Romancing the winter

Wanderer Barbara Barton Sloane snuggles up with Lake Placid at Whiteface Lodge.

“There’s a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations.” 

— Washington Irving

The charming village of Lake Placid is near the lake of the same name in New York state’s Adirondack Mountains. It’s known as a Winter Olympics venue (both the 1932 and 1980 Games were held here) and a hub for snow sports and other outdoor activities. There are 86 trails over 22 miles, three mountain peaks and, in the center of town, the snowy, sparkling Mirror Lake with a footpath around the entire shoreline. I took this pretty amble and wanted to shout: “Let it snow, let it snow.” Happily, it did.

The impressive Adirondacks have the highest vertical drop on the East Coast, providing skiing and snowboarding for all skill classes and interests. At the Olympic Sports Complex, you can ski jump, bobsled ride or experience the Ausable Chasm and High Falls Gorge. You can mingle with the Wolves at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge — a 50-acre realm of interpretive trails, rescued animals such as hawks, owls, foxes, and bobcats — or be daring and run with the pack on a dogsled ride on the lake. Or how about a horse-drawn sleigh ride as you nestle under thick blankets to make this winter wonderland a reality? I chose careening around the lake on a sled pulled by a brace of spirited huskies — a memorable experience, to be sure.

A Gilded Age getaway

Tucked into these picturesque woodlands of the Adirondacks’ high peaks is the awe-inspiring Whiteface Lodge. Considered one of the best hotels of its kind in the country, the lodge sits in a 6-million-acre recreation area known as Adirondack Park, whose visitors have included poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post and assorted Vanderbilts. The lodge, a Forbes four-star, AAA Four-Diamond hotel, evokes the splendor of the late-19th century’s Gilded Age and the Great Camps. It includes three restaurants, a spa and 92 all-suite guest rooms, featuring hand-crafted furnishings and private cedar and mahogany balconies and terraces to take in the fresh mountain air. Some appealing elements in each room, especially welcome right now — heated slate floors, warm wood paneling and cast iron gas fireplaces. Once settled in, it was hard for me to tear myself away from this snug environment but the enchanting lodge beckoned. I had to explore. 

Especially as it was time for dinner at Kanu, the lodge’s fine dining establishment. I entered a towering three-story Great Room and was dazzled by its Great Camp splendor — elk, deer and moose heads mounted high on the walls, majestic chandeliers embellished with antlers, two blazing granite and stone fireplaces and, above it all, great hand-hewn log beams rendering this truly great room somehow cozy. I enjoyed a view into the bustling kitchen and a fine Adirondack-inspired repast.

Named one of the top 100 spas in North America by Condé Nast Traveler, the Spa at Whiteface Lodge suggests the natural beauty and bounty of the Adirondacks with signature treatments that range from a Lodge Mud Wrap and an Apple Cider Masque and Massage to an Outdoorsman Facial. (Wimps need not apply.) I relaxed in the steam room and was quickly brought back to life with a challenging dip in the heated indoor/outdoor pool. 

Stars fell on Adirondacks

One of the most enchanting features of Whiteface Lodge is its luxury lean-tos, unique to the Adirondacks and the epitome of rustic elegance. Inviting spots fitted out with sink-in-soft sofas and chairs, warm blankets, bright throw rugs and fire pits, the lean-tos are sheltered on three sides and open to star-gazing. In my case, open also to a lovely full moon, beaming down in all its magical glory. This special place, my friends, is dream-worthy and, if so inclined, downright romantic. Not to be missed.

The property can accommodate year-round conferences, business retreats and social gatherings of up to 200 guests, with a dedicated staff expert in ensuring a seamless experience. Bowling, ice skating, golf — it’s all here at this truly four-season destination. In the village there are fun boutiques and, nearby, the Olympic Museum exhibits captivating memorabilia and artifacts. 

Whiteface Lodge — a cozy wooded retreat in winter, a cool, forested haven in summer — an exceptional place to visit anytime. As for me, I’m already planning my warm-weather return to one of those star-studded lean-tos — this time no need for blankets. I’ll have the romance of the place to keep me warm.

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