Skiing – and Not Skiing – at Whiteface Mountain, Lake Placid, NY

This is a guest post by Eileen Gunn of FamiliesGo!

We’re a family of skiers and non-skiers. We also love winter sports beyond skiing. For us, the ideal winter destination offers more than just downhill; it has plenty of winter activities, dining and cozy hotels. This is why we love Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, NY.

We’ve returned to Lake Placid, in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains, again and again. As a former Olympic town (and popular sports training center), it offers so much to do and see. Here’s what you need to know:

Skiing at Whiteface Mountain

The skiing is terrific at Whiteface Mountain, but there's much more to do, too!
The skiing is terrific at Whiteface Mountain, but there’s much more to do, too!

Whiteface Mountain is about 20 minutes outside of town. Its ski school is pricier than other slopes in New York state ($180 for full-day lesson and rental), but the instructors are high quality and we like that they have a “junior” slope in addition to the usual bunny slope. Its long enough to require a ski lift but very gradual in pitch, giving beginners plenty of space to perfect their turns before moving on to the big slopes.

The ski school and its two slopes are separated from the rest of the trails – they even have their own parking lot. Kids don’t have to worry about being mowed down by faster skiers while they’re learning. When improving skiers are ready, they can go to the top in an enclosed gondola and ski down on the same slopes that were used for Olympic ski racing.

And if some family members don’t ski, they can take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain for some incredible views!

Tip: It’s not unusual for the mountain to be five or ten degrees colder than it is in town. Make sure kids and grown-ups have plenty of layers. The ski school takes warm-up breaks, too.

Off the Slopes

Lake Placid, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, offers two ice skating rinks, an indoor rink (where the “Miracle on Ice” hockey game was played), and a huge outdoor speed-skating oval – which we love! It’s never crowded and there’s sometimes a nice bonfire in the middle.

Ice skate on the "Miracle on Ice" rink in Lake Placid, NY.
Ice skate on the “Miracle on Ice” rink in Lake Placid, NY.

You can also cross-country ski. We have taken lessons and skied at Cascade Cross-Country Center, which has a nice variety of trails for different abilities, and a comfortable lodge for warming up. Nearby Mount Van Hoevenberg also has a cross-country center. Or, if you bring your own skis, you can find maps in town of local cross-country trails.

Cross-country ski trails are plentiful in Lake Placid, NY.
Cross-country ski trails are plentiful in Lake Placid, NY.

The tubing hill next to the ski jump outside of town is long and not too steep, making it fine for all ages. When we went, it was about $10/hour and it was hard to drag our daughter away. More daring souls can try the toboggan run at the lower end of Mirror Lake. The hours are a little irregular but when it’s open it’s hard to miss the kids whipping down this chute (made from an old ski jump) and gliding across the frozen lake.

Olympic Sites in Lake Placid

We highly recommend buying an Olympic Passport, which gives you access to several Olympic sites in town, such as the ski jump and Mt. Van Hoevenberg, where the skeleton, luge and bobsledding happens. It also includes a skating session and discounts for skiing and many other activities. You can buy the Olympic Passport at several spots around town. Riding the bobsled offers a great thrill at a separate cost.

Olympic Center in Lake Placid, NY, has an indoor skating rink and an Olympic Museum.
Olympic Center in Lake Placid, NY, has an indoor skating rink and an Olympic Museum.

Where to Stay

Lake Placid, NY, and Whiteface Mountain - on and off the slopes!
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We prefer to stay in the town of Lake Placid. We look for a lodging location that allows us to walk to dinner in the evening, has a pool and hot tub to warm us up after being out in the cold, and faces the lake. When it’s frozen, it turns into the town’s backyard and it’s a busy place. We’ve stayed at the Golden Arrow and the Crown Plaza, both reliable family choices with good breakfast, indoor pools and hot tubs. The Hampton Inn & Suites has a great location at the bottom of the lake. And the Mirror Lake Inn is a luxury option on the lake.

Where to Eat

Ski town food is often heavy on burgers and Italian, and Lake Placid has its share of both. We love Lake Placid Pub & Brewery for its kid-friendly 3rd floor, its excellent beers, and unique twists on dishes like onion soup and pulled pork. Great Adirondack Steak & Seafood is known for its prime rib dinner and has hearty soups and fresh salads. The big surprise for us on our last trip was Liquids and Solids, a deservedly hot locavore place just on the edge of town with creative cocktails and dishes. It was not our daughter’s favorite meal, but we loved it.

Whiteface Mountain with the Lake Placid area is a fantastic spot for families who want to enjoy winter sports, Olympic venues, and excellent food.

Eileen Gunn is the founder of FamiliesGo! and is a fan of all winter activities except skiing. She enjoys sitting in the lodge watching the rest of family zoom down the slopes. You can also find her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

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