Into the Wild: Lake Placid, Upstate New York

Freshly chilled air, snow white mountain peaks, fluffed up evergreens, icy rock faces, frozen rivers – this is the kind of nature that wraps itself around you and gives you a giant bear hug as you make your way into the Adirondacks. Road-trippin’. Five hours away from a mildly wintered NYC, the drive – along Interstate 87 and then through the scenic High Peaks 73 – feels all the more worthwhile as you catch sight of snow and ice enroute to Lake Placid.

View through a windscreen

Evergreen against everblue

Interstate driving

Skaters on a frozen river at sunset; nearly there

Located in Northern New York State, the Adirondacks are named for the high peaked mountains within the park’s wild wilderness, and the region forms part of the Northern Deciduous Forest – the largest temperate forest in the world.

The very figure, 6 million, is enough to boggle the mind, yet this is the acreage of the Adirondacks. To put this vastness into perspective, the area is larger than Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Great Smokies and Yosemite national parks combined.

The Adirondacks: rock climber’s paradise

An Adirondack mountain

Lake Placid is just one of the many villages in the Adirondacks; it is home to only 2,500 though may be better known for much grander associations – as the first North American city to host two Winter Olympics. The town may forever find it hard shake off this moniker given all of the Games references carried over from 1932 and 1980 – though why should it try to?

Olympic symbolism

It’s quite endearing to see a place so proud of its past – it’s where the US ice hockey team defeated their more seasoned Soviets rivals in a major triumph that inspired the Kurt Russell film, Miracle; it’s the site of some serious ski jump towers ~ at 90- and 120- meters high, you can ascend the tallest via elevator and see exactly what the athletes would have faced right before taking off into the air; it’s home to a major ski-area, Whiteface Mountain, whose high vertical drop showcased dare-devil downhill and alpine skiing during the 1980 Games.

Olympic Centre: scene of that 1980’s hockey game win

The ski jumps at MacKenzie-Intervale Ski Jump Complex and Kodak Sports Park, with chair lifts

(Gated) panoramic views with Whiteface Mountain in far background

The Whiteface Mountain, up close

Chair lifts, with Whiteface Mountain in far background

Another tradition making history in the area is The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival – the longest running event of its kind in the eastern US. Celebrating a 115 year anniversary this year, its Space Alien Invasion themed, extra terrestrial inspired ice sculptures are decidedly smaller than structures of previous years; not due to lack of workmanship, but more so as a consequence of a warmer winter. The higher temperatures have melted the sculptures a number of times, and rebuilding has been quite laborious; in turn, the span, shape and scope of architecture has been affected. That said, expect to freeze in your boots if visiting the installation in the evening; temps hover around 19F.

Made in America

Lit Up Ice Castle


Summertime attracts the crowds including over 8,000 second home owners ~ such a pilgrimage started in the 1800’s when the wealthy would vacate their regular city surrounds, so heated-up in the summer, and head for their Great Camps in the airy Adirondacks. Today, a prized ‘Camp’ (holiday home) on Lake Placid can set one back a few million dollars.

Lakeside living ~on Mirror Lake (seen from Main Street)

Yet there’s something about waking up to a snow covered view in the cooler months – enjoying a fresh pot of coffee first thing in the morning; feeling the warmth from the fireplace on your back; the smell of wood and pine in the air. Later, perhaps venturing out into the cool air and seeking out the best vantage points from which to see Whiteface Mountain (which conjures up images of Japan’s Mount Fuji); or, taking a stroll along the town’s Main Street, hot chocolate-in-hand, watching brave souls perform daily rituals such as walking the dogs along an iced-over and snowed-on Mirror Lake…. Or, maybe just choosing to sit in the hot tub all afternoon.

Whiteface Mountain, seen from the southern end of Lake Placid

Movies on Main

Mirror Lake

Wintertime in the mountains is beautiful, magical and pristine – I’ll save the details of a snow-fix-getaway for my next post.

A pair of Adirondack Chairs

35 thoughts on “Into the Wild: Lake Placid, Upstate New York

    • val – I hear you. At 19F, and in an Ice castle, I was not so comfortable. Though during the day, the setting is so inspiring. The sun, snow and blue skies make for such a serene scene – it was lovely to have the chance to experience it. I hope to see some snow photos from you?! Keep warm and take it as an excuse to have a cup of hot chocolate! Thank you!

  1. This is breathtaking! So beautiful and the Whiteface looks impressive! What a great trip, again 😀 I liked the idea of walking the streets with hot chocolate in hand, but hot tub won it over 😀 We had some snow again overnight and it’s a little bit chilly outside, so I think I am going to make some hot chocolate right now since I don’t have the luxury of a hot tub available 🙂

    • Thanks Kristina! I am glad you noticed the Whiteface Mountain – does it remind you of Mt Fuji? When i got back from the trip, I made parsley tea to detox! I indulged in so much good food – I needed a break! In my next post, I’ll have more details and photos on how to enjoy a getaway in Lake Placid. I hope you’ll enjoy it!

    • Thanks Adrian! It was definitely a ‘cool’ road trip – 19F doesn’t agree with me.. only in short bursts 🙂 It really is good to be in the fresh air and around so much natural beauty 🙂

  2. I have been to the Adirondacks many times in the summer (climbing trips) but not in the winter, it’s an amazing place. Such incredible beauty.
    I love the image of the skaters on the lake Marina, I guess not much snow has fallen there this winter either. Thanks for the winter perspective!

    • Hi Karen! I must convince you to go to the Adirondacks in winter. You’d have so much inspiration! It’s so beautiful and Lake Placid is definitely a beautiful setting. We were only 2.5 hrs away from Montreal – lack of time, and a lack of passport, held us back! The skaters were so hard to capture – I was FREEZING and it was the best I could take from the shoulder on a highway! I am glad you noticed them. Thank you for your lovely comment. I hope to get back in summer 🙂

  3. Marina…. I love Lake Placid! I spent many summers camping in the Adirondacks, visiting Lake Placid, hiking and riding the chairlift at Whiteface Mt. I grew up in upstate N.Y. (western), so this was one of our playgrounds! Thanks for the memories! Your photos are wonderful. You really captured the town and Olympic venues nicely. Great post!

    • That’s so cool – I am so glad to have shared these and brought back memories. I just posted again on Lake Placid – hopefully this one will evoke the same emotions! I can’t wait to visit again in summer 🙂 Thanks!

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