synchronized skating is the fastest growing discipline of figure skating. Teams consist of eight to 20 athletes, each moving as one flowing unit. Each team performs a free skating program made up of required formations and footwork sequences with emphasis on precise movements, unison of team members and creativity. Junior and senior level teams will also perform a short program.

Tickets for the 2011 Eastern Synchronized Team Skating Sectional Championships are $15 per day for adults and $12 for juniors and seniors. Teams to watch include world silver medalists, the Haydenettes (senior); world junior team alternates, the Lexettes (junior); national champions, Ice Mates (novice); national bronze medalists, the University of Delaware (collegiate) and national champions, Esprit de Corps (adult).

More information can be found online.


Monday, January 24, 2011

US Skiers Fare Well at Freestyle World Cup

Despite the chilly weather this weekend, US skiers heated up Whiteface Mountain with excellent performances at the Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup.

On Friday gymnast turned skier Ashley Caldwell surprised all by winning gold in the Aerials competition. Her second jump, a double flip, scored an impressive 99.93. Ryan St Onge, the reigning World Champion, placed second behind China’s Guangpu Qi. Vermont’s Hannah Kearney dominated the moguls competition, winning both days and skiing cleanly to capture another gold medal. Kearney is currently the overall World Cup leader.

For the Men’s Moguls Competition, Guilbaut Colas of France won the gold, his second in two days. World Cup moguls competition will continue next weekend in Calgary, AB. The next location for competition will be the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, UT for the World Championships Feb. 2-5. The World Championship Team will be named Jan. 31.

NBC and Versus will be broadcasting the Nature Valley Freestyle Competition. NBC’s coverage is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 29, at 2 p.m., and Versus’ coverage is slated to begin at 3 p.m., Saturday. Versus will also air coverage of the event, Sunday, Jan. 30, beginning at 2 p.m. For more information, check your local listings.

For full results, check out this website.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup at Whiteface

Friday January 21st through Sunday January 23rd Whiteface Mountain will host the Nature Valley Freestyle World Cup Competition. In addition to being the only World Cup event in the United States, the competition will also serve as a qualifier for the US Ski Team’s World Championship team.

Some notable US Aerial Athletes competing in the event include 2009 World Champion Ryan St. Onge, and surprise 10th place finisher in the Vancouver Olympics Ashley Caldwell. The participants for the United States in the Mogul competition will include reigning Olympic women’s moguls gold medalist Hannah Kearney and 2009 World Champion Patrick Deneen. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tupper Lake Fire and Ice Golf Tournament

The Tupper Lake Rotary and Lions clubs have joined forces to create a new and unique event in Tupper Lake: The Fire and Ice Golf Tournament. The event will be held in the Tupper Lake Municipal Park and on Raquette Pond on Saturday, February 12.

Organizer Doug Wright is hoping the new event will peak the interest of both locals and visitors. The event is designed to be a family day open to golfers and non-golfers of all ages. All proceeds will benefit the community giving of the Rotary and Lions clubs.

One of the golfing events planned that day between noon and 4p.m. is a miniature-putting contest on a small 9-hole course fashioned in the snow. Organizers are also planning a chipping contest, where the best wedge and sand wedge shots will win contestants merchandise prizes.

Black golf balls, designed to stand-out on the ice, have been ordered for all events, including the Fire and Ice long drive contest. A giant bonfire on the ice will be built to warm the golfers.

A 3-hole course will be built on the pond to challenge golfers. The committee will be soliciting sponsors for the various flags used on the various courses that day in upcoming weeks. “It’s something new for Tupper Lake, and we’re excited about it,” Wright said.

Helping the local Rotarians organize the event are Lions Club members Tom LaMere, Mike Dechene and Dan McClelland. Club members from both community organizations will help staff the event. County Legislator Paul Maroun has signed on as grand marshal of the day’s events.

The Lions Club will have its food and beverage concession dug out and dusted off for the weekend and P-2’s Irish Pub will have a satellite venue set up to dispense beer and wine.

For more information contact Doug Wright at 359-3241 or [email protected]


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skating, Skiing in Lake Placid

Skating and skiing are the hot events this week in Lake Placid. Last weekend, speed skaters flocked to the Olympic Speed Skating Oval to participate in the second of the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club Racing series, the Charles Jewtraw All Around.

Named for the first Winter Olympic Games gold medalist Charles Jewtraw, the oval hosted approximately 45 competitors from the US and Canada, competing in four different events throughout the weekend. For complete results, visit www.lakeplacidoval.com.

