Live and Play in Lake Placid, New York

The Adirondacks retreat that deserves a medal

Photo courtesy of Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau
When the U.S. hockey team--a ragtag bunch of amateurs and underdogs--trounced the top-seeded Russians for gold in the 1980 Winter Games, it went down as the "Miracle on Ice" and enshrined the host city of Lake Placid in the Olympic pantheon.

The upstate New York village (population 2,814) remains a sacred sports ground for the everyman: Whiteface, the local downhill ski area, has the East's biggest vertical drop at 3,430 feet; Zambonis prowl the Olympic Center's four ice rinks; and at the Aerial Training Center freestylers launch more than 60 feet in the air off three state-of-the-art jumps.

For high culture of a different sort, the Lake Placid Center for the Arts supplies dance performances, art house flicks and music festivals.

The population has barely budged since 2000, so there are still housing deals to be found. And the communal backyard is big enough for everyone: Set near the High Peaks of six-million-acre Adirondack Park, Lake Placid is fringed with dozens of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, ice-shrouded cliffs and easy-access slopes.

Want to Live Here?

> Real estate lowdown:
Almost all the surrounding parkland is government-owned, and new development is limited, so your backyard views will likely outlast your mortgage. Median price, single-family home: $350,000.

> The Local Economy:
Jobs in conservation are common, and there are a few small medical tech companies. But most newcomers work from home for remote employers or join the region's largest industry: tourism.

Weekend Scouting

PLAYGROUNDS: Skiers tackle the steeps at Whiteface (whiteface.com) or hone backcountry skills with a guided tour up Trap Pike, a pure mountain ascent carved into the flank of 4,500-foot Mount Colden ($235; rockandriver.com). Climbers know to pick up gear and local intel at the Mountaineer shop (mountaineer.com). Come summer, paddlers choose from 2,500-plus lakes in Adirondack Park; the nine-mile Seven Carries Route is a good pick for first-time canoe campers ($202 for shuttle and rental; canoeoutfitters.com); and the 33-mile Jackrabbit Trail system, which passes through Lake Placid village, draws mountain bikers in warm weather and XC skiers in cold.

THE SCENE: The lakeside Brown Dog Caf? & Wine Bar may be pricey, but its five-course food-and-wine pairing on Saturday nights is a worthy splurge ($95 per person; 518-523-3036). On the way out of the park, hit the Noon Mark Diner, along Route 73 in Keene, for homemade blackberry pie (noonmarkdiner.com).

WHERE TO STAY: The waterfront Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa is a block away from the village Main Street ($275; mirrorlakeinn.com). The cozy Adirondack Loj, just south of town, is close to High Peaks trailheads ($145; adk.org).

Local Wisdom

"You get all the outdoor options of the West Coast, but the average guy can actually afford to buy a house." --Pat Ledger, telemark skier and 20-year Lake Placid resident

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