OLYMPIC LEGACY: Wild weather blues

Thaw, blizzards pose challenges for 1932 Winter Olympic organizers

A competitor prepares to participate in one of the cross-country ski races during the III Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid in February 1932. The start and finish were held at the stadium in front of the high school. (Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

(Editor’s note: This story is part of an “Olympic Legacy” series to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the III Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid in 1932. What happened that year led to this village hosting the XIII Olympic Winter Games in 1980 and the continuing legacy of training Olympic athletes, inspiring future Olympians and hosting international winter sports events.)

LAKE PLACID — In the span of one week, 17-year-old Jay Rand Jr. went from “junior hopeful” to Olympic teammate during the tryouts for the U.S. ski jumping team in January 1968.

A senior at Northwood School at the time, Rand placed 12th and 16th on Jan. 13 and 14 during tryouts on the 70-meter jump at Intervales in Lake Placid. His 306- and 317-foot landings on the 90-meter Pine Hill jump at Iron Mountain, Michigan, gave him a second-place finish and earned him a chance to compete in the 10th Olympic Winter Games at Grenoble, France.

Soon after the final jump on Jan. 21, an Associated Press photographer was on site to take a photo of the six-member team and their coach, Art Tokle.

Jay Rand competes during the 1968 Olympic tryouts for the U.S. ski jumping team. (Provided photo)

“The team will go from Iron Mt. to New York City today, where they will be outfitted in the Olympic uniforms,” reported the Lake Placid News on Jan. 25, 1968.

The following week, they flew to Europe for pre-Olympic competition and then the Games. On the large Olympic hill, Rand placed 35th (second best for the team), and on the normal hill, he placed 42nd (third best for the team).

Rand wasn’t able to go home for a proper send-off before the Olympics, but the homecoming made up for it. The village celebrated “Jay Rand Day” on March 19, organized by the Lions Club, featuring a parade up Main Street, from the Lakeside Motel to the Olympic Arena. He was the first Lake Placid boy of a high school age to be named to an Olympic team.

Rand’s Olympic journey can be traced back to the III Olympic Winter Games in his hometown in 1932. It’s safe to say that the 1932 Games had an influence on most aspects of his life — from before he was born until today, March 4, his 72nd birthday.

Asked what his life would have been like if Lake Placid had never hosted the 1932 Olympics, Rand said, “That’s a hard question to answer. I can tell you more how the 1932 Olympics probably impacted my life and gave me the course that I took.”

Jay Rand tries out the Sky Flyer Zipline at the Olympic Jumping Complex after it opened in the summer of 2020. (Provided photo — ORDA)

Olympic journey

Rand’s Olympic journey began well before he was born in 1950. During the winter of 1930-31, the North Elba Parks and Playground Commission (North Elba Park District) built two small ski jumps on the hill where the Crowne Plaza hotel now stands. At 15 and 27 meters (soon changed to 30 meters), they were known as the high school jumps. Construction began on Dec. 9, 1930 (Dec. 12, 1930, LPN). The smaller jump opened in December, and the bigger one opened in January.

While preparations were being made on the 60-meter Intervales jump prior to the Olympic ski jumping competition, athletes practiced on the 30-meter jump in town, located behind the newly built arena.

The U.S. hockey team poses during the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. From left, kneeling, are Franklin Farrell, John Bent, Osborn Anderson, John Cookman, Gordon Smith and Edward Frazier. From left, standing, are coach Alfred Winsor, Francis Nelson, Robert Livingston, Joseph Fitzgerald, Douglas Everett, John Chase, Winthrop Palmer, John Garrison, Gerard Hallock, trainer Tom Murray and assistant coach Gil Gleason. (Provided photo — Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

It was on the high school jumps that Rand’s father — Jay Rand Sr. — learned to ski jump. By age 10, in early 1933, he was competing on the 30-meter jump for the Lake Placid Athletic Club (March 3, 1933, LPN). Later in the 1930s, he began ski jumping for the Lake Placid Club’s Sno Birds organization with fellow Lake Placid High School student Art Devlin at the Intervales jumps. When World War II began, Jay Sr. joined the U.S. Army and became a decorated paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, serving in six major European combat invasions.

