This Idyllic Mountain May Just Be New York's Best-kept Ski Secret

And it's a place that could make you feel like an Olympic great, too.

Snow covered coin-operated binoculars against mountains at observation point at Lake Placid
Photo: Cavan Images/Getty Images

In 1932, Lake Placid, New York, hosted its first Olympic Games. In 1980, the town welcomed the games yet again, cementing itself as a world-class winter destination. Now, many years later, that Olympic spirit is alive and well, woven into the fabric of Whiteface Mountain, its impressive slopes, and the surrounding area.

"The Olympics laid the groundwork for the whole community. The venues were left over, so after the Olympics, we had all these competitive venues," Aaron Kellett, the general manager of Whiteface Mountain, told Travel + Leisure. "It's a cool, unique place where you can ski on the same trails as Olympians."

Whiteface, which is about a five-hour drive from New York City, is set across 299 acres of skiable terrain, catering to nearly all abilities, including off-piste double-black diamond wilderness terrain to the Bear Den Learning Center for beginners.

There are three main peaks: Little Whiteface, Whiteface Summit (that comes with the highest lift-served elevation area), and Lookout Mountain.

You'll quickly notice there's no actual lodging on the mountain — a unique feature owing to the fact that the land is actually public, managed by New York state.

"That's probably one of the biggest differences between a state-owned resort and a private resort," Kellett said. "We focus on our skiing products."

Ready to rip? Here's where to explore for every level of skier or rider.

Snowboarding on Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, New York
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For the Olympic Hopeful

Ski or ride in the path of the pros on Skyward, Cloudspin, and Mountain Run, which were all used during the Olympics for the downhill, slalom, and giant slalom competitions. Make sure to take a break from shredding powder every now and then to read up on the mountain's history on the signs placed throughout the runs.

"If you're a local, you take them for granted, they're some of your favorite ski trails," Kellett said. "But if you're from out of town, these are really awesome expert ski trails."

Later, challenge yourself on The Slides, steep off-piste chutes formed by rock slides, mudslides, and even avalanches that are accessible off the Summit Quad lift.

For the Beginner

Beginners should base themselves at Bear Den Mountain, an area packed with easy runs and a dedicated lift.

"A big focus of ours is having the appropriate terrain for our guests," Kellett said. "A lot of what we're doing now is developing our learn to ski center … it's just a step away from the main trails, but it's still attached to them … and then once you're good enough, you can literally ski right out to the big ski area."

Those looking for a bit more of a challenge can try out the Wilmington Trail, which clocks in at 2.1 miles long and is the longest uninterrupted intermediate trail in the Northeast.

Snowshoeing on Algonquin Mountain in Lake Placid
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For Off-mountain Fun

The Olympic spirit extends beyond the mountain itself in Lake Placid with a long list of venues the public can check out. Head to the Lake Placid Bobsled Experience to speed down the track just like the athletes do (participants must be at least 9 years old and 52 inches tall), or ride the Cliffside Coaster, the longest mountain coaster in the United States.

Later, hop in the elevator and take it to the top of the Olympic Jumping Complex (it's home to the U.S. Olympic trials this year) to see the dizzying heights. Adrenaline junkies can even try a zipline to get a sense of what it's like to take the 100-meter jump.

How to Ride

Same-day lift tickets are $115 for adults, $90 for teens, and $75 for kids 7 to 12 years old.

Lake Placid in Winter Andriondack chairs
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Where to Stay

Since Whiteface Mountain sits on state land, there is no lodging on the mountain. Instead, travelers can stay in the nearby town of Lake Placid, which is full of luxury mountain lodges and adorable inns.

Settle into a large leather armchair in front of the crackling fire or sit by a window and stare out at the tops of the mountains and the chilly lake at the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa (one of T+L's top resorts in New York). Relax after a day on the slopes by booking a therapeutic session in the Salt Room, or improve your skills with a private ski lesson with Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht, which you can arrange right through the hotel.

Travelers looking for a cozy place to lay their heads should book a suite with an in-room fireplace at the Lake Placid Stagecoach Inn, which was built in the late 1700s and is the oldest building in Lake Placid. Start the day with complimentary breakfast (think: homemade yogurt or brioche French toast with local maple syrup) and end it with a drink at the house bar and some lively conversation.

Main Street in Lake Placid, a village in the Adirondack Mountains in New York
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Where to Eat

For a quick midday, mid-mountain lunch break with amazing views, head to the Legacy Lodge, opened in 2020, or sit down for some smoked wings and a burger at Growler's Grill in the expanded Bear Den Lodge.

In town, fuel up for a day on the mountain at the breakfast club, etc., where you can order up a plate of eggs Benedict (there are four different kinds) or some over-the-top French toast. In the evening, head to the Salt of the Earth Bistro, which caters to both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike and celebrates international flavors like Japanese chicken karaage, vegan Swedish meatballs, and a grilled New York strip steak with Kerala-style coconut curried potatoes.

Where to Après-ski

Come right off the slopes and grab a beer at the Cloudspin Bar & Grill, and take your drink outside to the fire pit on the deck on bluebird days. Or head back toward town to check out the Big Slide Brewery & Public House, which serves up house beers on tap from sours to pale ales, IPAs, stouts, and more. Order a flight and marvel at the hybrid 3.5/5 barrel brewery, which happens to sit right in the middle of the bar.

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