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ON THE SCENE: Lake Placid skiers try weathering the weather

February 23, 2017
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Climate change is tough on those of us who depend on the environment for a living, directly or indirectly, all of us who live and work in the Adirondacks. There is this saying, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute." Nowadays, perhaps it should be, "If you like the weather, wait a second."

The second week of February was glorious. We had beautiful powder snow, and more kept being added. For those of us who grew up here, it was a reminder what week after week of winter was once like. Yes, there was the annual January thaw, which was grim, but we didn't have such a thaw seemingly every other week.

So last week it was fabulous, and this past weekend it was fabulous if you like spring skiing a month to six weeks early. I am sure it made maple sugar farmers happy, and yes what a great day to be sunning yourself on the deck of the Mid Station Lodge, but if you like skating on the lakes or cross-country skiing, it was a klister day. Klister is a wax that works on ice or slop and is smoothed on skis with a blowtorch. As for taking it off the skis, there is no pleasant way to do it.

Article Photos

Russell Skadl, Conrad Schakenberg and Colleen Skadl
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Another thing you can do, and I don't mean just in crappy weather, is go to High Peaks Cyclery in Lake Placid. Whether the gods have decided to be kind and give us a glorious day, no matter the sport, or if Aite, the Ancient Greek goddess of mischief, delusion, ruin and folly is having full sway, Brian and Karen Delaney and their staff have the equipment, instructors, and knowledge of the region to make sure you have a terrific time.

"There is no such thing as bad weather, just improper clothing, and attitude," said Karen. "We like helping people enjoy our area and improve their quality of life through the products and services we have."

"We take people of any ability level to their next level," said Jeff Murray, who teaches telemark and backcountry skiing.

On Saturday and Sunday, when temperatures hit 50 degrees, they were renting wax-less skis, snowshoes and microspikes, demonstrating fat-tire bikes, sponsoring free guided night rides, offering discounts on all manner of equipment, and inviting people over to their Guide's Cabin to sing ski songs with live music provided by Barry Oreck and Jesse Miller. The price: Bring your favorite beer and enough to share. S'mores, pizza from Mr. Mike's, pretzels and other munchies, what can I say? It was fun.

Need a room to rent, recommendations on where to dine, what's happening at the Palace Theatre or Lake Placid Center for the Arts, the hours for public skating, where to go for a great burger? They have that covered, too.

"We came up for the long weekend," said Colleen Skadl. "Karen and Brian are great. They give us good advice on places to eat, things to see, and they had live music! Their facilities are terrific. It's been wonderful."

"We went skiing, out to the Wild Center, love the otters and ducks, Fort Ticonderoga, the wolf walk place in Wilmington, High Falls Gorge, and all the Olympic sites," said her partner, Conrad Schakenberg.

"This has become an annual thing," said brother Russell Skadl.

Karen and Brian have been in the all-things-outdoors business for 34 years. Before that, Brian was working as a chemist for Johnson & Johnson and burning out on bike racing. He was highly ranked, had done the Tour of Ireland, but the training, the effort, the juggling the job was taking a toll. Plus, he didn't want to continue working in a lab. He saw an ad in Outside Magazine about North Country Community College's ski area management program. Even though he didn't have a lot of experience skiing, he quit the job, enrolled and came up. An unanticipated benefit was that he met Karen, then a nurse. It was a match made in heaven, if there ever was one.

After finishing the course, and an internship at Whiteface Mountain, he took a job managing a small ski area outside Syracuse learning that was not his cup of tea, plus he missed Lake Placid and the North Country. As the village didn't have a dedicated bike shop, they decided to open one in the former Austrian Olympic Committee building located across from St. Agnes Church, aka "the round building."

Ten years later, now selling, renting or repairing equipment for four seasons of activities, Karen and Brian decided to move to their present location, a huge step up in scale not without risk. One thinks of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, cornered on a cliff, deciding the best way forward was to jump off into the raging river hundreds of feet below, even though Sundance didn't know how to swim.

Aside from a willingness to be bold, the Delaneys have learned that Lake Placid works best when as many people and agencies as possible have skin in the game. To that end, they co-sponsor all manner of events from the Winterfest at Adirondak Loj, the mini-triathlons in the summer, the Banff Mountain Movie Festival at the LPCA to the Nordic Festival at Mount Van Hoevenberg, and the 2017 ADK 80k race in August of this year.

"We keep people moving," said Brian. "The whole thing is if we treat people right, we know they're going to come back. Eventually, we'll make a living, but getting them out on the right gear, showing them where to go, giving them lessons, teaching them how to bike, ski, ice climb, kayak, fish helps them enjoy life. Because people have only a little window of freedom these days, we are a bit methodical about trying to get them out on the right thing."

"We came up looking for a place to ride fat-tire bikes," said Brad Rasso.

"We love Lake Placid," said Andrea Rasso. "We come up backpacking in our Volkswagen Van. I was looking for someplace we could go this week that was fat tire friendly. We read about some place up near Canada and here. Since Lake Placid is one of our favorite places, we came here not know they were doing this night ride. It was an adventure!"

"It's crazy," said Brian. "It's OK. Mid-week I can relax!"

As if I believe him.

"There is just so much here to do!" said Karen.



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