Let the games begin
New York’s Empire State Winter Games
LAKE PLACID — After wrapping up the 2023 FISU Winter World University Games less than two weeks ago, this village is already focused on its next big winter sports event: the 43rd Empire State Winter Games, which began at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2 with the opening ceremony at the Mirror Lake Municipal Beach and will run through Sunday.
The games are expected to draw around 2,000 athletes, according to ESWG officials. Most of the athletes will be from New York state but some will come from Canada and several U.S. states, including Wisconsin and North Carolina, according to Jon Lundin, the ESWG head of communications and media.
“Last year, it was an exciting time because it was the first games since the return from the pandemic, so there was obviously a lot of excitement that was built up,” Lundin said. “People really wanted to be a part of this event.”
During the games, the athletes will compete in a variety of winter sports: adaptive biathlon, adaptive bobsled, adaptive cross-country skiing, adaptive sled hockey, Alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, figure skating, luge, skeleton, ski and snowboard cross, freestyle moguls, ski orienteering, hockey (10U boys, 12U and 14U girls, senior women), winter biking and speedskating (short-track and long-track).
The ESWG’s Nordic combined and ski jumping events will not be held this weekend; instead, they will be combined with the Eastern Ski Jumping & Nordic Combined competition on March 11 in Lake Placid, according to Lundin.
This week’s competitions will be held at the following venues: Olympic Center, Olympic Speedskating Oval and Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid; Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington; Paul Smith’s College VIC; Mount Pisgah Ski Center, Saranac Lake Civic Center and Dewey Mountain Recreation Center in Saranac Lake; and the Tupper Lake Civic Center.
The Adirondack Sports Council — on the heels of organizing the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Winter World University Game — is currently the organizing committee for the Empire State Winter Games, which is a community-driven event. It consists of a partnership between the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, based in Lake Placid; the towns of North Elba, Wilmington, Tupper Lake, Harrietstown and Brighton; the villages of Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake; the counties of Essex and Franklin; and ORDA.
Organizers are hoping the Empire State Winter Games competitions — which are free for spectators — will have the same excitement level as the FISU games, which sold 58,000 tickets, according to Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez.
“The exposure that Lake Placid received over the last couple of weeks will have that curiosity as well from people here that see the Empire State Games and decide that’s something that they might want to attend while they are in Lake Placid,” Lundin said.
The five-day torch relay, which started on Sunday, Jan. 29 and covered 700 miles, had two starting points: Buffalo and New York City. The relays will converge and head to Lake Placid for the final leg, with the torch arriving in town at 4 p.m. Thursday. It will be escorted from Community Bank on Saranac Avenue to the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort on Main Street and finally to the beach for the opening ceremony, which will have a cowboy theme this year.
Lake Placid ski jumper and 2023 ESWG Athlete of the Year Max Fey, 12, was expected to light the cauldron.
“I wasn’t really expecting to get Athlete of the Year,” Fey said in a press release. “I was just very excited to get it. I’m just really excited to light the cauldron and do all that.”
Fey, a student at Lake Placid Middle School, is coming off setting the new hill record on Little Nansen Ski Jump last weekend in Berlin, New Hampshire. The son of Heather and Chris Fey, he started jumping at age 5 and has now jumped in competitions in Norway, Alaska, Chicago, Park City and Steamboat Springs. His next big meet is Junior Nationals in Coleraine, Minnesota from Feb. 21 to 25.
Fey said jumping “feels like flying. Like if you were to stick your head out of a car window, but you have your entire body out of the window.”
As a skier with the New York Ski Educational Foundation, based in Wilmington, Fey said the best part about jumping is “you get to meet lots of people and get to jump a lot of hills. I want to give a shout-out to NYSEF, where I learned to jump, and coaches Colin Delaney, Larry Stone and Jay Rand.”
The ESWG schedule can be found online at empirestatewintergames.com.
(Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.)