You can ski for free on hundreds of trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, but if you’re looking for a few more creature comforts—such as groomed trails and a clubhouse with a wood stove—check out the New Land Trust trails outside the hamlet of Saranac. They’re free, too.
The New Land Trust got its start in 1977 when some Plattsburgh State College students and friends purchased an old farm. Today the land trust is a non-profit organization that maintains twenty-eight trails (totaling about ten kilometers) on 287 acres. While skiing at the New Land Trust over the weekend with my daughter Martha, we ran into Steve Jenks, a member of the trust board who lives nearby and maintains the trails. He led us down some of his favorite routes. We saw only a few other parties.
“People, why aren’t you here?” Jenks lamented. “The skiing here is fantastic, and it’s only a half-hour from Plattsburgh.”
He told us that the trust has improved its fiscal fitness in recent years but still needs money for a new roof for the clubhouse. The trust relies on donations from the public and on membership fees ($75 a year) to cover its taxes and other expenses. (Although the trails and lodge are open to the public for free, there is a donation box at the trail register.)
Most of the trails are mellow and don’t require a great deal of snow to be skiable. On Sunday, Martha and I skied the Saranac, a very attractive trail that led us past snow-covered balsams. Saranac is one of two main routes. We then took Night Rider to Solstice (the other main route), where we encountered Steve, who led us back to the clubhouse via a number of shorter trails.
The trails are all signed. Other amenities include two lean-tos, a bunkhouse, and a nifty outhouse. You can find a trail map and driving directions on the trust’s website. Trails maps also are available the register.
Long Track Marathon Speed Skating is coming to Lake Placid on December 18th and 19th for the annual Lake Placid Speed Skating Marathon. A Marathon Skating International (MSI) and Lake Placid Speed Skating Club event, the marathon is one of several in a series of ice marathons that take place throughout North America.
The race distances include 10K, 25K, and 40K, which translates to 25 laps, 40 laps, and 104 laps skated on the 400 meter Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Skaters ranging in age from 10-80 have been known to participate, and participants are from the United States and Canada. Marathon Skating is a popular discipline in North America but even more so in Europe. A popular race in Holland, Elfstedentocht, (also known as the eleven cities tour) started the tradition of skating long distances. Marathon Racing is especially popular in Canada, and many marathons are held there; one of the most well-known is the Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon in Portland, Ontario. Lake Placid is one of the few venues in the United States that hosts a skating marathon every year.
Lake Placid Speed Skating Club will be hosting more speed skating races, the Charles Jewtraw All Around (all distances) on January 8th and 9th and the Jack Shea Sprints (sprint distances) to be announced. For more information about marathon skating and speed skating in Lake Placid, visit http://www.marathonskating.org and http://lakeplacidspeed.sports.officelive.com/default.aspx
The Wild Center and Big Tupper Ski Area are partnering again to offer skiers a great day on and off the slopes for just 15 bucks.
From opening day at Big Tupper (scheduled for this Friday December 17th) until Sunday, March 27th people who purchase either a ticket to The Wild Center or a day pass to ski at Big Tupper will get a pass to the other venue for free. Both the ski mountain and the Center have adult tickets priced at $15, and the free ticket can be redeemed for up to two weeks from when they are issued. You can buy a museum ticket one day, and hold off on the skiing until the next dump of snow or vice versa. Tickets are non-transferable. This is the second season that Big Tupper will open with support from the community. Big Tupper is opening a new chairlift to the top of the mountain that will run on Saturdays and Sundays, giving skiers and riders 1,200 feet of vertical. The Wild Center opened in 2006. It’s filled with live exhibits on the nature of the Adirondacks and has received rave reviews from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.
Both the mountain and the Center are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays all winter. The Wild Center offers Wild Winter Weekends, with a full slate of indoor and outdoor activities and presentations. The museum website hosts an outdoor webcam that shows local snow conditions.
“The community is coming together to make Tupper Lake the place to be this winter,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “It is so exciting to have two great things, so close to each other, for families to do this winter. Where else can you spend the morning on the slopes and then warm up with hot chocolate and an otter program in the afternoon. The best part is that it doesn’t break the bank.”
“Last year was so inspiring on so many levels for us,” said Jim LaValley of Ski Big Tupper. “So many people said it couldn’t be done, but we did it. The same was said before The Wild Center was built, and here it stands today. It just goes to show when people work together, anything can be achieved. We are thrilled to be working with The Wild Center again this winter.”
