Whiteface Mountain, NY
Most city kids don’t have backyards to play in; when you have access to a backyard, it’s all about bringing hobbies to life.
The ground floor suite at Lake Placid, NY’s Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort meant steps-away access to a frozen lake, where my daughter Bella instantly skated into the white horizon and made friends. When night fell, the sun set behind the snowy mountains and the ice activity continued with a hockey puck sliding beside a string of hanging lights. An hour later, a lakeside bonfire burned, inviting guests to truly experience the Adirondacks. City-kid Bella skates a lot at Manhattan’s Bryant Park, but having a natural lake rink to call her own was a thrill. Our suite meant we had our own rooms, and own worlds.
The Golden Arrow is a refreshing departure from franchise hotels. Its personalized expansion and evolution also includes the Alpine Mall, an inviting 10-store hallway that opens up to Main Street. The 165-room hotel is family-owned and thus kid-friendly. And they’re not kidding about their commitment to the environment: the entire property is non-smoking, two roofs support solar panels, another green roof grows herbs and veggies, and (the town saw to this) motorized boats aren’t allowed on the lake.
We detoured through the resort’s impressive fitness center, which has a grand view of the lake, and then headed to the indoor pool and Jacuzzi getaway for a chat. I attempted to tune in Bella’s frequent song-making by bungling the soaring lyrics to Adele’s “Hello (from the other side).” Bella gave me that look. I met the challenge by fabricating a tale about Adele’s friend getting mad at her for doing laundry using less environmental powder detergent, as opposed to liquid. I continued, noting that Adele then sang this—rhyming with “Hello”—to that friend: “Caught me washing using Tide!” Result: belly laugh.
Bella’s debut assault on Olympic-caliber Whiteface Mountain was set in motion with skill-honing on double-black-diamond trails via her Junior Adventure Program guide. After conquering the greatest vertical drop east of the Rockies on skis, she inquired, “Why didn’t you come with me?” “Ask my knees,” I replied.
The View, one of Mirror Lake Inn’s waterside restaurants, provided a rare local fine dining opportunity, as it’s the only upscale place allowing children under 12. The time-honored country club feel is enhanced by stoic but affable career waiters. The couples enjoying that date melded nicely with well-behaved families, which made me think that this would be a great place to attend a wedding reception. Actually, it’s all about the food. The pear and mushroom soup was spectacular, and there were certainly no complaints about the Atlantic cod fillet, sea scallops, or crème brûlée.
Our only on-vacation battles were about Bella’s food pickiness—her gourmet palate (sushi never a problem) versus mine, which is familiar with canned ravioli in an emergency. Because The View met her standards, she found our hours there high time to tee-off on my lack of fashion sensibility (I did miss the mark). Later, when I relaxed and sat a bit side-saddle at our fancy table, the fashion beating evolved into a stern etiquette lesson. I’d be warned about failing dress codes and not being cool in my kid’s eyes. But no worries. On the walk home down Main Street, she broke into a happy skip.
Stay away from class clowns…and marry rich.” — Rich older guy from the Bronx seated next to us at The View.
Another stroll led us to the homey, three-level Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, which has seating—and a bar—on each floor. The New England clam chowder silenced Bella while I sampled the Redfield Rye IPA’s spicy balance of Nugget and Amarillo hops. As we departed the gift shop with beer and chocolate-infused soap for mom and some Big Slide IPA, Bella inquired, “Do you think I’d like living here?”
Generations Restaurant is part of the Golden Arrow complex and a great place to satisfy any Adirondack appetite. Two-thirds family restaurant and one-third saloon, their 46er breakfast is tenderloin steak and eggs with buttermilk pancakes. I explained to Bella that the Adirondack Forty-Sixers are an organization of hikers who have climbed all forty-six of the traditionally recognized High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains—and that her grandfather was a proud member. A friendly chat with the restaurant manager revealed that her husband is a driver for the 2018 Olympics Jamaican bobsled team. They met while he was training in Lake Placid. He’d been away training for seven months for the upcoming games in South Korea but was returning home soon. We weren’t able to accept her invitation to meet him.
