X-Country Skiing and Skating at Lake Placid

Trip Start Aug 31, 2007
Trip End Mar 12, 2008

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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, March 10, 2008

The day dawned bright and sunny, and I was in the mood for another fat-busting all day cross country ski workout.  This time I tried Cascade X-Country Ski center, a small local place close enough to the Mount Van Hoevenburg Olympic Center that some of the trails connect.  Excluding a short lunch stop to eat my sandwich and an afternoon break for coffee in the lodge, I spent about six hours cross country skiing my heart out.  Now that should burn some serious calories and melt away all that beer fat I put on during my overland trips over the previous year.  Monday was a spectacular day with cold temperatures, fresh snow on the ground and in the trees, and bright sunshine, the kind of conditions I used to take for granted as occurring on most days when I lived in Colorado but appreciate in the East for their infrequence. 
My cousin Deb spent a few years living in Ray Brook, a town in the Adirondacks next to Lake Placid and claimed it was the most unfriendly place she had ever lived.  Meanwhile, I recall reading some study perhaps a decade or so ago which found people in Upstate New York smiled the least of all states or regions of the country surveyed.  The study was memorable because it also claimed people in Colorado, where I lived at the time, were the smiliest.  I can't confirm or deny the New Yorkers' reputation, because I haven't had any unpleasant experiences with people in Upstate New York.  I actually found this time that many of the people I met skiing seemed exceptionally friendly and talkative. 
Almost invariably, though, these people were all from Ottawa, Toronto, or some other place in Ontario, part of the recent Canadian invasion of the U.S.  Three to four years ago when the Canadian dollar was still worth in the $.75 to $.85 U.S. range, I was going to Mont Tremblant and Mont Saint Anne for relative bargains on ski weeks, but now things are exactly reversed with the greenback having lost so much of its purchasing power over the last few years.
I'm a glutton for punishment, though, and I noticed on my trips through Lake Placid village that the Olympic Speed Skating Oval had public skating nightly.  Wow!  Speed skating is one of my favorite Olympic events, but I've never before been on skates, not even those in-line deals hip urbanites put on to travel around town on weekends; and to skate here on the same track where Eric Heiden won his five gold medals in 1980. 
OK, I paid $7 for my skating ticket and a few more to rent a pair of skates and I'm off.  Let's see how much damage a fairly fit and fearless forty year-old can do on his first time on the ice.  No toe jumps, no fancy footwork, no spins, and no pirouettes - this is about pure speed and power. 
My first few times around were a little wobbly, and I have to admit to a couple doozies of falls.  If there's one thing I learned quickly learned, it's that ice just zambonied to a glasslike surface consistency is much, much harder than snow, and I ended up with a couple bruises to prove it. 
Overall, though, I have to regard my skating adventure as a success, at least compared to my attempts at new balance-oriented sports like snow boarding and surfing I've tried in recent years.  I'll never be a champ, but within two hour son the ice this speed skater wannabe was navigating the oval at a pretty good clip and having a blast.  I was also pleased to see I wasn't the biggest (or oldest) kid out there - a weekday evening on the ice is a true family event for children of all ages in Lake Placid. 
As I tottered into the Jackrabbit Hostel that night after a day filled with six hours of cross-country skiing and my two hour debut as a speed skater, I began a brief chat with two women, medical students from Toronto, who were also staying there and hanging out in the living area.  We talked about our days, and they told me about their attempt to summit Mount Culden that earlier that day, one that was unsuccessful because they didn't get an earlier enough stop.  "I want to try that tomorrow," I thought.
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