The Lake Placid Ice Skating Institute (ISI) Championships is taking place this weekend at the Olympic Center. Hosted by Ice Skating Institute, which is “an international industry trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice skating industry”. ISI also promotes the sport of figure skating for recreation and hosts several competitions annually. The event is fun to watch, especially because of certain events such as synchronized skating (several skaters skating in a group together) and artistic, which emphasizes artistry. For more about ISI, visit their website www.skateisi.com. For more information about the Lake Placid ISI Championships, visit www.riverdaleice.com.

Skiing will be taking over Whiteface Mountain January 13th-15th for the St Lawrence University Winter Carnival, in which skiers from the Northeast and Canada compete in cross country skiing. For more information, visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clarkson University Researching Luge Sled Design

Two engineers from Clarkson University will work to design a faster, more aerodynamic sled for the United States Luge Team, which it hopes to use at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Mechanical engineering professors Douglas G. Bohl and Brian Helenbrook will use computer models and wind tunnels to speed up the sled and reduce drag.

Bohl got involved after his now 13-year-old son tried out for the USA Luge development team last year. While traveling to the luge track in Lake Placid with his son each weekend, Bohl met sports programs director and two-time Olympic medalist Mark Grimmette, at which point he proposed the idea for a research project to reduce aerodynamic drag on the sled.

“We’ve wanted to do this for years, but did not have the resources,” says Gordy Sheer, director of marketing and sponsorship for USA Luge. “We also needed someone who understood the sport and its nuances.”

“As athletes become better, equipment plays a bigger part in winning,” says Bohl. “I don’t know if there’s a ‘silver bullet,’ but I think we can make a difference.”

Luge is the only Winter Olympics gravity sport measured to 1/1000th of a second, so very small changes in drag can greatly affect times.

“We’ll build a computer model of a sled with a slider on it, compute the drag, examine the flow going past and finally put an actual sled in Clarkson’s wind tunnel to make drag measurements,” says Bohl.

Eventually, a sled will be built based on the Clarkson team’s research and taken to the low speed (sub-sonic) wind tunnel at the San Diego Air and Space Technology Center where USA Luge sleds are tested.

“We’re looking for evolution, not revolution,” says Sheer. “The Clarkson team will be looking at the aerodynamic shell and aerodynamic shape of the sled as a whole.”

Placid Boatworks, a custom canoe shop in Lake Placid, N.Y., builds the pods or shells, which act as a seat for the athletes. The kufens, which are the bridge between the steel runners and the pod, are hand carved from ash and wrapped in fiberglass.

“There is lots of artistry in luge sled design,” says Bohl. “Art will direct you to good solution through natural selection, but basic sled designs haven’t changed in 10 to 15 years. Scientists and engineers might be able to bring some new ideas into play.”

Bohl, Helenbrook and their team of students will receive no monetary compensation for their research.

“We won’t get technical papers or money out of this, but we’re helping the U.S. team,” says Bohl. “That’s a cool benefit of being at a University. It’s a lot of fun to do projects like this and Clarkson’s location near the Adirondacks and Lake Placid gives us the opportunity. We’re really excited.”

Photo: Douglas G. Bohl (right), a Clarkson University engineering professor, discusses luge design with Gordy Sheer, a 1998 Olympic silver medalist in luge and director of marketing and sponsorship for USA Luge.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

World Cup Freestyle Returns to Lake Placid

Ski fans will have only one chance to see the world’s best aerial and freestyle skiers compete in the United States this winter when the FIS Nature Valley World Cup freestyle World Cup returns to Lake Placid, Friday through Sunday, Jan. 21-23. The Lake Placid event is the only World Cup in the United States and will also serve as a qualifier for the U.S. ski team’s world championship squad. More than 140 athletes from 19 countries are expected to compete in the three-day event.

So far Chinese skiers have dominated both the men’s and women’s aerials fields. Zongyang Jia is currently the top ranked men’s aerialist, while his teammate, Guangpu Ql, sits in second place. Canada’s two-time Olympian Warren Shouldice is third overall.

Ryan St. Onge (Fraser, Colo.) will lead the U.S. aerial squad. St. Onge has won five-career World Cup aerial events and is also the 2009 world champion.

The Chinese women sit 1-2-3 in the women’s aerial World Cup rankings with Mengtao Yu leading the pack. Xin Zhang follows her teammate, in second place, while Chuang Cheng holds down the third place spot.

