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Florida Guide > Travelling

Lake Placid, New York. Pt 4

The Olympic Passport includes a visit to the ski area at Little Whiteface Mountain with a ride up the Cloud Splitter Gondola and admission to the Veterans Memorial Highway where we could drive to the top of Whiteface Mountain. It took us another half day to enjoy these final elements of our pass and we could easily have passed a full day had we had the time.

It was about 10 - 12 miles to the ski area, when we arrived the sun was out and it was really warm. The facilities here are geared mostly towards skiers but in the summer there is also a big mountain biking presence. The summit of Little Whiteface Mountain stands at 3676' and the journey to its summit is in an eight person fully enclosed gondola aptly named the cloud splitter. When we reached the summit of Little Whiteface the temperature was noticeably cooler, the cloud was swirling around the top and the view was constantly changing, we did however manage our first good view of Lake Placid. Included in the passport was something we didn' t try, Disc golf! The course is situated on the bottom sections of some of the Whiteface ski trails and involves throwing lightweight discs, a bit like frisbees, from one hole to the next, it looked like good fun but we didn' t really have the time if we were to take the trip up Whiteface itself.

Back down in the parking lot the weather was once again glorious and we set off for the Veterans Memorial Highway which is the road to the summit of Whiteface. This route was dedicated by Gov Franklin D Roosevelt in 1929 and was opened by him in 1936 by which time he was president of the US. At the start of the highway it said that visibility at the summit was zero but we set off anyway stopping en route at several of the scenic overviews. We parked just below the summit and visited Whiteface ' castle' which houses the gift shop, cafe and restrooms. It is built in the style of a castle room with a turret on the top and was once known as the upper toll gate. On the wall inside the castle hangs a letter written in 1937 by Chief Engineer Fred K Stuart Greene and addressed to the commissioners of New York state which reads, words to the effect of ' I propose we change the name of the upper tollgate to Whiteface Castle, it may seem to some of you somewhat pretentious but I have just returned from England where they have lots of castles, some smaller than this building and I think it' s time we had a few more over here! ' We were very amused by this but the commissioners must have agreed with him as the upper tollgate is now known as Whiteface Castle.

On leaving the ' castle' we had two options, a steep rocky trail of 1/5 mile to reach the summit or to take a tunnel 450' into the heart of the mountain and then an elevator ride of 27 storeys.

We chose the latter although I was slightly concerned about claustrophobia, however, the tunnel journey into the centre of the mountain was really no worse than queuing for Splash mountain at Magic Kingdom Orlando, but wearing only a vest and shorts it was bitterly cold. When we emerged from the elevator the weather at the top was quite sunny with good visibility but within minutes the view had changed completely and continued to do so for the whole of our time at the summit. There is a weather station at the top of the mountain and because of its position on the jet streams it is one of the best places in the US to study the weather. There were lots of interesting facts about cloud formation, Whiteface is nicknamed the cloud maker and is in cloud 40% of the time which explains a lot! The shadow of the mountain results in a different climate on its opposite side.

We spent quite while at the summit before heading back in the elevator and following the Veterans Highway down the mountain before taking the 16 mile journey back to Lake Placid.

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Page added on: 10 January 2015
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