Destinations, April 1997
As the road curves past malfunction Junction at the outskirts of town, you begin to notice the cutely gabled Swiss Alpine houses. But only when you turn onto Main Street and see a 1980 Winter Games volunteer still parading about in his Olympic jacket are you certain: This is not your average upstate New York burg. This is Lake Placid, two-time host of the Winter Olympics--and damn proud of it.
Sure, it's been 17 years since the Olympic torch jogged on to glitzier venues, but a stroll through town proves that Lake Placid is still clinging to Olympics past. Note the autographed Eric Heiden posters in Jimmy's 21 Tavern, the grainy reruns of The Miracle on Ice playing in souvenir shop windows, and live appearances by Ronnie Raccoon, beloved mascot of the 1980 Games. To fully appreciate the town's robust kitschiness, stop at Art Devlin's Olympic Motor Inn, a makeshift shrine to Lake Placid's other hero, the great Art Devlin, ski jumper extraordinaire. With very little prodding, Art Jr. will give you a lengthy narrated tour of his dad's 450 trophies, all nicely arrayed in the motel lobby.
For headier nostalgia, climb the Olympic Complex's 90-meter ski jump. Only athletes-in-training can actually jump, but the sight of U.S. Freestyle Team aerialists hurling themselves off a neighboring jump, somersaulting in midair, and plopping into the swimming pool below is usually vertiginous enough. To create an Olympic-style adrenaline rush of your own, climb into a
bobsled-on-wheels for a screaming descent of the Complex's half-mile cement track. The fainthearted will be glad to know a brakeman is included in the price ($20 per person; 518-523-4436). Or don a pair of rental skates ($3) at the Olympic Center Ice Arena. If your timing's right, you can pick up pointers on your triple salchow from Scott Hamilton, who sometimes practices here.
Such coaching could come in handy should you decide to compete in the 2022 Winter Games in--bid pending--Lake Placid.