On Saturday I went skiing on the Burn Road in the William C. Whitney Wilderness. It’s one of those ski routes that don’t require a lot of snow, ideal for early-season outings.
My ski trip was uneventful. I enjoyed a few glimpses of Little Tupper Lake through the trees, saw lots of snow fleas and several deer beds, and discovered an unusual outhouse decorated with paintings of evergreens. When the warming snow started clumping on my skis, I decided to turn around after three and a half miles.
The state bought Little Tupper Lake and surrounding lands—nearly fifteen thousand acres in all—from the Whitney family in 1997. After the purchase, there was a public debate over whether the tract should be classified as Wilderness or Wild Forest. One of the arguments against designating the tract Wilderness—the strictest of the Forest Preserve land classifications—is that it just didn’t look like wilderness. The woods had been heavily logged and were crisscrossed with logging roads, of which the Burn Road is only one. And then there were the buildings on the shore of Little Tupper.
The anti-Wilderness folks had a point. Skiing the Burn Road is the not a breathtaking experience. The above photo of snowy evergreens shows one of the more attractive scenes from my trip. Most of the forest is skinny hardwoods. A wide road cut through a logged-over forest is a far cry from my idea of pristine wilderness.
But let’s face it: there is very little pristine wilderness in this part of world. The Forest Preserve is full of evidence of human history: abandoned woods roads, rusting logging machines, foundations of farmhouses, old orchards, even gravesites. If we were to require that Wilderness be free of all signs of the human past, we might end up with no Wilderness at all.
The aim of Wilderness regulations is not always to preserve wilderness; perhaps more often than not, it is to restore wilderness. In time, the trees will grow big, moss will cover the crumbling foundations, and nature will reclaim the old roads.
Skiing back to my car, I was cheered by the thought that in fifty or a hundred years, this wide road may be a narrow corridor passing through a forest of stately yellow birch and red spruce. Skiers of the future will thank us for restoring this place to its natural condition.
This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.
Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.
The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.
Please join me in welcoming Jeff Farbaniec as the newest contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jeff is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures. This winter, Jeff’s emphasis will be on the ski sports – everything and anything related to Adirondack skiing.
His first piece for the Almanack runs at noon today, an interview with Olavi and Ann Hirvonen founders of the Lapland Lake ski touring center in Benson (near Northville). Olavi is a former Olympian (1960 Squaw Valley) and at age 80, may be the most experienced groomer in the country. For now, check out Jeff’s blog. He recently took a look at the pre-season ski movie ritual, took the snowmaking media tour at Whiteface, and spent opening weekend at Gore.
Jeff Farbaniec lives in Wilton, just south of the Blue Line in Saratoga County, with his wife and their 2 young children.
Next weekend (December 17th-19th) world class bobsled and skeleton racing will return to Lake Placid for the FIBT World Cup Bobsled/Skeleton Lake Placid.
The event is the final event in the North American portion of races; the previous North American races have been in Whisler, Canada; Calgary, Canada; and Park City, Utah.
The competition will start with men’s and women’s skeleton events on Friday, followed by Saturday’s two-man and women’s bobsled event. The four-man bobsled event is scheduled for Sunday. This year’s World Cup event is not the only World Class Bobsled and Skeleton competition coming up; Lake Placid was recently awarded the 2012 World Championships. Although the event was expected to return in 2013, it was moved to one year earlier because of travel considerations; originally the 2012 World Championships were to be held in St Moritz, Switzerland.
But since the team will be in Sochi Russia training during the 2013 season, it is easier to travel from Russia to Switzerland than to Lake Placid. So the years were switched, and Lake Placid will be hosting the World Championships in 2012.
One of the most memorable moments in the last Lake Placid World Championship in 2009 was when US pilot Steve Holcomb led his four-man bobsled team to the first United States four-man title since 1959. Lake Placid has hosted world-level bobsled and skeleton racing since 1949, when it held the first World Championships outside of Europe. Lake Placid will also be hosting more World Cup events in 2013 and 2014.
For more information about the FIBT World Cup Bobsled/Skeleton Lake Placid visit http://www.whiteface.com/events/bobskel.php.]
