On our first full day in the Lake Placid area, we decided to head over to Mt. Van Hoevenberg (hereafter Mt. Van H) which was the site of the 1980 Winter Olympics cross-country races (and bobsleigh/bobsled for 1932). There is a lovely story about the man for which Mt. Van Hoevenberg (oh all right sometimes I can spell it out) was named, Henry Van Hoevenberg, who loved the Adirondacks and fell in love with a woman named Josephine, at the top of Mt. Marcy. They decided right then and there to build a place on Heart Lake; unfortunately Josie died before the dream was realized but Henry went on to create a mecca for Adirondacks adventures and protect the surrounding areas. You can read the whole story here; I am not doing it justice.
My kids and husband have recently learned to cross-country (or Nordic) ski. You can read a past blog on the location where they learned to ski. With us were my stepson and his girlfriend (mid-20s) and they were new to cross country skiing–they had skied once on classic skis at Weston Ski Track, but were totally game for some time in the woods.
After the obligatory photo in the parking lot, my husband and the big kids disappeared to rent the equipment for the newbies and get trail passes. My kids shooshed off to practice on the straight-away in front of the lodge (this was once the finish line in the Olympics, I assume) and I headed over to the giant trail map. 50 kilometers of trails! Seriously, we were in heaven.
While I’m standing around looking at the map (and marveling that there are black diamond trails for cross-country skiers), a couple pulled in next to me breathing hard. Clearly some major skiers. So I asked them about the conditions and what they thought of the day. And they said “snow is great, but there are lots of people.” And I looked around and counted 12 people on the large open area, and a few people zooming in or out of the woods. And I said “clearly you have never been to the Weston Ski Track where this would be considered a totally sparse day.” And they gave me their pitying looks of the mega-athlete and shushed off. How do you spell shush? Doesn’t matter.
So when my husband came out of the lodge, he was shaking his head. Apparently this day was in fact a banner day for Mt. Van Hoevenberg (seriously, it is a lot of vowels, no?) and they had run out of classic skis and had to run down to the basement to find skate skis for the big kids to use. I still don’t really understand it because once we left the main stadium area, there just weren’t that many people.
After practicing a bit, we decided to get out on the green trails and do a loop. I can’t even describe the beauty of skiing through woods. Yes, there were a few people. It was hardly a traffic jam. Probably if we had gone to the intermediate or expert trails it would have been emptier still (and less possible to get ambulances to rescue the novice big kids. Fortunately they are both doctors and probably could set their own bones).
Back from our first loop, one of my sons and I decided to try out a snowshoe trail, which technically was not for us as it looped sharply around rocks and trees. Didn’t matter; we laughed as we curved around the deserted trail. The snowshoers we met were less impressed with us, but we weren’t the first or last to use that trail–there was many a ski mark.
We all met up at the knotted-pine and welcoming Josie’s Cabin, named for the tragic Josephine (Henry VH’s main squeeze). There is nothing like a ski-in lodge. Nothing. Huge fire pit outside with rocks to sit on–one intrepid family had brought their own marshmallows to roast (note for next time)–but we went in for some hot chili and Belgian waffles with Nutella. The place put every other ski lodge to shame–great chili, freshly made waffles, no crap. Love.
If you are not a skier, rent some snowshoes and go for a hike. If you are a skier, I just found heaven for you. You’re welcome.
Learn more about Mt. Van Hoevenberg here.