Lake Placid, New York’s Ashley Caldwell is expected to compete for the first time this season in Friday’s women’s aerials event. Caldwell finished a surprising 10th during last February’s Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Hannah Kearney (Norwich, Vt.) and Patrick Deneen (Cle Elum, Wash.) will headline the U.S. mogul team’s lineup. Kearney is the reigning Olympic women’s moguls gold medalist, while Deneen carries the title of 2009 world champion into the event.

Both athletes should be pushed from a very deep international field. Deneen sits in second place in the current men’s mogul standings, behind France’s Colas Guilbaiut and ahead of Canadian Mikael Kingsbury, who’s third overall. Deneen’s teammate and reigning Olympic bronze medalist, Bryon Wilson (Butte, Mont.), is in fourth position.

Kearney currently leads the overall women’s moguls World Cup points chase, but right behind her are two Canadians, Jennifer Heil, a two-time Olympic medalist, who’s in second place and Kristi Richards, who is in third place. American Heather McPhie (Bozeman, Mont.) is also hoping for a strong performance in Lake Placid.

Aerial action at the Olympic Jumping Complex begins Friday at 9:45 a.m. with the women’s qualifying round, followed by the men’s qualifying round at 12:25 p.m. The finals begin at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the gate the day of the event, $15 for adults and $9 for juniors and seniors. Mogul competition, at Whiteface, begins both Saturday and Sunday at 9:15 a.m. A lift ticket and skis will be required to view the moguls’ competition at Whiteface. For more information about the FIS Nature Valley World Cup freestyle World Cup, visit http://whiteface.com/events/freestyle.php.

Visit www.facebook.com/lakeplacidevents to enter to win a weekend trip to Lake Placid to see the Nature Valley Freestyle Cup, including a two-night stay at The Pines Inn, two dinners, lift tickets and VIP event credentials. The winner will be notified on Friday, Jan. 14, after 5p.m.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Free Speed Skating Event in Lake Placid

The Lake Placid Speed Skating Club Race Series continues this weekend with the Charles Jewtraw All Around. The event if free, and spectators are encouraged to watch the live speed skating races on the Olympic Oval.

Named after local speed skater and 1924 Olympic Champion Charles Jewtraw, the event encompasses four races; the 500 meter (1 lap and a straightaway); the 1,000 meter (2 and a half laps); the 1500 meter (3 and ¾ laps); and the 3,000 meter race (approximately 7 laps).

The skater who performs the best in all four races will be the winner in their age categories. There are 11 age categories, from under 6 years old, to 79 plus. Saturday will start with the 500 meter and 1500 meter, and Sunday will conclude with the 1000 meter and the 3000 meter.

For more information, visit the registration site at www.lakeplacidoval.com.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Upcoming: Ski Jumping, New Year’s Eve Skate Party

There are a couple of great winter sports events this New Year’s Eve week. The Olympic Regional Development Authority and NYSEF will be hosting their annual New Year’s Masters Ski Jump and the NYSEF Nordic Combined and Ski Jump on December 29 and 30 at the Ski Jumps in Lake Placid. Daily admission to the ski jumping events is $14 for adults, $8 for juniors/seniors while children 6 and under enter free. Snacks and beverages will also be sold by Centerplate at the base of the chair lift. For more information, visit orda.org.

Skate into the New Year on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid- there will be a skating party to benefit the food pantry on New Year’s Eve from 10:30 pm until 12:30 am. Bring your figure, hockey, or speed skates and enjoy free refreshments. Admission is five dollars, and students with a valid student id get in free. Skaters are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate. For more information, visit their event page

Christie Sausa writes about national and international winter sports and blogs at www.lakeplacidskater.blogspot.com


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Adirondack Ice Harness Racing

In the late nineteenth century, ice harness racing made its Adirondack debut, becoming a major winter sport which flourished well into the 1940s. Ice racing used to attract large crowds. Today, however, it seems that knowledge of it has quietly slipped from our historical grasp.

The Franklin Malone Gazette‘s “Horsemen’s’ Column” from January 29, 1897 captures the excitement surrounding these races in an article about Saranac Lake: “In spite of the cold weather last week the ice races were decidedly ‘hot’ in more senses than one. The bracing Adirondack air seemed to give the enthusiastic horsemen a tremendous appetite for – well, for refreshments of all kinds – and the many hotels of the town were thronged during the evening with hundreds of hungry and thirsty sports who seemed to enjoy themselves with a zest and vim seldom encountered at summer races.”