A long standing Lake Placid tradition, Stars on Ice debuted the first show of their 25th Anniversary tour on Saturday. Headlined by 2010 Men’s Olympic Gold medalist Evan Lysacek and 2006 Women’s Olympic Silver medalist Sasha Cohen, the theme of the show was remembering past skaters and celebration of current champions.
In addition to Lysacek and Cohen, the show starred well-known skaters like 2006 Ice Dance Olympic Silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, 2002 Olympic Pairs Gold medalists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, two time Olympic Gold medalist Ekaterina Goordeeva (who competed in pairs with late husband Sergei Grinkov), and four-time World Champion Kurt Browning. Other cast members included 1996 World champion Todd Eldredge, 2010 Women’s Bronze medalist Joannie Rochette, and two time World Bronze medalist Michael Weiss. Stars on Ice was created in 1986 by Scott Hamilton and his agent when his contract was not renewed for Ice Capades. Since then, the show has become “the world’s premier ice show” and the only current skating show featuring a cast of Olympic and World champions. Past cast members have included Jo Jo Starbuck & Ken Shelley, Brian Orser, Kurt Browning, Paul Wylie, Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean, Kristi Yamaguchi, Ekaterina Gordeeva & Sergei Grinkov, Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, Tara Lipinski, Katarina Witt, Ilia Kulik, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier, Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze, Alexei Yagudin, and Sarah Hughes. The show has won four Emmy Awards for Choreography and Costume Design, and won an ACE Cable Award for the Best Sports Special.
The tour will resume on February 18th in San Jose, California; for more information, visit their website at www.starsonice.com.
Weekend warriors from New York City, western New York State, Massachusetts, Vermont and Pennsylvania often rise at the ungodly dark hour of 4 AM and on a frigid winter morning make the long drive to the Adirondacks. Many come not to ski down our mountains but rather to climb straight-up. What are they doing? Ice Climbing! It is a sport gaining fast in popularity.
Ice climbing can be crazy and dangerous but for the beginner, with qualified instructors and adequate precautions, the risk is minimized. To indulge one’s wild side with a day of ice climbing and a heart-stopping good time, Adirondack residents need only pile on warm clothing, pack lunch and travel a few miles to the nearest wilderness outfitter, a source of instructors. (Do call ahead first.) These instructors provide boots, crampons, helmets and axes, cinch you tightly into a harness and, upon reaching the ice, clip you to a top-rope, so serious free falling is not an option. They exhibit a world of patience, attentiveness and good humor while at the same time teaching the basics of climbing. Before shivery jitters can take over, you will find yourself, axe in each hand, kicking and chopping your way straight up what just a few minutes earlier seemed an impossibly slippery slope. Age is no excuse.
Last February, ten of us, several well into our sixties, cautiously ascended an ice sheet under the watchful eyes and tutelage of Adirondack Rock and River Guide Service instructors, Bill Seims and Lori Crowningshield. We spent an adrenalin pumping and rousingly fun day finding out why people indulge in this peculiar sport. The reason? – because to climb ice is a whacky challenge, to succeed is a thrill.
What did we learn? – first, that us older folks were just as able to participate and enjoy the crazy adventure as those considerably younger.
If you occasionally hike and are in moderately good shape, you can do this. In fact, because of the necessary “buddy system,” ice climbing can be a perfect cross-generational activity, challenging enough for older children to enjoy with a still active parent. I had the pleasure of doing this with my son, Christopher.
We also discovered several other things: that once on the ice, intense focus on the placement of axe and crampon sends fear of heights skittering away (unless you look down); prongs and ice axes, barely puncturing the surface, easily support a person’s weight; and last, carefully watching and belaying your partner, taking in the rope’s slack as he/she climbs, is as much a challenge as doing the actual climbing itself.
When first confronted with a 65- foot vertical wall of ice, some of us were gripped by an emotion best described as terror. However, top-roped, and with clear directions, each managed to overcome fear and climb, climb again and then, with enthusiasm, climb several more times. With each trip up the ice, understanding of technique grows, less exertion is required and the ascent becomes more fun.
What a way to practice team-building. What a satisfying accomplishment. What a high we experienced at the end of the day. Some got hooked and plan to go back again; for others, just pushing the comfort zone was empowering, a reminder of how we can often do far more than we realize.
After hours of climbing, we declared it a memorable day, one destined to be a highlight in our collection of memories. When looking for adventure, Adirondack residents should think about this great opportunity, one which exists conveniently close to home.
