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Empire State Winter Games to pack Lake Placid this weekend

February 2, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Thursday, Feb. 1 marked the start of the 38th Empire State Winter Games, a weekend full of competition, wins, losses and family entertainment.

Since 1981, Lake Placid has invited thousands of athletes and viewers every year to participate in and watch a slew of events that now range from winter biking to hockey, bobsledding and figure skating to broom ball. The events will also include adaptive versions of many sports such as alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboard cross.

A new event, the inaugural rail jam competition, will be held at Titus Mountain in Malone at 6 p.m. Saturday. Rail jam is a freestyle ski and snowboard event that focuses on tricks and grinds on rails. The first-place winner will take home $8,000 in prize money.

Article Photos

When this photo was taken last week, snow was being brought into Lake Placid’s Main Street parking lot for the Empire State Winter Games Village and bike course. The big parking lot will offer new, free spectator experiences. The hill below the Crowne Plaza will be the site of bike competitions and two zip lines, created by Experience Outdoors.
(Photo provided — Empire State Winter Games)

The events schedule can be found at

Utilizing venues in Lake Placid, Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake, Wilmington, Paul Smiths and Malone, the games are expected to draw 2,500 athletes, which would be a record high, along with 5,000 friends and family members and 15,000 additional spectators. The number of athletes who attended the games last year was 2,314.

"This has been an extremely exciting winter on [the state Olympic Regional Development Authority's] venues," ORDA President Mike Pratt said in a press release. "Lake Placid has hosted five international events that have played significant roles in selecting Olympic teams around the world. Everyone at ORDA takes tremendous pride in not only hosting World Cup and world championship caliber competition, but also events like this that inspire future Olympians."

ESWG Executive Director Tait Wardlaw said in a phone interview that a handful of past ESWG competitors such as alpine skier Andrew Weibrecht, biathlete Maddie Phaneuf and slider Erin Hamlin will compete in this year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The inaugural 330-mile torch relay from New York City to Lake Placid started Monday. The path follows the same route as the Empire State Trail Gov. Cuomo proposed in last year's State of the State address. The final torch bearer was expected to enter the Lake Placid Olympic Center at 6 p.m. Thursday and light the cauldron, signaling the start to the 2018 Empire State Winter Games.

The opening ceremony will also feature an athletes' parade, live music from pop hits cover band Nik and the Nice Guys, and a performance from the Brooklyn Children's Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

One of the major additions to the festivities this year is the ESWG Village, located on Main Street by the municipal parking lot. The ESWG village will feature a large TV live-streaming the events, musical performances, a two-stage, 750-foot zipline and a snow tubing hill, plus the Taste of the Games, a food and drink festival where guests can eat special dishes from 22 different restaurants and sip craft beers.

"It's kind of like a Winter Carnival meets the X Games," Wardlaw. "Today, people are more interested in participating and playing rather than just watching sports."

There will be a send-off for members of the USA Olympic freestyle aerial ski team as they make their way to Pyeongchang in the ESWG Village at 6:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a fireworks show. The aerials team will perform a trampoline exhibition and sign autographs. The first 150 children in attendance will receive free T-shirts. Mirror Lake Drive from Searle Lane to Cedar Way will be closed in both directions from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

The ESWG Village is not only a hub for entertainment and tourism; it's also plays a key role in the competition. The bike cross, bike circuit and NorX, a combination of nordic skiing and mountain biking, events will take place in the ESWG Village Saturday.

Highland Place and Marcy Road will be closed in both directions from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Hillcrest Avenue southbound will be closed from Marcy Road to Highland Place.

"It's more than a competition; it's a festival," Tyler Berliner, a two-time ESWG competitor who now advises the winter bike sport director, said in a press release. "If you come with a family, there's something for everyone to do. And with the [winter bike races] in downtown Lake Placid, amateur athletes will experience the type of cheering you get at the professional level."



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