EYE ON BUSINESS: Discover your Scotts Cobble

New vision proposed for old Lake Placid ski center

Skiers at the old Scotts Cobble ski center (Provided photo — Lake Placid/North Elba Historical Society)

LAKE PLACID — On a cold, blustery night last winter, High Peaks Cyclery owners Brian and Karen Delaney set out for a nighttime ski at the town of Tupper Lake’s cross-country ski trails on Mount Morris. They were the only people at the ski center that night.

With headlamps showing the way, they began gliding over the snow. But as they moved through the trees, LED lights flickered on alongside the couple, bathing the trail in light as they sailed by and turning off once they’d passed.

“Karen, this is awesome!” Brian Delaney recalled saying to his wife. “I was like, ‘We’ve got to do this in Lake Placid.'”

Enter Scotts Cobble, a humble mountain on the southern side of the Craig Wood Golf Course on state Route 73 in the town of North Elba. It was once home to a tiny downhill ski center operated by the North Elba Park District — opening on Jan. 8, 1938, and closing at the end of winter in 1973. But this winter, Delaney is hoping to open a new version of the ski center — with 10 kilometers of lighted cross-country ski trails and a goal of reacquainting local communities with the culture of Nordic skiing.

Delaney calls the new Scotts Cobble Recreation Center “Lake Placid’s community trails.”

High Peaks Cyclery on Main Street, Lake Placid (News photo — Andy Flynn)

“‘Discover your Scotts Cobble,'” he said.

His vision is that the center will offer cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, sledding, nighttime skiing and backcountry skiing, and the 10k of trails will be free to access for area residents. That includes people in the Tri-Lakes communities as well as Olympic Region towns such as Wilmington and Keene. The ski trails at Scotts Cobble, which back up to the Jackrabbit Trail, are expected to be pet-friendly. Delaney is also planning several programs, including an afterschool program from 3 to 5 p.m. on weekdays where local students could rent ski gear and ski for free.

The proposed ski center already has a lodge — the golf course clubhouse — with space for a retail store, ski rental area, locker rooms, showers and enough room to host weddings and other events. Delaney expects a shuttle will run from the center to the town, and he’s talking with local schools about routing school buses there. Delaney hopes to open a restaurant at the lodge on weekends, and he wants to provide coffee and hot cocoa every day for trail users.

Delaney plans to charge non-locals a fee to ski at the center — $15 for a daily pass, $100 for a family season pass and $50 for a regular season pass.

Delaney said Scotts Cobble ski center will complement rather than compete with other local ski centers. All of the pieces seem to have fallen into place. The town of North Elba owns Craig Wood, and town Supervisor Derek Doty said the lodge is heated each winter already — the highway department will just need to do a little more snow plowing there now. And with High Peaks Cyclery’s history of hosting races and events around town, Delaney said his store already has the town of North Elba, the state of New York and the village of Lake Placid on its insurance.

“It’s just the perfect segue,” Delaney said.

Delaney hopes to host a grand opening of the ski center on Dec. 17, depending on the weather. He expects the first afterschool program to begin on Dec. 16, weather-permitting.

“Love of the sport”

When asked what motivated him to open the ski center, Delaney put it simply: “for the love of the sport.” He recalled a 1980s-era adage that said, “If you can walk, you can cross-country ski.”

“That was the worst thing that ever happened,” Delaney said of the adage. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. But if you want to cross-country ski, take a lesson and then you’ll love it.”

Located on Main Street at the McKinley Street traffic light, High Peaks Cyclery has been open for nearly 40 years, and Delaney has come across a lot of “misguided” cross-country skiers in that time. His key to cross-country skiing? Start with a ski lesson. He’s spent years teaching people to be better skiers and, in turn, seeing them fall for the sport themselves. He wants to continue those teaching efforts at Scotts Cobble.

Delaney spent more than 20 years teaching ski lessons at Mount Van Hoevenberg as part of a state Olympic Regional Development Authority program, where everyone who bought new skis got a free lesson. He said it was good for the Nordic skiing sport. Teaching is clearly a passion for Delaney — when he spots a person who’s “snowshoeing on skis,” he feels a pull to help them enjoy the sport.

“That’s not skiing — skiing is moving over the snow with a big smile over your face,” Delaney said.

For the community

While the new Scotts Cobble ski center will be developed with the entire community in mind, it was first created by the Lake Placid Ski Club. The Lake Placid News first reported plans for the ski center in a 1937 story titled, “Town Board agrees to follow ski club’s plan to develop a ski center at Scott’s Cobble.”

“With a record of being first in developing winter and summer sports, the Town Fathers some time ago were faced with the problem of enlarging their house to take care of their ever-growing figure skating family in summer and now they have found that their winter playgrounds have grown too small,” the article reads.

Delaney said he approached Doty when he first thought about reopening the Scotts Cobble Ski Center with lighted trails, and Doty expressed support. At the North Elba Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1, councilors approved $5,000 of the town’s COVID-19 relief funds to help Delaney purchase LED lights for the trail network.

Delaney has invested around $35,000 in getting the center going again — paying staff, buying supplies, etc. — but he believes the money will come back to him someday. Donations are welcome from locals, he said, but his top priority is to keep skiing at the center free for the people who live here. He told the North Elba Town Council on Nov. 1 that he believes the community has lost some of its Nordic culture, and he wants to help build it back up.

“We’re meeting a need, and now we’re building that Nordic community within our community that makes people feel good about our home,” Delaney told councilors. “That’s what I want.”

Delaney said he’s already received a lot of community support for the project. People have stopped in his store asking what they can do — people want to help install lights and even help Delaney source a snowmobile to maintain the trails.

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