Getting a group together, rather than going by yourself, will lower the price. A day on the ice will cost no more than an evening on the town. For information on how to pick a guide, go to http://www.usmga.net. To find instructors, Google “Adirondack ice climbing instruction”.
Saranac Lake resident and freelance writer Caperton Tissot writes a shared weekly “Friends and Neighbors” column in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. She is also the author of two books on her own Snowy Owl Press, History Between The Lines, Women’s Lives and Saranac Lake Customs (2007), and Adirondack Ice, A Cultural and Natural History (2010).
Officials from the Village of Lake Placid, the Town of North Elba, the Town of Wilmington, the New York State Olympic Development Authority (ORDA) and the Lake Placid CVB, and the Whiteface Regional Visitors Bureau have announced that they will host the 2011 Empire State Winter Games, which were canceled this week due to state budget cuts.
According to a statement from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation on November 16, the summer, senior, physically challenged and winter Empire State Games were canceled after being cut from the 2011 budget. The 31st annual Empire State Winter Games were scheduled to be held in February 2011 in Lake Placid. The website for the games has already been removed. The cancellation led to discussions among community leaders about a solution that would allow the Games to resume as scheduled this winter according to an announcement issued today by the Lake Placid CVB. Representatives from the Towns of North Elba and Wilmington, the Village of Lake Placid, the Lake Placid CVB and the ORDA made a joint decision Wednesday evening to work cooperatively to ensure that the games would continue according to the announcement.
“We’ve made this decision on behalf of the greater Lake Placid region, just as Lake Placid decided in 1928 to pursue the 1932 Olympic Winter Games during the Great Depression, ” said Mayor Craig Randall. “This situation is actually an opportunity for Lake Placid, as it jump-started our existing plans to convene a leadership committee that will facilitate programs to support the communities’ sustainable future.”
“We’re pooling all of our collective talents, and are prepared to aggressively pursue funding to make this happen,” said James McKenna, President of the Lake Placid CVB. “We have already and will continue to communicate closely with the former Empire State Games staff to guarantee a rewarding experience for our New York State athletes.”
The event will be held on the weekend of February 25, 2011, and includes competitions in the disciplines of alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ski jumping, ice skating and more.
The Wild Center will host Wintergreen, a conversation about the future of winter recreation, sports and culture in the Adirondacks on November 12th at 9am at the NYSEF Building at Whiteface Mountain. Wintergreen is an open forum to discuss how climate change will effect the economy and cultural life in the Adirondacks.
Attending will be a delegation from Finland who will give their perspective on the way climate change is effecting Finnish culture and way of life. Community leaders, athletes, business owners and others concerned about the future of the winter culture of the Adirondacks should join in the discussion and sharing of how important winter is to our lifestyle and economy. Best labeled climate disruption, planetary warming is already impacting traditional winter and summer recreation and economic opportunities in the Adirondacks. From shortening the period during which ice covers Lake Champlain and mountain lakes permitting fishing shacks to spring up, to inadequate snow cover for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and certain alpine sports, a shift in expected weather patterns is beginning to affect us and eventually the bottom line. $92 million of tourism income in Essex County in 2009 was earned between December 1 and March 31 that year.
This is the first of two visits from the Finns to the Adirondacks. The team from The Wild Center, including community members, will visit Finland in 2011. These first round of exchanges are focused on education, while the second round will focus on forests and economic issues. During and after each visit, there will be community outreach, lectures and workshops as well as sharing with the online community through the Internet.
Wintergreen is a jointly funded effort. It is part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of State through the Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA) program of the American Association of Museums (AAM). The project, entitled “Connecting Finnish and Adirondack Communities: Science Museums Facilitating Awareness and Action on Climate and Energy” is being conducted in partnership with Heureka/The Finnish Science Center. The forum is also sponsored by the Tourism Task Force of the Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan (ADKCAP), through a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. ADKCAP is a coalition of about 30 universities, business organizations, community development groups, nonprofits, local government agencies, and energy action organizations around the Adirondack North Country region working with facilitation support from The Wild Center to find energy savings and green economic opportunities that fit the local lifestyle.
The purpose of the project is to facilitate an exchange of experiences between local communities in Finland and the Adirondacks, discussing community learning and action on energy saving, climate issues, and “green” practices supporting the regions’ commitment to sustainable tourism. The goal of the project is to help communities served by The Wild Center and Heureka to exchange experiences and discuss the need for more information related to climate and energy action. Participants and their communities will have an increased understanding of the global nature of the problem and shared commitment to solutions.
