an insider's guide to off-hill hot spots
Lake Placid locals and longtime visitors can effortlessly explain why they eagerly anticipate the first snowfall, why their best days are the chilliest days, why rosy cheeks and a cup of hot cocoa mean time well spent, why their first memories are on ice or snow ,and why they call themselves winter enthusiasts. Most mention Whiteface Mountain as part of their traditions and adventures. It's a short drive from Lake Placid and famously known for its 3430' vertical.
With unmatched Adirondack scenery, 87 trails and a robust snowmaking network, days at Whiteface Mountain are invigorating, exhilarating and filled with accomplishment—from sore legs brought on by venturing down new terrain to the pure excitement of making a first turn. The devoted and passionate will also tell you that frosty temperatures are easily remedied by warm socks, a toasty fire or a fresh pour of locally crafted beer, and clicking out of ski boots is far from the finish of winter exploration in Lake Placid.
Those who have an appetite for endless activity can swap out one set of skis for another at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Home to the 1980 Olympic cross country skiing competition, the winter wonderland has impeccably-groomed trails for first-timers, recreational skiers and the seasoned athlete, lined by pine trees often coated by fresh snow. The venue highlight is Josie's Cabin, a woodland retreat nestled amidst the 50 kilometers of terrain that serves up hot beverages and s'mores to be enjoyed in front of the roaring bonfire.
Sunshine, snow and freezing temps
In the sunshine, snow and even freezing temperatures, frozen Mirror Lake replicates a scene from a snow globe, buzzing with pick up pond hockey games, toboggan rides, cross-country skiers, dogsled rides and snowshoers—all encircled by snowcapped peaks. For leisurely activity, a cleared path circles the perimeter, and—for those seeking spirited competition—plowed pond hockey rinks are ready for action, nets and all. On a second path, dogsleds towed by seven Alaskan huskies and steered by a musher at the rear carry bundled up passengers. Adventures on the lake also call for toboggan chute rides down the 30 foot high slide that sends riders onto the frozen lake. If the goal is to sip rather than skate, Top of the Park boasts a remarkable view of the action on Mirror Lake, and to warm the belly, offers Hot Toddys and mulled cider that pair perfectly with the small plates, including a divine truffle mac and cheese.
Downtown Lake Placid
Grab a Bite
Charming Main Street runs parallel to Mirror Lake and on winter afternoons and evenings, the sidewalks are typically bustling with aprés ski shopping, dining and happy hours. The street is lined with delicious dining options and specialty shops, many featuring Whiteface Mountain-inspired products. Sweet and savory treats are readily available, and early risers can grab a brown sugar, brie and apple crepe at Big Mountain Deli before hitting the slopes, or the Whiteface-named sandwich for lunch. Big Mountain keeps it close-to-home featuring a menu of 46 incredible sandwiches named for the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Park. Temptations serves up gourmet hot chocolate to counter the chill and sells locally-sourced cheese and flavored olive oils. Having lived on Main Street for almost 20 years, Adirondack Chocolates is a staple and dessert lover's dream, creating small batch, artisanal chocolates.
Opened in 1926, the Palace Theatre is an icon in downtown Lake Placid including the marquee that is still updated manually via a ladder. Affectionately referred to by locals as "the Palace," the movie theater not only offers reprieve from the cold but is a throwback with 1920's patterned walls and a pipe organ. After 90 years, the owner and operator still collects tickets and welcomes patrons at the door.
The perfect Gifts
Tucked next to the theater is Mary Ballou Design, a quaint stationery store selling note cards, greeting cards, journals, invitations, place cards, and calendars, each carefully crafted with a simple yet elegant design that begins as a graphic image. Her product line is Adirondack-inspired, featuring prints including the quintessential Adirondack Chair, a mountain silhouette, pine and birch trees and ferns, to name a few.
Across the street is Pure Placid, a bath, body and home care collection made with local lake water and a deep appreciation and respect for the Adirondack Park. The hydrating sugar scrubs, fragrant linen sprays and gentle hand soaps are created with a pure and clean scent combination and presented in delicate blue and white packaging.
Also housed on Main Street is the family-owned Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood Brewing Company, with a 1,000 square foot, seven barrel, stainless steel brew system. Similarly to Pure Placid, the libations are created just steps away from the water source, a flowing spring at the base of Whiteface Mountain. With a Whiteface Stout on tap, it's fitting that USA Today dubbed Great Adirondack as one of the best ski resort breweries nationwide. The relaxed bar space is decorated with antiques and memorabilia, welcoming thirsty skiers and riders for an après brew and appetizer, specifically the delectable crispy fried duck wings and all-time favorite John Brown IPA. The dedicated are often known to keep their ski pants on and enjoy a beverage by the outdoor fire.
Accommodations are key and while an impressive size, the Whiteface Lodge is cabin-cozy coupled with luxury resort amenities. The grand indoor and outdoor pool, bowling alley, ice skating rink, game room with the classics including a pinball machine, ice cream parlor and movie theater with fresh buttery popcorn make for endless entertainment.
The spa is superb for après ski relaxation, but perhaps the most appealing and popular ritual is sipping a custom crafted cocktail in front of a blazing fire at KANU Lounge. In place of the traditional top shelf names, there are primarily small-batch spirits stocked behind the KANU bar, which head mixologist Zak Blair says creates a superior cocktail and overall experience. There is a rotating drink list that complements the lounge menu but he prefers a personal approach and those who step up to the bar can play "The Game."
Originally used to customize jewelry, Zak uses a bespoke, or tailor-made, methodology. His game started with four questions and it has grown to 15. He begins by asking for alcohol preference and builds the beverage based on considerations, including: glassware; sweet, savory or smoked; poured, stirred or muddled; in the mountains or at the beach; in LA or Tokyo; eggs whites; and strong or weak. Zak has created over 5,000 cocktails this year, nearly all a success, and combined with menu options such as Green Chile and Wood Fire Roasted Chicken Soup or Venison Chile served in a bread bowl, comfortable leather couches, Adirondack décor, live music and the intimate ambiance, it's the ultimate post-ski destination.
A winter oasis
In Lake Placid, the snowfall means more trails and terrain, ponds and lakes freeze and the skates are laced up and days of winter bliss are followed by scenic lakeside dining and browsing for keepsakes from an epic winter getaway. From lodging to beers to souvenir bubble bath, the off-hill exploration undeniably matches the excitement found on the slopes at Whiteface Mountain—it's what makes Lake Placid a winter oasis.