How did ice harness racing gain such popularity? In the late nineteenth century, most people owned one if not more horses which were muscular, accustomed to cold weather and used to hauling farm equipment, sleds and coaches. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, bred primarily for racing and jumping, were expensive and of little value for the average Adirondacker who needed practical work horses for transportation and chores.

Frozen lakes offered perfect and easily accessible sites for racing. One need only plow the snow away to create a level track. No clearing of woods and rocks was needed.

A ten foot-wide track shaped like a kite was the most popular shape. This consisted of a large triangular kite-shaped loop, either a half- or full mile-long, on which the actual race was held. A smaller loop, attached where the kite track came to a point served for warming up and later slowing down the horses. The course looked something like a lopsided figure eight.

Judges sat on one side where the loops came together; the spectators stood or sat in grandstands on the other. From this vantage point, watchers could sit close to both the start and finish of the race.

Horses were sharp-shod, meaning they were outfitted with special studded shoes (already in use for ice harvesting) called calks. Horses pulled both sulkies and “Portland Cutters,” though eventually, when it was discovered that wheeled sulkies were slightly faster than sleds, the use of cutters declined.

Racing associations set rules and monitored the races. Purses ran from around 50 to 250 dollars per race, excellent money in the late nineteenth century. Was betting taking place as well? Indisputably. Clarence Petty, who attended the races as a child, recalled that a fair amount of gambling was part of the grownup scene.

For smaller events, most of the participants came from a distance of not much over twenty miles; for larger events, horses were shipped to the site by boxcar.

Encouraged by special reduced railroad rates, spectators flocked to these events from as far away as New York City. Crowd sizes were impressive, numbering anywhere from 400 to 4,000 spectators. To get a feel of the action, imagine standing on the ice, all bundled up, stamping your feet to keep warm, a frigid wind lashing your face as you listen to the drivers snap their whips and urge their horses on. Through icy eyelashes you try to focus on the action as the crowd’s roar reaches a fevered pitch. At the same time, no doubt, you may be looking forward to returning to the welcome warmth of both a hot stove and drink at the end of the day.

According to the New York Times, 14 December 1894, “[There] seems to be more dash and spirit to [harness racing on ice] than there is to the hauling of a bicycle sulky over a dirt track.”

Such was the excitement of this winter entertainment. Anybody for bringing it all back?

Caperton Tissot is the author of Adirondack Ice, a Cultural and Natural History, published by Snowy Owl Press.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christie Sausa: Ice Marathon, Bobsled Reports

Lake Placid hosted two events last weekend; the Lake Placid Ice Marathon on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval and the FIBT Skeleton/Bobsled World Cup at the Mt Van Hoevenburg track.

The Lake Placid Ice Marathon, one of the races in the Marathon Skating International Series throughout North America, hosted approximately sixty skaters.

The race distances were 10 k, 25 k, and 40 k, (which equals approximately 25 laps, 60 laps, and 100 laps), and skaters from the US and Canada competed. The two fastest skaters, Sergio Almeralla (Canada) and Jim Cornell (Rochester, NY), dominated all three distances, with Almeralla placing first and Cornell placing second.

Germany was dominating throughout the World Cup events and the first two days of the FIBT Skeleton Bobsled World Cup in Lake Placid, but the United States’ “Night Train” dashed that winning streak with a victory on the 19th. Steve Holcomb led his team to win the event with a time of 1:48.01, which was .58 seconds faster than the next fastest sled.

The gold medal was their first since the first world cup of the season in Whistler, British Columbia. Coming in second was the Germany-1 team of Maximillian Arndt, Rene Tiefert, Alexander Roediger and Martin Putze with a runner-up time of 1:48.01 total. Canada-1 placed third with driver Lyndon Rush and his crew of Justin Wilkinson, Cody Sorensen and Neville Wright, with a solid 1:48.63 time.

Two other US sleds piloted by local athlete John Napier and rookie Ethan Albrecht-Carrie, finished 8th and 10th respectively. The FIBT Bobsled and Skeleton World Cup tour will resume Jan. 10-16 in Igls, Austria.

For complete Lake Placid Ice Marathon Results, visit http://www.mylaps.com/results/showevent.jsp?id=619644; and for more information about the US Bobsled and Skeleton World Cups, visit the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation home page at http://bobsled.teamusa.org/



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