Before hosting the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, Lake Placid was an unlikely contender for the world stage.
However, with fate firmly in its favor, this small Adirondack town won both bids and made international news when the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the USSR in the 1980 games. Dubbed the "Miracle on Ice," the game ignited America’s interest in hockey and forever cemented Lake Placid in the Olympic history books – and in the minds of Olympic fans.
Even after the towering torch was extinguished, that winning spirit continued to burn brightly in upstate New York. In fact, though the population of Lake Placid still hovers around 2,500 people, the city has sent an athlete to every single Winter Olympics for the past thirty years.
And now, thanks to Chevrolet, you can easily capture a piece of that Olympic feeling. Chevy sponsors the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which puts you front and center with year-round events from the bobsled to the biathlon. Visitors to Lake Placid have the chance to try their hands at some of the most famous Olympic sports.
Lake Placid is an easy 4.5-hour drive from New York, making it perfect for a weekend road trip during any time of the year. Just keep in mind that the conditions up north can get pretty rough in winter when the curvy mountain roads get blasted with snow.
In advance of our trip, Chevy armed us with a list of winter driving tips to make sure things went smoothly: don't drive on empty, consider outfitting your car with winter tires and stock up on winter essentials, including a snow brush, jumper cables, emergency flares and a flashlight.
Once you've made it there safe and sound, here are a few activities that’ll have you channeling your inner athlete and going for your own Olympic gold.
Hunker down in the bobsled
Pump yourself up to slide down the icy track — Photo courtesy of © TalismanPHOTO/General Motors
During winter, hurl yourself down the same icy track used by Olympic racers. Strap on a hefty helmet and climb into the Chevrolet bobsled at the half-mile mark before a driver and a brakeman guide you safely across the finish line. After reaching exhilarating speeds of 55 mph, you’ll commemorate your ride with a bobsled pin, t-shirt, photos of your ride and a USA Bobsled membership.
Slide the skeleton track
This is the sled your mom warned you about — Photo courtesy of Whiteface Mountain
Described as "your childhood sled on overdrive," the skeleton has you lying face down and head first. As you slide around the track at upwards of 30 mph, there’s no denying the massive adrenaline rush that’ll go coursing through your veins. And just like the bobsled, you’ll earn a pin and a t-shirt to remember your ride.
Brave the biathlon
A biathlon contender takes aim — Photo courtesy of © ORDA/Dave Schmidt
If you’ve ever thought that shooting rifles while swiftly skiing through the woods sounded like your idea of a good time, allow us to introduce you to the biathlon. Likely the most useful of the Olympic sports (at least in hunter/gatherer times), the biathlon starts with an hour-long ski lesson and finishes up with you hitting targets out on the range.
Cross-country ski through the woods
Strap on skis for a peaceful trek through the trails — Photo courtesy of © ORDA/Dave Schmidt
This two-hour experience ends the way all skiing adventures should: in a warm cabin with a blazing fire, hot cocoa and s’mores. In addition to the toasty treats at the end, $55 will also get you a trail pass, lessons and rentals. Or, opt to buy the trail pass for just $20 and head off for the great unknown – or, you know, the clearly marked and groomed trails.
Watch ski jumpers at the Olympic Jumping Complex
A skier prepares to launch himself off the jump — Photo courtesy of © ORDA/Dave Schmidt
It may seem crazy to launch yourself off a perfectly good landing base, but that’s exactly what you’ll witness when you visit the Olympic Jumping Complex. Closed to amateur aerialists, you can watch the superhuman feats of the ski jumpers as they perform their practice runs. After getting a sense of how much courage it takes to compete in this sport, take the chairlift and the glass-enclosed elevator to the top for a sneak peek at the jumper’s view before take-off.
Skate the Olympic Speed Skating Oval
Bring your own or rent skates at the oval — Photo courtesy of Whiteface Mountain
While you likely won’t match the speeds of Brittany Bowe or Apolo Ohno, you can still take your skates for a spin around the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. In the summer (or during frigid winter days), you can opt to skate inside before warming up by the fire pits. From 4-6 pm on Thursdays through Mondays, the oval is open for speed skating, so you’ll get a chance to watch the pros take on the turns.
Tackle the moguls on Whiteface Mountain
From beginners to experienced skiers, Whiteface has something for everyone — Photo courtesy of © ORDA/Dave Schmidt
Strap on your skis or snowboard and hit the slopes on Whiteface Mountain, which boasts the greatest vertical of any lift-serviced mountain in the Northeast. Newbies can stick to one of the mountain’s many green runs while more experienced riders can head straight to the top. Throughout the season, instructors lead free mogul tours where they’ll give you tips on your mogul technique and get you comfortable skiing in new territories.
Summer at Lake Placid
Visiting in warmer weather? No worries. Chevy sponsors the games and facilities year-round and many of the Olympic activities, including the bobsled and biathlon, get overhauled for sunny skies. Summer visitors can also stretch out with yoga classes on the mountain, charge the terrain with 4x4 expeditions at Whiteface and participate in guided hiking tours, among many others.