Can another season really compare to winter at a top-level ski resort? In New York’s beautiful Adirondacks, home to famed Lake Placid and its first hill, Whiteface Mountain, the answer is a revealing yes, economical, crowded and wildly adventurous. Don’t tell all those people who are waiting in lines and paying high season hotel rates in a few months.
Shoulder seasons like late summer or fall are a great time to experience the alter-ego of any renowned ski destination, whether it’s located in the Rockies, Sierras or the New York’s vast wilderness playground, the Adirondacks. Weighing in at around six million acres of mountains, lakes, rivers, and trails (that’s about the size of Vermont, folks) with numerous outfitters offering a wide array of adventures, the Adirondacks make the deal for off-season exploration in all directions.
Here’s how to appreciate this region before the crowds of skiers arrive and the whole place is buried in powder snow.
Reintroduction of Lake Placid
The site of two Winter Olympics, you’ve heard of Lake Placid even if you’re somehow not a fan of epic hockey wins. About a five hour drive from New York City, the village is located on Mirror Lake and just south of the namesake lake. Lake Placid’s Main Street, lined with bars, restaurants, and shops, is also packed with outfitters to prepare visitors for everything from running to SUP. There is no better home base for your summer or fall adventure in the Adirondacks.
Where to stay
High peaks seaside resort
In winter, this popular Lake Placid resort, located on Mirror Lake, will welcome skiers to Whiteface Mountain, New York’s fifth highest peak, one of the highest peaks in the Northeast. Right now the three buildings on the property, all with lake views, are another sort of oasis. Guests have access to swimming, kayaking and SUP on Mirror Lake with equipment provided by the hotel. This is the perfect place for families or those new to SUP, as motorboats cruise a lake usually as smooth as glass.
Inside the main complex, you’ll find clean rooms, a mountain lodge motif, beautiful lake and mountain views, two swimming pools, and solid restaurants and bars. Tip: Hanging up a bedroom on the fourth floor gives you direct access to your parked car without having to haul gear around the lobby.
Where to eat and drink
Guests of the High Peaks Resort have easy access to the Dancing Bear, located on the same property. This casual, window-lined spot with lake and mountain views is a solid choice for hearty breakfasts (they call it ‘brunch’ here anytime) and later meals. A solid beer list leans heavily on excellent hard ciders, to be enjoyed on the upstairs deck with those great views.
If breakfast needs to be quick and you can get there before the queue starts, this bakery has everything you need from scones to fist-sized cinnamon buns and Coffee. Come with silver or Venmo, they don’t accept plastic. If you are with a large team send a representative as the store is small.
This favorite spot overlooking Mirror Lake specializes in local ingredients and a kid-friendly menu that will appeal to young people of all ages. Think giant handmade pretzels with homemade mustard or a German smash burger made with two bratwurst patties under onions and cheese. The beer list offers a range of good local beers accompanied by tasting notes.
For day-trippers in town, this rustic lakefront taverna in the nearby village of Saranac Lake (less than 10 miles from Lake Placid) is the perfect casual stop for hearty salads, flatbreads, and bowls of cereal. Fortunately, they don’t shy away from a killer poutine either.
Best Off-Season Adventures in Lake Placid
Families can warm up with an easy, paved ride around Mirror Lake or, a short drive away, off-road at Henry’s Woods. Hikers who are not yet ready for the great Adirondack treks with its 46 High Peaks (most of them over 4000 feet) can opt for the more moderate ‘9’ers’ of Lake Placid, a group of mountains. suspended below this mark. In town, this includes a 4.4 mile round trip to Mount Van Hoevenberg. A short drive away, in nearby Keene, is the more convivial Hurricane Mountain than it looks, where a 3.5 mile climb leads to a 2,000-foot peak with spectacular vistas.
Climbers of all skill levels can connect with a qualified instructor at Eastern Mountain Sports (EMS) in Lake Placid. The climbing shop and school run classes and trips for all skill levels including a popular option “101” which shows beginners the ropes at some beginner friendly spots. Don’t need the grip? Stop here anyway for some solid information on the best climbing routes in the area.
Just a short drive from downtown, experienced cyclists can access over 30 great bike trails tucked away behind the Lake Placid Club. Choose from moderate rides, like Twisted Sister, to more difficult routes, like Lumberyard with its boardwalk. Nearby, Craig Wood Trails offers an additional three miles of machine-built singletrack. Novice cyclists can opt for Heaven Hill Trails, a versatile, family-friendly trail system that offers short, mostly flat loops with beautiful mountain views.
Day Trip to the Wild Center
Walking through Lake Placid’s neighboring satellite communities, including Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, and Wilmington, is part of the fun of exploring the Adirondacks. One of Tupper Lake’s top attractions (about 40 minutes from Lake Placid), The Wild Center offers a mix of interactive indoor and outdoor exhibits located on 115 acres showcasing Adirondack wildlife. Step outside to watch wildlife demonstrations or hike landscaped trails, including one that winds around outdoor sculptures to a soundtrack of classical music. Don’t miss the Wild Walk, an elevated path that zigzags through the forest floor on hanging bridges, stairs, and a giant trampoline disguised as a spider’s web.
High Falls Gorge
The signature tromb along the cliff-clad staircases of this magnificent 22-acre natural park takes about half an hour, crossing the AuSable River at three different locations for epic scenes of water slamming into the rock. Seasonal trails are spread throughout the park, with numerous waterfalls and glass-ground viewing platforms above a granite crevice that has been a work-in-progress sculpture for the past billion years.
Whiteface Veterans Memorial Route
About 12 miles northwest of High Falls is the toll booth for this ride to famous Whiteface Mountain along the Veterans Memorial Highway. The white-knuckler winds up to 2,300 feet for about five miles, with no less than nine pull-offs for spectacular views of Lake Placid and the surrounding mountains. Park at the top where the second part of your ascent begins – a short but breathless 257-foot ascent up rocky stairs to the 4,867-foot summit with the expected panorama at the end.
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