Friday, October 5, 2012

Our trip to Lake Placid, NY - Whiteface Mountain

There are tons of activities at Lake Placid as this is, afterall, a tourist village. The town itself seems fairly small; it feels like it was built specifically to serve the needs of athletes/tourists and be the Olympic village (who knows, maybe it was, I didn't ask). Actually, let me back up a step...

According to Wikipedia, Lake Placid, NY was founded in the early 19th century to help with operations of iron ore mining. A man by the name of Melvil Dewey founded a social & recreation club there (on Mirror Lake) in 1895, which drew rich & famous to the area. The Lake Placid Club was the headquarters for the International Olympic Committee for the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Many of the Olympic facilities are still in operation and offer unforgettable experiences for visitors (of course, some activities are rather $$$). There are also a number of sporting events and other festivals that take place every year.

Some people find it a bit weird that the village is called Lake Placid considering it's mostly on Mirror Lake...
But I digressed... First thing's first!

The Whiteface Mountain is definitely a place you HAVE to visit. There is a toll at the bottom of the road going up the mountain (called Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway, but it's affordable - $16 ($10 for the car + driver, $6 for each additional passenger, baby's entry was free). Check for times of operation as the toll-road is NOT open 24/7.
Note - visibility is IMPORTANT! read why below...
Also, be aware and go relatively slowly as the road is rather bumpy! But I know you'll go slow, maybe even stop frequently (as we did) as every turn of this road offers a breathtaking view. I wanted to photograph everything, but no photograph can fully show you how amazing it is (eventhough it's relatively not as high above the sea level as, say, the Rockies, but still).

A bit of background (again, thanks to Wikipedia): Whiteface Mountain is the fifth highest mountain in the New York state; its elevation is 4,867 ft (1,483 m). It's part of the Adirondack range of mountains (though they don't actually form a range like the Rockies do).

Also, unlike other mountain ranges that run along fault lines, the Adirondack mountains resemble a dome consisting of many peaks, either isolated or in groups, often with little apparent order. There are over 100 summits, ranging from under 1,200 ft (366 m) to over 5,000 ft (1,524 m) in elevation; the highest peak, Mount Marcy stands at 5,344 ft (1,629 m). The Adirondacks were formed by an uplift deep under the Earth's crust. They are bordered on the east by Lake Champlain and Lake George, which separate them from the Green Mountains in Vermont.
A lot of "zig-zag"-ing, but it's worth it! :)
See that tiny thing sticking out on top of the peak on the left? That's the Whiteface Castle at the summit.
Once you get to the top, there is a parking lot. And then - you have 2 choices: either (1) climb up, or (2) take the elevator. The climb isn't very steep, but since we had a stroller with us, climbing was not an option. In retrospect, taking the elevator was interesting because the elevator is INSIDE of the mountain!!! What the did to access it was to blow up a tunnel... The tunnel is cool, but I gotta be honest, it's a bit creepy... It's relatively dark, even with the added lights, and it's cold (they told us it was +8C inside the tunnel). I could imagine how miners feel, and it's not a good feeling... It's 424 feet long; you're literally walking into the heart of the mountain. The elevator itself is operated by the designated individual and the ride is quick; he'll tell you a few bits of history as well. :)
The view from the top! Three lakes that you see on the map with Lake Placid located to the left.
Here is why you want to go the top when visibility is good: people told us that they [the people "managing" the mountain access] used to close said access when it was too cloudy. Now however, the road is open basically every day, which could mean that you arrive to the top and cannot see ANYTHING. We got lucky, there was only one cloud, which only start to grow as we were leaving.
See what I mean?!
Finally, this is just a neat little building that has bathrooms and gives you an opportunity to grab a snack. People call it the Whiteface Mountain Castle :)
Some tips... remember to grab a light jacket, wear comfortable (maybe even hiking) shoes, bring some cash, and, of course, don't forget your camera!!! And also, take a moment to enjoy the view, I found it truly peaceful up there :)

Finally, something to think about: Whiteface is higher than Aspen (Colorado);, Park City (Utah); Killington, Stowe, Jay Peak, and Stratton (all in Vermont); Sugarloaf (Maine); Lake Louise (Alberta); and Mont Tremblant (Quebec).

More to come!


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