After the war, Jay Sr. settled down in Lake Placid and didn’t pursue Olympic ski jumping like his friend Art Devlin, who competed in the 1948, 1952 and 1956 Winter Games. Yet ski jumping continued in the Rand household. Jay Jr. and his brothers Steven and John learned to ski jump. Small jumps were built at their Grandview Avenue home, and Jay Sr. became Jay Jr.’s first coach at the age of 3 (Jan. 25, 1968, LPN).

Rand joined the Lake Placid junior ski jumping team when he was 5 years old, and he joined the U.S. Ski Jumping Team in 1966 at the age of 16.

“The Lake Placid Junior Jumping Program was run by some volunteers: John Viscome, Bud Colby and Matt Clark,” Rand said Tuesday, March 1. “They had reestablished the program for the kids, and it really took off.”

Rand and his friends in the Lake Placid junior ski jumping program practiced on the 15- and 30-meter jumps, three times a week under the lights, from 7 to 9 p.m. And they’d have competitions on Friday nights.

Norwegian ski jumpers, brothers Sigmund (left) and Birger Ruud pose during the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Birger won the gold in ski jumping. (Provided photo — Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

“Back in those days, there was a road at the end of the outrun and if you didn’t stop, you’d go into the road and/or off over the bank into the high school,” Rand said.

By the time he was 10, Rand graduated to the 70-meter jump at Intervales (the 60-meter Olympic jump was upgraded to 70 meters in the early 1940s). It’s the site of today’s Olympic Jumping Complex, which features the two ski jumps from the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

“That was one of the leftovers for the developments for the 1932 Olympics that gave us an opportunity really to become bigger hill ski jumpers,” Rand said. “Basically that gave me the training facility that I needed to try out for the 1968 Olympic team.”

After the 1968 Olympics, Rand broke an international hill record at Lahti, Finland and became the international junior champion. He continued ski jumping for four years while attending the University of Colorado. In 1970, he was the NCAA ski jumping champion and was named to the All American Ski Team, and he competed in the International University Sports Federation’s Winter World University Games in Finland. He was on the World Team in 1974 and competed on the U.S. Ski Jumping Team until 1976. He attended graduate school at the University of Vermont, where he competed in ski jumping.

Coming home

During his ski jumping years, Rand met his wife, Gun (Christenson), at the Holmenkollen in Oslo, Norway.

“And we’ve been married now for, I think, 45 years with three daughters,” Rand said. “And one of my daughters is also a ski jumper; all three were racers that skied for the New York Ski Educational Foundation.”

Rand moved back to Lake Placid in 1977 and began working for the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee and continued there through the 1980 Winter Olympics. While the venue manager at the ski jumping complex, he was the first jumper to try out the newly finished 90-meter ski jump (now 120-meter jump) on Feb. 1, 1979.

After the Olympics, Rand continued managing the ski jumps for the town of North Elba until the state Olympic Regional Development Authority took over the facility in 1982. As an ORDA employee, he remained in that position while managing the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg (bobsled and luge runs and cross-country ski and biathlon facilities). In 1996, he became general manager of the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington and stayed there until 2009, when he was hired as executive director of NYSEF. He retired from NYSEF in 2016.

Rand never left ski jumping. From 1983 to 1994, he was a ski jumping commentator for ABC and ESPN, including the 1984 Olympic Winter Games at Sarajevo. He was chairman of the Eastern and National Ski Jumping Committees and was on the International Ski Federation’s Ski Jumping Committee. He continues as a NYSEF ski jumping coach alongside Colin Delaney and Larry Stone.

“As a matter of fact, today I have practice at 3 o’clock on the new little 10-, 20- and 49-meter jumps,” he said Tuesday.

Rand is also an official for Alpine skiing and ski jumping.

“So you can see, throughout my entire life, the legacy of the 1932 Olympics,” Rand said. “It certainly was a dominant influence in the course of my life.”

