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Olympic Mountain

New Olympic museum exhibit shows Whiteface history as ski center, host of 1980 alpine races

February 2, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - It took decades of planning, building trails and infrastructure, even an amendment to the state constitution, and at the end of the day it always comes down to one thing at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center.

"You sit back, breathe and pray for snow," said Lake Placid Olympic Museum Director Alison Haas, who hosted a reception Friday evening, Jan. 26, for a new exhibit, "Name Game: A History of Whiteface."

While the exhibit celebrates the 60th anniversary of the dedication of the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center at Little Whiteface - Jan. 25, 1958 - trails began being developed there 20 years earlier. In fact, the original Whiteface Mountain Ski Center was located near the Whiteface Veterans' Memorial Highway at Marble Mountain, opening in 1949.

Article Photos

Skiers enjoy Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last week.
(Provided photo — ORDA)

Build it, and they will come, as long as there is snow.

Yet the 1980 Olympic Winter Games changed everything. It was the first Winter Olympics that featured manmade snow, and without snowmaking, Lake Placid's 1980 Olympics would have been a bust. That winter was unseasonably warm, and manmade snow was trucked into the nordic skiing venues. The Whiteface Mountain trails had their own state-of-the-art snowmaking system.

Once the 1980 games were awarded to Lake Placid in 1974, a number of international competitions were scheduled for Whiteface Mountain. Under General Manager Don Adams's watch, a switchback service road was constructed to access the lift at the summit.

Bob Paron succeeded Adams as general manager in 1978 and tested snowmaking at the National Alpine Championships in time for preparing the trails for the 1980 games.

According to the museum staff and the exhibit, Paron was instrumental in the success of the games.

"Bob Paron brought John Plausteiner in because he had expertise in snowmaking, and he knew he needed that for the games, and he was Bob Paron's assistant general manager," said Lake Placid Olympic Museum collections manager Louise McGoldrick, who helped Haas create the exhibit.

Plausteiner became general manager at Whiteface in 1986 and was succeeded in 1990 by Ted Blazer, who was eventually hired as the CEO of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which was created after the 1980 Olympics to operate the Olympic venues, such as Whiteface Mountain and the Olympic Center, where the Lake Placid Olympic Museum is located.

During the 1980 games, Whiteface hosted six events:

-Men's and women's slalom: Mountain Run

-Men's downhill: Cloudspin to Broadway to Lower Valley

-Women's downhill: Skyward to Easy Street to Boreen across Ladies Bridge to Lower Valley

-Men's giant slalom: Run 1, Parkway to Lower Valley; Run 2, Thruway to Lower Valley

-Women's giant slalom: Run 1, Thruway to Lower Valley; Run 2, Parkway to Lower Valley

The names of some of the trails were changed specifically for the Olympics, and they stuck.

"It was surprising for me to discover that parts of a race course are named, the different turns and different sections," Haas said. "For instance, the men's downhill, part of the trail used to be called Idiot's Delight. Then with the Olympics coming, they couldn't really refer to it as Idiot's Delight with the world watching, so they changed the name to Broadway because there were already New York state themed trails."

Over the years, many trail names have left the Whiteface Mountain map, including the following:

-Empire Schuss (1958-1962)

-Empire Express (1958-1967)

-Idiot's Delight (1960-1977)

-Appleknocker (mid-1970s-1982)

-Buttercup (mid-1970s-1982)

-Trillium (mid-1970s-1982)

-Downhill (1976-1982)

-Snowflake (198-1982-1990-1997)

-Gold (1982-2015)

-Silver (1982-2015)

-Bronze (1982-2015)

-Tiebreaker (1983-1985)

-Home Run (1986-2015)

-Ridge Runner (1990-1998)

-Wildway (1990-2002)

-Yellow Brick Road (1990-2007)

-Super Pipe (2000-2009)

-Main Street (1990-2015)

-Medalist (1990-2015)

-Silver Shoot (1990-2015)

To learn more about the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center's history, check out the exhibit at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum on the first floor of the Olympic Center's 1980 Fieldhouse.



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