February 2018 - SNOW & ICE
Create Your Own Winter Olympics
By Darryl Caron
The Winter Olympics only comes around every four years, and as you start watching the Pyeongchang Olympics on TV you’re going to get an itch to get out and demonstrate your own skills. This is why I’ve created a special Winter Olympics Fever itinerary for those who want to have a playful competition among family or friends in upstate New York.
Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding – Hitting the downhill slopes is one of the best choices that best reflects the Olympics. Download an app, such as Ski Tracks, to record your entire day on the hill and compare your mountain experiences with your friends. Visit Whiteface to get a firsthand view of the ski trails used in the slalom, giant slalom, and downhill events during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
At Gore Mountain, you can explore New York’s biggest ski resort, and ski and ride 110 trails – on nine sides of four unique peaks! For cool ski areas, go to Willard, Maple Ski Ridge or McCauley, for outstanding ski schools, affordable programs, great snowmaking, night skiing and rentals.
Freestyle Snowboarding or Skiing – The ski resorts offer a wide range of jibs, jumps, half pipes and other features in the terrain parks – and with all this new snow there’s lots to do! Gore has nine different park areas, so discover what’s best for your ability and work your way up. Check out the half pipe, Upper and Lower Sleighride, Wild Air, Pot Luck, Jibland and their freestyle glades – Forever Wild and The Trench!
For ages 10 and under, Gore has a Mini-Shredders Jibfest on Feb. 11 for some great ride-on features to get kids warmed up for the big parks. Gore’s boarder/Skiercross is open to the public to play on at the Ski Bowl from Thursday to Sunday. Their next USASA Boarder/Skiercross event is Feb. 19, so participate or spectate. Create a friendly competition that demonstrates different ways to approach and execute tricks on these features.
The Whiteface park features terrain for all levels looking for a little airtime, but concentrates on their high level intermediate and lower level park users. For the first time, they offer the Bronze trail at Kids Kampus with a mini halfpipe and a couple of wide flat boxes to test the water. Ski/boardercross riders should head over to Wolf and Wolf Run to see their mini park and cross course that’s designed for all abilities with options for advanced riders and rollover features for newbies. Their biggest jumps and longest rails are on Broadway and Brookside. The Whiteface Airbag allows enthusiasts to practice their tricks before taking them to the park.
Nordic Skiing – Many Americans have some trouble grasping the different types of Nordic Skiing. Maybe it’s because “Nordic” skiing is an umbrella term for the disciplines of cross country, biathlon, ski jumping and Nordic combined. If you’re an Adirondack Sports reader, you’re probably comfortable with the metric system and spandex onesies – so pay attention because we have good chances to win some medals!
In our backyard, you can cross country ski at Nordic centers and enjoy the peacefulness of quiet forest setting. Visit Garnet Hill, Lapland Lake, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Gore, Dewey, Cascade, Pineridge, Osceola Tug Hill for daily groomed, track-set trails, warming lodges, rentals, sales, lessons – all family-friendly affordable. Ski up and downhill, skate or classic, for a super aerobic workout. NYSSRA Nordic offers racing options statewide for all ages and abilities.
Biathlon, “the one with the gun,” combines skiing and target shooting. Discover biathlon is offered at Mt. Van Hoevenberg – one of the few places you can learn about it and experience being a biathlete. You can take a ski lesson or just join them on the range to zero in your shooting skills on the Olympic Biathlon Range. Saratoga Biathlon Center is another option for instruction.
Speed Skating –The 1932 Lake Placid Olympics saw the first female skaters (demonstration only); after WWII they were withdrawn again, until a full return in 1960. The Sheffield Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid is most famous as the site of Eric Heiden’s legendary five gold medal performance at the 1980 Games. The oval is open the season for speed and ice skating, citizen races are regularly scheduled, and rentals are available so get up there.
Short Track is the sister sport to Long Track speed skating with 4 to 6 skaters on an ice hockey rink. It was a demo sport at the 1988 Calgary Olympics and full Olympic in 1992. The Saratoga Winter Club offers free Learn to Skate training sessions on Feb. 13 and 15. SWC will host the 2018 Short Track Age Group National Championships in Saratoga Springs on March 23-25. It’s the largest U.S. competition, and an opportunity to meet US Olympic short track speed skaters – fresh from South Korea!
Curling – Born on the frozen bogs of Scotland 500 years ago, curling is now attracting followers worldwide with a simple appeal: it’s the rare Olympic event that anyone can imaging becoming go at. Want to know how it feels to throw 42 pounds of granite down a sheet of ice? You can be a rock star and try curling during two Winter Olympic open houses in Albany and Schenectady.
