Lake Placid, Part 2: Ski Jumping, Speed Skating & Olympic Cauldron

(If you missed part one of my Lake Placid recap, catch up here!)

I woke up on the morning of Saturday, February 21st so excited for what was to come that evening that I almost forgot it was my birthday. But luckily my mom threw a birthday card at me before I'd even gotten out of bed, so I was brought back pretty quick. So hey, happy birthday to me!

Our first stop of the day was a little place on Main Street called The Breakfast Club for... breakfast (whoa, shocking). Considering The Breakfast Club is one of my top two favorite movies (Miracle being the other), it was the perfect place to kick off the day. It's not totally movie-themed, but there's a quote or two and a signed poster hanging on the walls. I was going to take pictures inside, but I got completely distracted by my s'mores French toast. (Hell yeah.)

Also, ready for a quick tour of Lake Placid? Here's Main Street.

...Aaaaaand that's basically it! Hah, I'm sort of kidding... but only sort of. Lake Placid is a pretty one-horse town.

After breakfast, we headed over to the ski jumping complex. I have a zillion and a half pictures of it from the last time I was there, and was pretty excited to get to see the jumps in the winter season rather than summer. Admission costs a few bucks, and when we walked past the booth, we were joined by some kids carrying skis. My dad was kind of shocked, and I had to remind him that this is, in fact, a training facility. And it was very much in use that morning!

This practice was for younger kids who I'm assuming aren't ready for the big hills yet; there were a few little jumps set up off to the side. (Please note that when I say "little," I still wouldn't attempt them ever in my lifetime.) We watched some jumping from the bottom of the hill before hopping onto the ski lift to head up to the top.

This is around where it hit me: holy crap, is it cold. Just that brief ride was enough to sap all sensation from my fingers. But luckily, in the bottom of the ski jump tower where you wait for the elevator is a heat lamp (praise the lawd!), so we thawed out for a bit before ascending even higher. Not that that warmth lasted very long, though. As soon as you step out of the observation room onto the viewing platforms, you're frozen again.

The views are kind of okay, though.

Seriously, I don't think I've ever been as cold as I was up there. It was worth it, but if you're planning on doing this while there's snow on the ground, be prepared to worry about the onset of frostbite.

But also be prepared to subject yourself to the cold for a few minutes longer when you get back to solid ground, because who can resist podium pictures?!

I wanted to take a jumping picture on the top step, but a) it was pretty small, and b) at this point I was numb below my ankles and I didn't trust my feet to catch me when I landed.

Our next stop (after briefly thawing out in the snack bar/gift shop at the bottom of the hill) was the Lake Placid Horse Show grounds right across the road, because that's where the Olympic cauldron lives! It's absurd to think that an Olympic Opening Ceremony took place on an open field with some temporary bleachers set up around it, but the Games in 1980 were a completely different animal than they are today. So you can literally just drive right up to the cauldron, hop out of the car and snap a few pictures.

Then we headed back to the Olympic Center (after a brief stop in the hotel room to put on a few more pairs of socks) for a tour! When we got there, the guy in the tour ticket booth was talking to another woman about the Miracle on Ice reunion that night and how it was his birthday -- hey, birthday twins! When I mentioned it was mine too, he said "Forget the hockey team! Tonight's a celebration for our birthdays!" And I was like YES!... Except... Let's not forget the hockey team? Haha. And as a birthday "gift," he let my parents and I into the sport simulator for free. It's a little "ride" in front of a screen; the seats move and the screen projects point-of-view shots of bobsled, luge, skeleton and ski jumping, so it's supposed to feel like you're actually doing it. The bobsled part actually does feel pretty accurate!

Once our simulator spin was finished, it was time to tour. We met up with the tour guide (mentioned here), named Jim, who was a phenomenal wealth of knowledge and stories and kept us thoroughly entertained the whole time. He took us into the 1980 arena first, where dress rehearsal for the event that night had just wrapped up -- I spotted Ken Morrow, Phil Verchota, Neal Broten and Dave Christian down at ice level! :) But then Jim took us up into the bleachers in the far corner, where a few TVs are set up, and we watched the last few minutes of the Miracle on Ice. So that was SUPER COOL, and we also happened to be sitting in a good place:

I kind of love Buzz a lot.

I won't totally spoil the tour for you (because if you're in town, it's a must-do), but I'll leave you with my favorite tidbit: in Lake Placid, you can see the top of every Olympic venue from the top of every other Olympic venue. IS THAT NOT THE COOLEST?

In this direction is speed skating (obviously), ski jumping, Nordic skiing and bobsledding.

Another favorite moment of the tour? When I told Jim that I'm a huge Mark Pavelich fan (I was actually wearing his jersey under my coat!), and he asked, "Are you a loner too?" LOL. Pav is notoriously reclusive, so apparently merely associating myself with him indicates my introverted tendencies. And y'know what? I don't hate it! :)

When the tour finished up, it was time for (a very late) lunch at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. On the walk back to the hotel, I sort of made my parents stand outside in the snow with me as I ogled the speed skating oval a little bit. (And the high school building right behind it, which was the press center during the Olympics!)

I really wanted to skate -- because this ice is practically holy -- but considering how cold it was, it just wasn't in the cards. It'll have to be a project for next time.

