Length of stay: 3 days
Visited: February 2017
The first thing that may to come to mind when you hear the word Adirondack might be Adirondack chairs – or as we Canadians like to call them – Muskoka chairs. Located in upstate New York, Adirondack Park spans over 6 million acres and is considered to be the largest park in the Lower 48. It was here in the thick of nature that inspired some dude to design and create the perfect cottage lounging Adirondack chairs.
Perhaps the most famous area in the Adirondack Park region is Lake Placid. It even inspired a horror film named after Lake Placid that features a man-eating crocodile (and if that doesn’t sound bad enough, there were two sequels that followed). The Lake Placid region was also home to not one, but two Winter Olympics – in 1932 and 1980. With its immense region of forested mountains the Adirondack Park offers a plethora of wonderful opportunities to cross-country ski through hardwood and pine forests.
Day 1: Cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake
We made the long trek down to the Adirondacks the night before from Boston. So this morning we just had to jump in the car and drive about 30 minutes to the Lapland Lake Nordic Centre. Consistently voted one of the best cross-country ski resorts in the eastern region, Lapland Lakes boasts of more than 50km of groomed trails. The ski centre was founded and is still maintained by former Finnish Olympic skier Olavi Hirvonen. So you know the trails are legit. But good luck pronouncing them because they are all in Finnish.
We hit up most of the more difficult trails first before cooling down with the easier trails. This may sound completely counterintuitive. But the temperature was forecasted to go up into the high single digits (in Celsius). In anticipation of balmier weather we figured the more difficult trails would only get harder as the snow started to melt. And there is some truth to it. Sure, when the snow is more compact and “stickier” it’s easier to forge uphill because you get better traction with your skies. But it can also make gliding harder. And who knows what shape some of the steeper hills would be in by the time the day wore on and more skiers had gone over the trails. Given that this was day one out of three days of skiing, we didn’t want to over do it.
We started off by covering the more difficult trails just north-west of the ski lodge. We skied along the Honka Tie towards Leilan Latu, which intersects with Karhu Polku and then Tuulen Tie. After this stretch we circled back to where we started.
We then headed southwest to finish off the more difficult trails along this part of the trail map. We followed Honka Tie down to Sisu. The trail passes by the West Stony Creek before veering back underneath the canopy of the forest.
Once we looped back to ski lodge we took a snack break and sprawled out on a couch beside the wood stove to relax. Once we were sufficiently satisfied with quenching our hunger, we headed back out to unwind by skiing along some of the easier trails. We first went along Joki Latu to the reindeer pen, but unfortunately did not see any pen or reindeer for that matter. After that we went along the Lake Trail. As the day progressed and temperatures started to climb, the quality of the snow greatly diminished. But it just meant we had to work a bit harder to get where we needed to go as you couldn’t glide as effortlessly. And because we didn’t want to tire ourselves out we skipped a couple of the other trails that we initially planned to ski to complete all the easier and more difficult trails. But it sure was nice to ski without so many layers!
Overall we very much enjoyed cross-country skiing at Lapland Lake. The trails are very well maintained, pretty straightforward and are mainly one-way and spacious enough for passing without having to shimmy to the edge of the tracks.
From there we headed further north towards Lake Placid to check into our next hotel. Along the drive we saw this cute little white-tailed deer by the side of the road.
Day 2: Cross-country skiing at Mt Van Hoevenberg
We woke up bright an early to get to the Mt Van Hoevenberg cross-country and biathlon centre for when it opened. It is here where cross-country skier’s dreams are all about. Built for the Olympics, there are over 50km of groomed trails that range in difficulty and skill level to suit a very beginner to hardcore athletes that train and compete in the Olympics. Since the weather forecast called for another balmy sunny day and because it was a long weekend, we arrived at the chalet for opening hours. It’s the only way to avoid the crowds. And get properly fitting gear without having to worry that there isn’t anymore boots and skis in your size.
To warm-up we skied a loop around the green easy trails. And because the temperature was so warm (hovering around 0°C), by the time we returned back to the chalet we were ready to ditch our winter jackets in the car and instead don a lighter jacket.
From the chalet we decided to tackle an intermediate trail. The beginner trails were very much beginner and flat so we thought, hey, how hard can the intermediate trails be? Besides, we nailed the intermediate trails at Lapland Lake the previous day and we’ve been cross-country skiing on the regular for the past month or so. Challenge accepted.
We took the blue Brookside Loop Trail (2km, expected to take 30min) to the orange Three Trails Loop (5.6km, expected to take 80min). We weren’t joking around. The Brookside Loop Trail was pretty straightforward. Near the beginning the trail you are required to ski through these sketchy tunnels that take you under the road to the other side. And that was a little dicey. But our confidence was growing. Especially since there were three beginners in front of us who were falling all over the place.