As we flowed through lovely eastern New York State destined for Vermont (see below), it was lunch time. Bella eats by the clock; I eat via stomach longings. We entered a roadside deli where Bella stated matter-of-factly, “You know I don’t eat sandwiches, right?” Then after pointing at the next three eateries—burger joint, pizza place, gyro joint—my suggestions were met by “Gross. Gross. Gross.” In search of Adirondack sushi? Onward. Once again, I heard someone in the back seat singing.
More on Whiteface/Lake Placid
For more information, visit the Whiteface Lake Placid site and consider an Olympic Sites Passport, which includes the Olympic Center, Museum, Sports Complex, Jumping Complex, and the Whiteface Mountain gondola ride (and disc golf course).
Stratton Mountain, VT
A scenic backroads southeast detour landed us on Vermont’s Stratton Mountain, where everything you love about winter is also right outside your door. This easy escape from all things urban means you park your car and wave it farewell till you leave. That makes Stratton Village unique in the east, where the base lodge’s main hangout, Grizzly’s, takes ski breaks and post-ski fun to another level with a newly rewritten menu, craft beers, fine wines, and live entertainment.
Bella, a black-diamond-hunter, continued her progress as a snowboarder with a private lesson. In the 1980s, Stratton pretty much launched snowboarding. Jake Burton had been testing his eponymous snowboards under the cloak of darkness on Stratton’s trails. He took his prototypes to the vice president of operations who had ski patrol take them for a spin, and in 1983, Stratton became the first major resort to welcome snowboarding. Bella and I spent time with another snowboarding pioneer named Brew, who I’d met in Santa Monica, CA, just after graduating college.
In 1990, when then Stratton Mountain Snowboard Instructor Brew “Vew” Moscarello recognized the need to teach people balance before getting his students on snow, he dusted off his old Bongo Board and began improving on its archaic design. As a snowboarder, Brew wanted a balance board that could turn, spin, rotate, and ollie. So it was off to his woodshop to create what is now known worldwide as a Vew-Do balance board. Brew has been transforming performance balance board manufacturing, riding, and training ever since—and recently reinvented the classic Snurfer. He’s also a helluva nice guy. He gifted Bella a Vew-Do Butter NUB Balance Board, and she’s been tearing up the living room ever since.
Stratton has its own particular smart vibe, and not just since in-the-know city folk flock here. That snowboarder you meet in Grizzly’s might just be 10-time X-Games Gold Medalist and Olympic Silver medalist Lindsey Jacobellis. That dog Lindsey is walking named Sochi is the stray she adopted in Russia (she didn’t make the finals but that consolation prize is something else). And, that dad taking runs with his daughter is two-time Olympic medalist Ross Powers (Bronze in 1996 when snowboarding made its Olympic debut and Gold in Salt Lake City); his daughter Victoria just turned 13 and competes on a national level.
Earthy workouts aside, Stratton really is about dynamic on-the-spot conversations. The people that work at Stratton, waiters included, also have a special glimmer in their eyes, as they completely embrace the winter mountain lifestyle by also teaching skiing, working patrol or volunteering as mountain guides. One mantra here is an overriding respect for the environment. And nobody grooms east coast snow better. In fact, it’s guaranteed. Ski or ride for an hour—not happy? You’ll get a ticket for another day.
On the drive back to NYC, we passed a Burger King: “Gross.”
More on Stratton
For an entertaining Stratton Mountain history lesson, read “The Stratton Mountain Story,” an article by Myra Foster. To make a Stratton Mountain visit happen, start here. We chilled out in Stratton’s ski-in ski-out Solstice neighborhood, which has studio to five-bedroom condominiums plus two hotels, all at the heart of the resort, rather than spread along an access road or across town.
A Schenectady pit stop
We enjoyed a nifty road-trip layover at Schenectady, NY’s Parker Inn & Suites, an eight-story classic built in 1906. Downtown’s only boutique hotel is connected to the historic Proctors Theatre, which was on the original vaudeville circuit—so the historic neighboring 22-room hotel has always accommodated the stars performing in the charming playhouse. Another backer of Schenectady’s comeback is Wolff’s Biergarten, a peanut-shells-on-the-floor gathering place with 64-oz offerings of unfiltered lager and locally crafted root beer. Chase the mac & cheese with a Spaten Optimator, and you’re on your way.