Then it was back to the hotel to thaw out again and watch some Canes basketball (they just couldn't manage to pull out a win for me on my birthday, could they?) before The Big Event. But that, my friends, I will chat about on Monday. :)

post signature

Lake Placid, Part 1: Olympic Museum & Herb Brooks Arena

Well, it's about time I start recapping my Lake Placid weekend! This is going to be quite the task (aren't all the best stories epic tales?), so let's jump right in, shall we?

The true beginnings of this trip occurred months ago. Actually, it might be even further in the past than just months. Basically, my mom told me at some point that, when I eventually made a return trip to Lake Placid, she wanted to come with me (to watch me fangirl the whole time, essentially). So when I first started hearing whispers about a Miracle on Ice 35th anniversary reunion there, my first thought was that this would kind of be a perfect time to cash that in. The reunion was officially announced/tickets went on sale in mid-January, and as soon as I saw that sucker online I shot a quick text to my mom. It was something along the lines of, "There's a reunion happening ON MY BIRTHDAY. Hypothetically, if I were to fly home for this thing, would you want to go with me?"

Her answer: "Yeah! Ask dad if he wants to come too!"

So I shot a quick text to my dad. "Mom said she'll come with me to this thing. Do you want to come too?"

His answer: "Sure, why not?"

And that's how I ended up convincing my parents to come to Lake Placid with me, with a grand total of zero persuasion necessary. (I can't even tell you how shocked I was by how easy it was. I was expecting to have to beg a little bit.)

Anyway, fast forward about a month -- a month that passed in a haze of growing excitement bordering on delirium -- to last Thursday, and I found myself driving to the Colorado Springs airport at o'dark thirty in the morning to catch my plane. Seriously, the sun was barely rising as the plane took off. I was going to take a selfie in my car when I got to the airport, but I forgot. Because it was 4:45 in the flipping morning.

Despite my history of bad experiences with my usual Dallas layover, this time was smooth sailing! I had plenty of time to make it to my gate, and even got to sit there and wait for awhile before boarding. My flight made it to JFK with no issues. And there's no punchline to this story! I spent that afternoon and night at home, and we hit the road at 7:00 am Friday morning.

Lake Placid is about five or six hours north of Long Island, and our drive up was shockingly easy. There was no traffic -- not even by New York City -- and the weather was clear. And my dad and I have sort of done the road trip thing before, so a six-hour drive was like nothin'! We arrived at the hotel probably right around 1:00, just in time to grab lunch, where we were given these coasters.

I had a bit of a moment. And those coasters are now sitting on my coffee table.

After lunch, we strategically decided to head over to the Olympic Center, which is the complex that contains the Olympics Museum and both hockey arenas (from 1980 and 1932). Not only did I have a mighty need to go to the museum, but all tickets for the Miracle on Ice reunion were general admission. So we planned on killing two birds with one stone: go to the museum, and scope out the arena to figure out the plan for the next night.

The Olympic Center also happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. Like, super walking distance. It was pretty awesome, though the walk did include a certain hill.

Fun story: when the '80 Olympic hockey team was in Lake Placid for its first training camp in August of '79, Herb used this hill as a part of his conditioning regimen. So every time we had to make the trek back up the hill to the hotel, I told myself that if Jim Craig and Steve Janaszak could run up and down it wearing all of their goalie equipment, I could walk up and down it without slipping on slush or frozen snow and killing myself.

We made it safely down the hill and into the Olympic Center, via one of the entrances closest to the 1932 arena. There was a youth hockey tournament going on that weekend, so the place was swarming with little Canadian boys speaking French (I kid you not. TOO CUTE). And the old rink was constantly occupied, so I wasn't able to get any pictures of it, unfortunately. But it's this tiny little place; I think it seats around a thousand people. The '80 team played one game in there during the Olympics, which is kind of mind-boggling to think about.

But after a quick minute we continued down the hallway and came upon the Herb Brooks Arena, where the doors are unlocked and the arena is yours to explore. (That in itself is like stepping back in time to 1980.)

Since they were setting up for the reunion event, I didn't get to see the arena as it normally exists. I also didn't get to get a picture of myself there because it was so dark every time we were in there. So that was all kind of a bummer, but if that's my trade-off for getting to be at the reunion? Dude, I'll take it! (It's also a really good excuse to come back again, so there's that.)

There's also a pretty nice view from the arena concourse.

That speed skating oval is where Eric Heiden won five Olympic gold medals. CASUAL.

After we had the arena all scoped out, we headed downstairs to the Olympics Museum! It's only one room and admission is $7, which is kind of steep, but I loved it. (Shocker.) It has all sorts of Olympic goodies...

...but really, if for no other reason, just go for the hockey stuff.

For me, the credentials (which also included the full sets for the Swedes and the Soviets) and the whip alone were worth the price of admission! There's also a TV in there that plays a good portion of the end of the Miracle on Ice game, and it's set up in a corner with some benches. So that's worth a watch if you've never seen it before. Or if you have seen it before. It's worth a watch in general. Just watch it, basically.

When we finished up there, we braved the sub-zero temperatures and the icy hill to head back to the hotel before dinner, and so ended day one! So now I will SHUT UP and return soon for part two. :)

post signature