The Albany Curling Club open house is Friday, Feb. 16 from 6-9pm, Saturday, Feb. 17 from 10am-4pm, and Sunday, Feb. 18 from 10am-4pm. The Schenectady Curling Club open house is Friday, Feb. 23 from 6-9pm and Saturday, Feb. 24 from 9am-4pm. The open houses include all equipment, on and off ice instruction, so wear gloves, wear warm, comfortable clothing (think layers) and bring clean, rubber-soled athletic shoes. Advanced registration is recommended but walk-ins are welcome as space permits. They’re open to ages five to adult. Olympic leagues are forming.
Bobsled – If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to be an Olympic slider, the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience is the place to start. Led by a professional driver and brakeman, you’ll begin at the half-mile point on the track and wind through turns known by sliders around the world. Feel the rumble of the sled thundering down the track, speed through one turn, bank high on the next one, and pick up speed on the straightaway. The experience includes a bobsled lapel pin, team photo and T-shirt.
Not Olympic Sports, But Fun Anyway
Fat Biking – You’ve seen them on trails, equipped with 4” and 5” wide tires; fat bikes certainly make an impression. In snowy conditions with low tire pressure they float on surfaces where normal mountain bike, cross or road tires would sink. And fat biking helps keep you in great riding shape all winter long. For rentals and sales, check out High Peaks Cyclery, Placid Planet Bicycles, Grey Ghost Bicycles, Rick’s Bike Shop, Tomhannock Bicycles, Bike Barn and Berkshire Outfitters.
The fat bike scene is one of the most welcoming. Take the fourth annual Saratoga Fat Bike Rally on Feb. 10 with guided rides, races, challenges, and rentals from Grey Ghost Bicycles. All, at Spa Park’s warming hut, with a nice fire and food/drink. The Farmer’s Fatty Rally on Feb. 17 has rides, short course race, demos from Steiner’s Ski & Bike, and includes lunch/beverage – held at Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont.
The Garnet Hill Fat Bike Festival is on Feb. 25 in North River with tours, fun contests, delicious lunch, and demos by Grey Ghost Bicycles. Events include Rogers Road and 13th Lake guided tours, plus a Downhill Challenge that will zig zag through a groomed trail and Hill Climb Challenge – all ages welcome with great prizes! The day will end with live music, bonfire, soup and chili.
Snowshoeing – If you can walk or run, you can snowshoe! To get prepared, visit Adirondack Mountain Club in Lake George or Lake Placid, or outfitters including Mountainman Outdoors, High Peaks Cyclery and others for rentals and sales. ADK offers guided hikes in the Adirondacks or visit a nearby state park while there’s snow on the ground. Area cross country ski centers also offer wonderful, dedicated snowshoe trails, including Lapland Lake, Garnet Hill, Mt. Van Hoevenberg, Cascade, Pineridge, Osceola Tug Hill – with rentals or sales available. NeviTREK has handmade snowshoes that are great for hiking, plus running and walking.
There are a number of terrific, welcoming snowshoe races on the calendar, which welcome runners and walkers. Highlights include Camp Saratoga 8K, Natural Stone Bridge Caveman 6K, Brave the Blizzard, Woodford Whiteout 10K, Garnet Hill 10K – and the US Snowshoe Champs. The Adirondack Snowshoe Fest, hosted by Dewey Mountain and Paul Smith’s College VIC – one year after hosting the World Snowshoe Champs, will be on Feb. 24-25 with weekend offerings for runners, walkers, tourers – plus bonfires, hot chocolate, and food/drink offerings. Dion Snowshoes, with loaners available at many races, are probably used by more runners than all the others combined.
Tubing or Tobogganing – Even though tubing is not an Olympic sport, it is one of the more exciting offerings for kids – and adults – at Maple Ski Ridge and Willard. For kids, tubing birthday parties and groups gatherings are popular, especially during the President’s Week school holiday.
The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute has been in operation since the 1960s. The newly replaced 30 feet high slide sends toboggans with two to four people down ice covered chutes onto frozen Mirror Lake. Depending on conditions, toboggans can travel over 1,000 feet on the lake surface. Families often say their visit to the chute was a highlight of their winter weekend or vacation.
While in Lake Placid, visit the Olympic Museum to learn more about the Olympics and the region’s rich winter sports history, including the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey game.
Spectator Sports – If you are not into actually doing or competing, but want to see some live action up close, then check out organized games or races every weekend. See our Calendar of Events listings for scheduled competitions.
Enjoy the hoopla surrounding the Pyeongchang Olympics, and the passion and devotion of the athletes from around the world, but since you’re a sports enthusiast yourself get outside and go for your own winter glory!