The Post-Journal

Lake Placid Revisited

I recently revisited Lake Placid, site of the 1980 Winter Olympics and still found things not to be placid. The snow is gone and so are the athletes, but the spirit of the Winter Games lives on. There are still plenty of visitors wandering up and down Main Street. The only difference now is that cars are allowed on the thoroughfare and that often makes driving it seems like Manhattan at rush hour.

The primary business is still Olympic souvenirs and from an inspection of numerous stores in Lake Placid and the surrounding area I learned the prices haven’t dropped a penny since I left in February. There are still plenty of hats, mugs, glasses, shirts, lighters, pens, bumper stickers and about anything else you can think of to display the 1980 Winter Olympics logo. It was interesting to find many pins, that were in such demand during the Games due to trading, are still readily available and by shopping around you can save yourself a few cents.

The sites of the Winter Olympic events are the big tourist attractions and the dollars are rolling in from admissions. The main attraction downtown is the Olympic Arena where the United States captured its gold medal in hockey.

For a dollar you can enter the building and inspect the rink from one limited area open to the public. You can also see some activity on the ice since public skating is allowed. The building appeared much smaller than I remembered. Of course it seemed small when it was jam-packed with spectators for the U.S. games versus Russia and Finland. It was also much quieter now, but I thought I could faintly hear echoing in the hallways the chant “U-S-A” that was deafening during those two memorable hockey games.

The U.S. hockey success is still the big thing Lake Placid thrives on. Posters of goalie Jim Craig clutching the American flag are available in many stores. Another big seller is a poster showing John O’Callahan celebrating the win over the U.S.S.R. while sitting on a teammate who is sprawled on the ice. Also, a gaudy looking shirt commemorating the team’s success has been added to the souvenir counters.

One downtown business has all the Winter Olympics television coverage on videotape. People stand on the sidewalk and watch a television in the front window while a speaker outside blares the descriptions by Jim McKay and company. One day I happened to pass by as the replay of the U.S.-U.S.S.R hockey game was on. I arrived just in time to catch the tying and winning goals and despite temperatures in the 80s, I experienced chills just like the night I witnessed the goals live in the Olympic Arena.

It only seemed right that many members of the hockey team were back in town for a promotion that included a parade down Main Street. In February they were heroes but now things have changed. One is still a hero since he is the member of the Stanley Cup Champions. But some are struggling to find success in professional hockey while others have returned to civilian life. However, on July 26 they were all heroes again in the place they earned the title.

Right beside the Olympic Arena is the site of the United States’ other success in the Winter Olympics—the speed skating rink. Now it is simply a concrete track in a plot of grass overlooked by Lake Placid High School. But in February it was an oval of ice that carried Eric Heiden to five gold medals. If you stand along the fence behind the scoreboard, which looks out of place now, you can view the site for free, just like in February.

That is the last thing free since a look at Mt. Von Hoevenbuerg, site of the luge and bobsled events, costs a dollar and a ride to the top of the 90-meter ski jump is $2.50. But that $2.50 is worth it to look down from the top of the 90-meter jump and try to figure out why some insane person would want to slide down the incline on a couple of slats with wearing a parachute.

Another interesting site is at the back of the jump because it offers a perfect view of the home and gravesite of abolitionist John Brown. It is an interesting contrast to see the ultramodern ski jumps shadowing over a location of American history.
A look down from the top of Whiteface Mountain where all the alpine events took place is quite spectacular. The view from the bottom isn’t bad either and is actually more impressive now than in the winter because you can see the trails carved among the foliage on the 4,876-foot slope.

Other interesting views were the menus at the restaurants. There has been a definite change in that area. For instance, one establishment is now advertising a lobster dinner for the same price as a breakfast during the Olympics.


The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.

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