Lake Placid is a great winter destination for March Break
Whiteface is a beast of a mountain for skiers
When to go: Here's the thing. Our wonderful neighbours to the south don't operate on the same calendar, so March Break is pretty much Maple Leaf time in upstate New York and Vermont. And, in Lake Placid, unless there is a hockey tournament in town (and there quite often is), it is an ideal time to explore the area and ski the Olympic mountain because it's just not as busy as other resort towns. Forget about packed restaurants or lift lines, and just enjoy. Drivers from Southern Ontario will also notice a much shorter travel time when compared to Vermont, which means more time for skiing.
Where to stay: There are two central, primo hotels in Lake Placid: Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort (www.golden-arrow.com) and the Crowne Plaza (www.lakeplacidcp.com). The latter is perched atop a hill overlooking the town, the former sits right on Mirror Lake. The Golden Arrow has the advantage of being located on the main street and feeling more connected to this cute-as-a-button area. In addition, one of the unique features is the ridiculously long skating trail that winds its way around the lake, and it can be accessed by lacing up the skates and walking out the back door of the Golden Arrow. The hotel also offers dogsledding and numerous other activities, in addition to a very nice pool area with hot tub. There are no lodging options at Whiteface.
What to do: Although obviously a sporty town, skiing does not dominate. Thanks to hosting the Winter Olympics (Twice!), Lake Placid has, well, world-class facilities for nordic skiing, snowshoeing, heck, even bobsledding. Whatever snow-and-ice based activity is of interest, this town seems quite capable of providing.
Still, you gotta ski: Then again, when it comes to skiing, Whiteface is a whopper of a mountain with killer terrain that will push the most accomplished of skiers and snowboarders. It has the highest vertical this side of the Rockies, and it is a short drive from town. Note: there are plenty of free shuttles heading to the hill, take them. It's just as fast, maybe a bit safer it you aren't on winter tires or the weather gets nasty, and if one was so inclined a tasty adult beverage or two could be had at the hill without worrying about getting back to the hotel. Whiteface comes equipped with the Cloudsplitter gondola that takes skiers to the top of Little Whiteface, a few more intermediate runs than in previous years as well as a substantial, well-planned learning area. But, Whiteface is no easy mountain, and that's just fine. Don't expect a lot of cruisers. But if you want speed, steep vertical, and enough variety to keep you on your toes for a few days, there isn't much better in this neck of the woods. And, when conditions are right (plenty of snow), Whiteface opens up Slides, a double-black, authentic backcountry experience unlike anything else on offer in New York. The majority of trails are wide and long and leaning towards intermediate and expert. There is the gondola along with two quad chairs, two triples, five doubles and a conveyor to service 87 trails. Warning: the wind can howl, and it can get cold, hence the nickname Iceface. But, for Canadians, ain't no thing.
Sidetrips: In addition to world-class skiing Lake Placid also offers up a great mix of off-hill activities both at former Olympic venues and throughout the area. At the Olympic Sports Complex, located right in town, travellers can try unique sports such as bobsled, skeleton and biathlon. It's something that isn't really available many places, especially in Eastern North America. Also, cross-country and snowshoeing centres dot the region. Try Cascade Cross Country Center on Rt. 73. As the official home of the aforementioned Miracle on Ice, skating is also a big thing in Lake Placid. Outdoor public skating is available on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, in addition to Mirror Lake. And that's only the activities located within Lake Placid.
Apres ski: Nothing better than the Lake Placid Brewing Company (813 Mirror Lake Drive), a casual pub with a fine selection of craft beers and tasty pub fare. This place is worth seeking out, as it often has live music, and customers could also pick up a growler of beer to take home, www.ubuale.com.
Even finer fare: There is no shortage of restaurants in Lake Placid from casual diners to fine dining. For something right on main street, we were impressed with The Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood (2442 Main St.) with its eclectic decor, excellent beer selection and delicious steakhouse fare as well as the Brown Dog Café & Wine Bar (2431 Main St.), which offers up an incredible view of the lake from its drop-dead gorgeous dining room. For a splurge meal, one could not beat the elegance of The View at the Mirror Lake Inn (77 Mirror Lake Dr.), billed as the only "AAA Four-Diamond “Exceptional” rated restaurant" in Lake Placid. So there.