Looking at New York state’s recent investment in the newly upgraded Olympic venues, especially the ski jumps, Rand has high hopes for the future of Lake Placid and its young athletes, whether they make it to an Olympic team or not.

“Those facilities are equal to or better than most everything in the world now,” he said. “And they’re going to have every single advantage to be top competitors.”

Rand was inducted into the Lake Placid Hall of Fame in 2003, and he is a member of the Northwood School Hall of Fame.

He served as a North Elba town councilman from 1988 to 2019 and as town supervisor from 2020 to 2021.

Wild Olympic weather

The author of the official report for the III Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid made a point to describe the weather on Thursday, Feb. 4, 1932, when the opening ceremony was scheduled at the new Olympic stadium on Main Street.

“Everything was in readiness early, and even the weather, which had been anything but favorable during the period immediately preceding the Games, seemingly decided that it too should help, and the morning of the opening day dawned bright and cold.”

The 400-meter speedskating track had been freshly flooded the night before, ready for the day’s races. Two hockey boxes in the middle of the track were ready for practice and competition. Bleachers were being filled with residents, tourists, media and dignitaries. And athletes from 17 nations were ready to be marched in on the ice, each team saluting the local, state, national and international Olympic officials and Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt watching from the reviewing stand on their way to a hockey box. Godfrey Dewey, president of the III Olympic Winter Games Committee, introduced the governor, who declared the Games open.

“Then to the strains of bugles and the cannon’s salute, the great, white Olympic flag, with its five rings symbolizing the five continents joined together in the amity of international sports competitions, was slowly hoisted to the top of the flagstaff,” the 1932 Winter Olympic report stated.

Lake Placid speedskater Jack Shea then raised his right hand and recited the Olympic oath of amateurism.

The report made sure to emphasize that there was a “cloudless sky” and “brilliant sun” overhead.

The honeymoon with Mother Nature didn’t last long. The Games were scheduled from Feb. 4 to 13, but competition had to be extended by two days because of the weather. Some hockey games were moved inside, a ski race course was altered, and bobsled races were postponed due to poor weather.


“The most extraordinary winter conditions in the history of the United States weather bureau workt [sic] many hardships on both officials and contestants, not to speak of those whose duty it was to see that all facilities, trails and jumps, were in readiness for the Olympic program,” the 1932 Winter Olympic report stated in the section on skiing. “Unselfish co-operation and hard work on the part of all these groups, however, made it possible to run off each of the four events on the day scheduled.”

In skiing there was competition for the 18k and 50k cross-country ski races, ski jumping and Nordic combined (18k race and ski jumping). The start and finish were at the stadium.

For the 50k race, officials chose the Clifford Falls route, but a course change had to be made, and the race was delayed by three hours on Feb. 13. A thaw set in two days before the race, temperatures reaching 45 degrees F, but the main problem was a lack of snow. Normally locals didn’t worry about thaws, as they typically only lasted “for only a few hours or a day at most.”

“But during the Olympic winter at Lake Placid all ordinary weather prognostications had to be thrown into the discard,” the report stated. “Nothing could be projected on a basis of past experience.”

The solution for the 50k race was to run a loop of 23.777 kilometers twice, “with an extension to the finish, making the total distance 48.239 kilometers. This recommendation was accepted by the jury of terrain as the best solution to the problem. The course furnisht [sic] an excellent test of skiing skill.”

At Intervales, the 60-meter jump and landing hill stayed in good shape for afternoon competition on Feb. 11 and 12.

“The out-run of the lower hill was slushy in many places when the jumping began,” the report stated, “but the upper slide and the landing-hill were not materially affected, since Intervales faces northeast, and the afternoon sun in winter does not strike the slide directly.”

