ORDA seeks to modernize cross-country-ski center

Mount Van Hoevenberg cross-country center. Photo from ORDA website.

The Olympic Regional Development Authority hopes to begin construction this year on what winter-sports enthusiasts hope will be a “magical” transformation of the historic Van Hoevenberg cross-country-skiing center into an international venue on par with any in the world.

The plans are conditional on permitting and would be carried out over the next several years as funding becomes available. ORDA says it has near-term funding in hand, to get the project underway once the approval process is complete.

Although it has seen incremental improvements over the years, the center has grown a bit long in the tooth since its glory days of the 1980 Winter Olympics. ORDA President Mike Pratt said the makeover will modernize the facility into one with year-round interest that will be a more tempting destination for premier events, such as the Winter World University Games, which is coming to Lake Placid in 2023.

The plans, in the form of a draft amendment to the Mount Van Hoevenberg Unit Management Plan, drew mostly favorable comment at a public hearing in Lake Placid on May 24. Some skiing season-pass holders, however, said they had not been included in the process, and there was also some mild concern that the new base lodge/welcome center—which will be six to eight times larger—will lack the snug atmosphere of the current lodge.

But most welcomed what they expressed as the excitement and energy of prime-time ski centers. Speakers also talked about the legacy of Nordic skiing in Lake Placid, dating back a century ago to the winter-sports promotion for which Melvil Dewey was famous.

Along with the new lodge, there will be an additional five kilometers of cross-country trails, with lights and snow-making capability. The lodge’s current parking lot will become a “stadium,” which, Pratt said, is biathlon-speak for “a grass field with snow on it.” There will be bleachers for onlookers, but mostly the stadium will consist of start/finish lines, a scoreboard and the shooting area and penalty lap, which will be favorable for television coverage.

The plan calls for expansion and renovation of buildings that support the sliding sports, and a tram for participants that will take the place of shuttle buses. For non-Olympians, the plan calls for an alpine coaster, which Pratt said is along the lines of a “recreational bobsled” that will speed riders down the hill, following the alignment of the 1980 bobsled track.

Most of the physical improvements are slated to occur on town property, meaning the overall plan will have minimal impact on the Forest Preserve, Pratt said.

DEC also is proposing to move the trailhead for Cascade Mountain to the center and to create a new trail up Mount Van Hoevenberg, starting in the same place. The idea is to alleviate parking problems along Route 73 and give people an option for a shorter hike.

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About Tim Rowland

Tim Rowland is a columnist, author and outdoors writer living in Jay.

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