Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lake Placid

After New York City, we drove up to Lake Placid to visit my parents, brother and grandmother. We used to go to Lake Placid pretty regularly when I was growing up. I think one of the things I like so much about going to Whistler is that it reminds me of our trips to Lake Placid. My grandmother would rent a house that was big enough for her three children and all of the grand children. 14 in all. I vividly remember running around the Lake Placid Club resort with my cousins, spending the day down at the pool, stopping by the gift shop to buy candy and everyone dressing up for dinner and traipsing off to the big dining room at the resort each night. It was the first place I went skiing. It was where Kate said her first words and took her first steps.

In the years since, the resort went steadily down hill. Some time after the Olympics were there in 1980, it closed down and the big hotel had a series of suspicious fires. The last time we were there, there was only a small part of the once grand building left standing and this time it was all gone. Another big hole in the sky though really this is more of a hole along the shore of Mirror Lake. Leslie and I walked through the vacant lot that was once the Lake Placid Club Resort and found a bunch of remnants of the past. It was really sad to see something that was such a memorable part of my childhood completely gone.

The good news, though, is that the rest of Lake Placid is doing just fine. The downtown area (which we call "over town" since it is just across Mirror Lake) is in many ways exactly like it was back in the '70s. Some of the same shops are still there and it is just as inviting as it ever was.

Lake Placid hosted the Olympics in 1932 and 1980 - one of the few towns to ever host it twice. 1980 was one of the last times that the Olympics could be held in such a small place as well. The opening ceremonies were at the local fairgrounds (the torch is still standing there) not in some gigantic stadium. The speed skating competition was held on the High School track which was frozen over for the event. The bobsled and luge runs were left over from the 1932 event but still served their purpose well. My dad, brother and were in Lake Placid for the 1978 bobsled world championships and that was when I was really bitten by the Olympic fever. It was so much fun to hear the sleds roaring by, listening to the announcer describe their descent over the PA ("They're taking a big curve at shady.... sliding in to the zig-zag turns... they're zigging..... zagging..."). I started collecting Olympic pins that winter when there were probably 25 different pins for the whole event, not the thousands that are available today.

Lake Placid is still a big Olympic town. Many of the US Olympic teams train there year round and other events like the Ironman triathlon have adopted Lake Placid as their new home. On Wednesday, we had our own Olympic day which started at the bobsled track when we all got to ride in a bobsled for the last 1/2 of the same track I watched the championships on back in 1978. We zigged and zagged our way down and took a big turn at the end. It was very cool. Then we headed over to the Intervale ski jumping complex which is still quite active even in the summer. Freestyle ski jumpers from around the world practice there by jumping into a giant pool and they have rigged the 90m jump to allow them to practice on the big hill even in the summer. Both of these were happening on Wednesday (wet and wild Wednesdays, they call it) so we watched both of these events. I took a ton of pictures of both venues though once again, the cloudy skies made for less than ideal shooting conditions.

Perhaps he most impressive thing was one of the ski jumpers we saw on the 90m hill. She was just 11 years old but was jumping like a pro. I'm certainly not an expert but she looked great leaping off the ramp and flying down the hill, then landing and sliding out to a finish. ELEVEN YEARS OLD and jumping off the 90m hill. Dang!

We did a bunch of other fun things in Lake Placid as well, kayaking, golf, watching luge training, runs around the lake, shopping and just hanging out with family. It was a blast. Oh, and I got a few more Olympic pins for my collection :)

Remnants of the Lake Placid Club

Taking a curve


More freestyle

The 90m and 120m ski jumps


Click the link for more photos

1 comment:

Beverly said...

Wow, I read your post about the old Lake Placid Club, and it could have been my own. Back in the 70’s, when I was a kid, my family and I went in the summers. My parents met there during the winter holidays back in the 40's. My aunt lived nearby, with her second husband and their children.

I still have the scar on my finger from when I whacked it on the swimming pool. I spent hours every day at the tennis courts. I remember dressing for dinner, and even some of the wait staffs' names. I remember the cottages we stayed in, the concerts, and frost on the ground in August. I remember people like Karl Eberle, the conductor of the club orchestra, and Lorna Nash, the activities director or whatever she was. OMG, I have never gone swimming in colder water than what was in Mirror Lake. Friends took me up to the ‘proposed’ site, as it was known then, for some Olympic event.

The lady at the gift store saw me several times a day buying candy -- she seemed a little tired of seeing me. I thought "Razook's" was a funny name for a clothing store. Experience came full circle in Greenwich, CT, when my grandmother introduced me to her friends, The Razooks, in 1990. And, sadly, I never again saw "Postum" on a menu. Apparently, for a 12 year old, that’s a very funny, memorable word. “Postum”.

I wound up having a few adventures in the Agora theater. Amongst others, I remember watching Richard Nixon resign on a TV they set up in there, and climbing up the inside of the pipe organ with some friends. I got to play the organ once, and must have waked the dead. I remember some of the elderly guests sticking their heads in to see who was making the noise. It wasn't chaotic noise -- I was an apprentice organist at my home church.

I loved that place, and it was like the Twilight Zone when I returned for my mother's memorial service in 1994. We scattered her ashes from a plane over the old golf course. What remained of the main buildings was decayed, but I could still remember all the details.

It was a stunned and haunting feeling I had viewing the remains with my Dad and a friend who had never heard of the place.

I have to say, that was a day when I felt unusually old. I realized I had been a part of something that was dying away, disappearing rapidly, and it was surreal. I had never put myself in a context like that before. Even in its death, the Lake Placid Club held a new life experience for me, as it had, so often, in its twilight.