Toboggan Chute opens for season

(News photo — Oliver Reil)

LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute on Parkside Drive is in full swing after it opened Friday, Feb. 16, just in time for the Presidents Day holiday weekend.

“We’ve been busy every night (and day) that we’ve been open,” said North Elba Park District Manager Matt St. Louis as he manned the shack at the bottom of the chute.

At a cool 16 degrees and under a bluebird sky, conditions were excellent on Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 19. Chute-goers waited patiently in the cold for their first, second, third, even fourth runs down. Toboggans rattled and creaked under sledders as they sped down the ice onto Mirror Lake.

Visiting Lake Placid from Brooklyn for her third year in a row, Laura Rud stood squinting into the sun at the bottom of the chute along the fence, waiting with cold hands for her husband Alex, 5-year-old daughter Sorcha, friend Andrey Kotikovsky and his 9-year-old son Asher to come screaming down the slide. The last two times she and her family were here, the chute wasn’t open while they were in town.

The chute was quiet for a holiday, which St. Louis attributed it to the area’s myriad activities, particularly skiing. Nonetheless, the line to the top remained long under the midday sun, with children and adults eagerly jumping back in line after their run.

North Elba Park District Manager Matt St. Louis, foreground, sprays water on the slides of the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute after Lee Jopling shovels off fresh snow Friday morning, Feb. 16. The popular attraction was set to open for the season that evening. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

“Since we’ve opened it’s been fantastic,” maintenance worker Willis Clark said as he worked the admission booth.

Clark has worked for the North Elba Park District for 33 years. This year, he had a hand in constructing the deck and stairs on shore, as well as the chute, the runs and the fence. He’s worked the booth for about 10 years.

“It’s much warmer in here,” he said.

As people continued to shoot down on their toboggans, jovial screams filled the air as they spun and slid across the long landing zone on the Mirror Lake ice. Josh Bilsborrow ran back toward the chute with toboggan in tow, his 5-year-old son Liam along for the ride as his wife Thuy Tran captured the moment from behind. The family was here for the weekend and had run the chute three times that day.

“(Liam) enjoyed going down, but didn’t enjoy standing in line,” Bilsborrow joked.

Despite being slower than over the holiday weekend, long lines remained at the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute on Monday, Feb. 19, which was Presidents Day. (News photo — Oliver Reil)

Opening day

As North Elba Park District employee Lee Jopling was shoveling several inches of fresh snow off the ice slides near the top of the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute Friday morning, Feb. 16, a woman standing on the Parkside Drive sidewalk shouted a question to him.

“Are you guys going to be open tonight?” she said.

Visitors smile on their way down the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute to the Mirror Lake ice on Monday, Feb. 19. (News photo — Oliver Reil)

The answer was yes. After spells of warm weather prevented the Mirror Lake ice from thickening to the required 12 inches for safety, the popular attraction was expected to finally open for the season on Friday evening.

Presidents Day was Monday, and a lot of visitors have come to town for the holiday week. Last year, the Toboggan Chute opened for the season on Feb. 5.

“We’ve received a lot of calls coming for Presidents weekend, and people are excited that we’re almost there,” St. Louis said Friday morning while spraying the two slides with water to build up the ice.

Presidents week is one of three big holiday times in the winter for Lake Placid businesses that rely on tourist traffic for their survival. The others are the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. While Tri-Lakes schools are in session during Presidents week — so they can take a two-week spring break — many other school districts around New York and other states have Presidents week off, and families travel to Lake Placid to enjoy the ice and snow.

“We get a lot of calls,” St. Louis said. “A lot of times, it’s tourists that are coming up. They see it through any advertisements for the town and what to do, and they want to make sure coming here that they might have an opportunity. Unfortunately, with this odd weather we’ve had this winter, we’ve had to break some hearts for people coming here with their kids with CAN/AM (hockey) and whatnot.”

This is one of several signs at the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

After parking on Parkside Drive or somewhere nearby, visitors walk down a small hill to a shack on the ice, where they pay for admission and receive a toboggan big enough for four people. Then they walk to the top of the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute and sit down on their sled, where they are pushed down a slide by one of the Park District workers to the Mirror Lake ice below. Lights allow the attraction to be open during the evening.

“It’s fun when this place is open,” St. Louis said.

Due to unseasonably warm weather on Thursday, Feb. 22, the Toboggan Chute was closed all day and will be closed for Friday’s afternoon hours — originally scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Friday evening’s hours are TBA, the town of North Elba announced Thursday. The hours this weekend are noon to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25.

The Lake Placid Toboggan Chute is a weather-dependent attraction; therefore, if temperatures get too warm, it may not open. It is best to check the Toboggan Chute webpage on the town of North Elba website — http://tinyurl.com/t7zv353y — or the town’s Facebook page for any updates.

On Saturday, all proceeds for the evening session will be donated to the Lake Placid Lions Club, which promotes its annual fundraiser as “toboggan races.”

People gathered on the Mirror Lake ice on Monday, Feb. 19 to ride the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute, spectate, walk and skate. (News photo — Oliver Reil)

“They call it races, but we don’t race,” St. Louis said. “It’s a benefit for them, and we donate the day for them.”

When the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute opened at this site in 1965, there were races there for decades. The current chute opened in February 2017, replacing the old structure, a ski jump from the Lake Placid Club that was converted into a toboggan chute and had to be torn down in 2016 due to structural problems.

Signs posted along the hand railing down to the ice provide safety tips for visitors.

“Ride at your own risk,” one sign warns. “This is a bumpy ride. Do NOT ride if you have any of the following.”

– Back problems

– Spine problems

– Heart conditions

– Pregnancy

– Recent surgery

Another sign warns people about the clothing they should wear while riding a toboggan.

“Due to friction when sliding down the toboggan slide, some types of nylon ski pants may wear through. We recommend durable pants such as jeans. We are not responsible for damaged pants!”

Admission is $10 for students and $20 for adults and includes a toboggan and unlimited rides per session.

This is one of several signs at the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

A group flies out onto the Mirror Lake ice from the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute on Monday, Feb. 19. (News photo — Oliver Reil)

Visitors smile on their way down the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute to the Mirror Lake ice on Monday, Feb. 19. (News photo — Oliver Reil)

Starting at $1.44/week.

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