Communities around the northern world are seeking ways of participating in climate change action reducing carbon and saving energy locally. They are starting to notice changes in the climate that may affect their winter cultures, lifestyles and economies. In the two regions participating in the project, science centers and museums are facilitating that exploration and raising awareness of why action is important.
“We’re looking forward to the upcoming Finnish delegation’s visit and their perspective for Wintergreen,” said Stephanie Ratcliffe, Executive Director of The Wild Center. “Our environment is similar to that of Finland. In many ways our cultures are often closely tied to our experience of winter and outdoor recreation, which is changing. Wintergreen will be an open discussion of ways we anticipate changes in our winter culture and recreation and understand the effects of climate change.”
Spaces are limited for Wintergreen, but a few spaces remain. RSVP for this event online at www.wildcenter.org/wintergreen.
The Adirondack Ski, Snowboard & Snowmobile Spectacular, a three-day event dedicated exclusively to winter sports, will be held at the Adirondack Sport Complex (The Dome) in Queensbury, NY (at Northway, Exit 18) this weekend, October 29, 30 & 31.
The Spectacular was established to provide information, education and entertainment, according to event organizer Jeff Fraser. The event features a combination of exhibits, hands on demos, feature areas and thousands of products and services for skiers, snowboarders & snowmobilers including Fashion Snow Shows, Tubby Tube Rides, A BMX Park, Rockwall and The Sky Riders Aerial Show. The highlight of the weekend for many is the 12,000 square foot Giant Ski, Snowboard & Snowmobile Swap, an opportunity to turn your old equipment into cash, or find great deals on “previously enjoyed” snowmobiles, skis, boots, poles, boards, clothing or accessories. If you have equipment to sell, it can be dropped off at The Adirondack Sports Complex (The Dome) today until 8 pm or tomorrow, Friday October 29th between 8 am and 2 pm. Your equipment will be catalogued, tagged, and you’ll receive a receipt.
Sellers will need to return to The Dome on Sunday October 31st between 3 pm and 6 pm to see if your gear has sold. Unclaimed or abandoned items will be donated to a local charity.
Admission: A one day General Admission is $7.50; Children under 10 admitted free with paid adult admission; A three day admission is $9.00. All carded High School race team members get in “free” Friday, October 29th 4 pm – 9 pm with one paid adult admission.
For additional information, contact 518-743-1086 or 518-371-6363 or visit their website at www.adirondackskisnowboard.com.
The first week of October figure skaters hoping to qualify for Sectional and National competition arrived in Lake Placid for the first North Atlantic qualifier of the season, the 2011 North Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championships.
Throughout the United States, regional qualifiers for each region of the country are held, and whoever qualifies can compete at either Junior Nationals (a National event for Juvenile-Intermediate level skaters), or the Sectional Championships, for Novice-Senior competitors. From Sectionals, skaters hope to qualify for the US National Championships, a high profile event that heralds the arrival of new rising stars in figure skating.
Once a skater consistently qualifies for Nationals, he or she often receives international assignments and can qualify for the Olympic Games or the World Championship through the National Championships. Other non-qualifying categories offered at the Regional Championships included Open Juvenile and Pre Juvenile boy’s and girl’s events, allowing skaters to gain experience in regional competition before reaching qualifying levels.
Figure skaters from the Skating Club of Lake Placid and the Saranac Lake Figure Skating Academy competed at the Regional qualifier representing several different levels. Two members of the Skating Club of Lake Placid have qualified out of the regional championship- Luke West, in the Intermediate Men category, and Brandon Amaral in the Juvenile Boys category. Both will be representing the Skating Club at the US Junior National Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah this December. Several other local skaters qualified for the final round in their respective level including Lindsay Yamrick, who placed 1st in the Open Juvenile girls category and Elena Gonzalez Molinos who qualified for the final round in Juvenile girls.
Photo: Local skaters who competed at the 2011 North Atlantic Figure Skating Championships (John Eldridge Photo).
Christie Sausa is a figure skater and speed skater writing about winter sports from Lake Placid, NY. Her internationally recognized blog Lake Placid Skater is the leading source of competitive Lake Placid ice skating news and information.
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