The top-three results from the ski races were:

– 18k race (Feb. 10): Sven Utterstrom (Sweden), gold; Axel Vikstrom (Sweden), silver; Veli Saarinen (Finland), bronze

– Nordic combined (18k race on Feb. 10; jump on Feb. 11): Johan Grottumsbraaten (Norway), gold; Ole Stenen (Norway), silver; Hans Vinjarengen (Norway) bronze

– Ski jumping (Feb. 12): Birger Ruud (Norway), gold; Hans Beck (Norway), silver, Kaare Wahlberg (Norway), bronze

– 50k race (Feb. 13): Veli Saarinen (Finland), gold; Vaino Liikkanen (Finland), silver; Arne Rustadstuen (Norway), bronze


“Once again the arena proved its worth in making possible the playing thru of the hockey schedule without any interruption,” the 1932 Winter Olympic report stated. “When weather conditions were against outdoor play, games were shifted to the indoor rink, with resulting satisfaction to the spectators and the players alike.”

Four games (not including exhibition games) were moved from the stadium to the arena because of weather. In all, six regular games were played in the stadium box, and six were played in the arena.

Four countries fielded Olympic ice hockey teams: U.S., Canada, Germany and Poland. Each team played the other twice, resulting in 12 games. Yet the schedule required a minimum of 18 games. Therefore, exhibition games had to be played. Olympic teams played McGill University and Lake Placid Athletic Club teams — but only five games total. Two games originally scheduled between the LPAC and Canada and the LPAC and the U.S. were replaced by one game between the LPAC and a team made of players from the U.S. and Canadian Olympic squads.

“The Olympic players were all drest [sic] in United States jerseys, only the stockings distinguishing the Canadian players from those of the United States. This exhibition clash was one of the best games on the entire Olympic card,” the report states.

The U.S. and Canada packed the arena the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 13 and tied 2-2 before the closing ceremony.

Canada won gold; U.S., silver; and Germany, bronze.


“Weather conditions made it necessary to shift the two-man races, originally scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9, to Feb. 9 and 10, a raging blizzard making it impossible to use the run on Feb. 8,” the report stated.

And the four-man events on Feb. 11 and 12 were postponed to Feb. 14 and 15 due to poor ice conditions from a thaw.

There were two heats each day for the two- and four-man races.

The results were:

– Two-man: USA 1 (pilot J. Hubert Stevens and Curtis Stevens), gold; Switzerland 2 (pilot Reto Capadrutt and Oscar Eier), silver; USA 2 (pilot John Heaton and Robert Minton), bronze

– Four-man: USA 1 (pilot William Fiske, Edward Eagan, Clifford Gray, Jay O’Brien), gold; USA 2 (pilot Henry Homburger, Percy Bryant, F. Paul Stevens, Edmund Horton), silver; Germany 1 (pilot Hanns Kilian, Max Ludwig, Hans Mehlhorn, Sebastian Huber), bronze

Closing ceremony

Poor weather plagued Olympic organizers right up until the closing ceremony, but they wouldn’t let a little blizzard stop them from celebrating outdoors in the stadium. An estimated crowd of more than 6,000 adjourned from the hockey game in the arena to the stadium to bring the Games officially to a close.

“The darkness of a winter afternoon was beginning to come down on the stadium as the ceremonies began, and the long-delayed and ardently-wished-for snow-storm quickly covered both contestants and spectators with a mantle of white,” the report stated. “Huge arc lights shone thru the gathering gloom, and millions of snow flakes sparkled and glittered in the shafts of brightness.

“It was a dramatic finish in a dramatic setting to a dramatic sports event.”

Games overview

In all, 252 athletes competed in 14 events for five sports on the official program, according to the IOC: skiing, bobsleigh, hockey, speedskating and figure skating. The demonstration sports were dog-sled racing, curling and women’s speedskating.

The 17 nations were the U.S., Canada, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Romania. Including reserve athletes and those in the demonstration sports, there were 364 athletes registered for the games, according to the Olympic report.

The medal count was:

– U.S., 12 (6 gold, 4 silver, 2 bronze)

– Norway, 10 (3 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze)

– Canada, 7 (1 gold, 1 silver, 5 bronze)

– Sweden, 3 (1 gold, 2 silver)

– Finland, 3 (1 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)

– Austria, 2 (1 gold, 1 silver)

– Germany, 2 (2 bronze)

– France, 1 (gold)

– Switzerland, 1 (silver)

– Hungary, 1 (bronze)

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