In the area just before the trails intersects with the Three Trails Loop posed the real challenge. It started with this small enough dinky looking hill. There were a few people standing around near what we thought was the bottom. And the beginners in front of us were struggling real bad to get down this basic hill. When they finally did manage to make it to the bottom they clustered around with the other group of skiers and were just all standing around. With my lack of patience, we decided to just give ‘er and go down. So I whizzed down the hill picking up speed. Not even trying to slow down because honestly the hill was pretty beginner. But then the trail takes a turn. And then there is the biggest most daunting looking hill I’ve ever seen to the point where I’m not entirely sure this is cross-country skiing anymore. But I was committed. There were a few moments of panic where I contemplated just falling over. But I was going pretty fast and I was worried that I’d injure myself in the process. So I decided to just ride it out. And when I finally did make it to the bottom (and had to yell at someone to get out of the middle of the trail because I couldn’t stop) my legs were shaking like crazy.
The Three Trails Loop itself was a lot of fun. There were some challenging hills to climb up and ski down, but we managed to stay on our skis the entire time. And I’m sure the mild weather helped with this as well as it made the climb uphill much easier with the stickier snow.
Most of the intermediate trails are all one-way, which means that when you start, you are essentially committed. And because the trails are one-way it also means you encounter far fewer skiers. In fact, after we passed the herd of people mid-way through that beast hill we only saw a handful of other skiers. And the trail itself is quite wide which meant we could easily ski side-by-side for large parts of it.
Nearing the end, the trail runs parallel and intersects with a more advanced biathlon trail. And there was a competition of some sorts happening as we saw a number of pro looking athletes in their cross-country skiing getup complete with a gun strapped to their backs race by.
The Three Loops Trail intersects back with the Brookside Loop Trail, which we took to return to the chalet. We took the opportunity to take off our skis and return to the car for a snack break.
Since we were all warmed up and feeling confident with our abilities after successfully navigating the twists and turns of two intermediate trails with much success we were ready for more. So we tackled the Interloopen Trail (3.6km, expected to take 40min). Part of the Interloopen trail overlaps with the Ladies Olympic 5km Trail – which is rated advanced and has “Olympic” in its title suggesting some serious business. Overall this trail was quite enjoyable. More of the challenge and effort occurs in the beginning and towards the end you’re just leisurely gliding down some gentle slopes. The trail also provides a glimpse of the snow factory used to create artificial snow. Now skiers can enjoy the trails without having to worry about mother nature and milder winters.
To wind down we skied along some of the easier rated trails towards Josie’s Cabin. An earlier lodge built by Henry Van Hoevenberg was erected over this area where he and his then wife Josephine fell in love in the late 1800s. Josephine died before the lodge was complete. And to add insult to injury a forest fire destroyed the lodge when it finally was complete. Josie’s Cabin was recently constructed adjacent to Henry’s former lodge to keep the memory of Henry’s love for Josephine and the great outdoors in the Adirondack Mountains alive. Cross-country skiers can now enjoy some rest and relaxation (and a hot chocolate) around a warm campfire.
Day 3: Cross-country skiing at Cascade
In anticipation of feeling fatigued after two days of cross-country skiing we planned on visiting the Cascade Cross-Country Ski Center for our last day. Mainly because we heard the ski trails are well suited for beginners so this seemed like a good way to squeeze in a an extra day of skiing without completely overexerting ourselves.
But after two days of balmy weather temperatures plummeted overnight to well below freezing. And pretty much everything was a solid sheet of ice. In retrospect we should have checked out the conditions prior to paying for our trail pass and rental skis. Especially since none of the trails have been / could have been groomed. So things were rough. And I’m pretty sure we did more skating than skiing.
After the first few minutes on the trail we should have just turned around. But the sunk cost fallacy kicked in and we wanted to at least try before giving up. In normal conditions the trails here would have been super easy. But covered in a solid sheet of ice, not so much. There was some progress made on breaking up some of the ice on a few of the outer trails, so we stuck to those. But progress was slow. And after a few wipeouts we decided to call it quits.
We were a little disappointed by the poor conditions of the trails. And we tried our best not to hold this against Cascade. In the end we had two wonderful days of skiing at some of the best trails in North America in such pleasant weather. So it’s okay that our final day was a complete let down. Besides, we still had to make that (long) drive back down to Boston.
L & K
2 thoughts on “Cross-Country Skiing in the Adirondacks”
Looks like a beautiful place to cross country ski. So nice to have a place with proper track setting. Our little city has some track setting, but then the walkers and dogs tend to look on it as a nice flat place to walk and the trails go to H. Allan
The Adirondacks blanketed in snow looked beautiful. The cross-country skiing everywhere in this area was quite nice. Many of the nordic centres had trails with proper track settings. We also like to come for when it opens as the trails are always pristine at that point and we don’t have to worry about walkers or snowshoers messing up the tracks.