Gov. Andrew Cuomo followed up on his whitewater rafting success last summer in Indian Lake with the first-ever Adirondack Challenge and delivered another first-time event, the Adirondack Winter Challenge Sunday, March 9 at the sports venues in Lake Placid and Wilmington.
"This was really terrific," said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo of sliding down the toboggan chute. "We are so pleased to be here in Lake Placid and to share this with all our colleagues. I represent Binghamton, which is not exactly the North Country, but we certainly appreciate what the governor is trying to do here."
"I got a medal in curling," said teammate Diane Harper. "Tobogganing is a really beautiful sport. Are we in the lead?"
From left, Diane Harper, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto of the Bronx and Assemblywoman Donna Lupaido of Binghamton, taking part in the toboggan competition on Mirror Lake Sunday, March 9. (Photo — Naj Wikoff)
"I thought it was an exciting ride down that hill," said Assemblyman Mike Benedetto. "We have things like this in the Bronx but usually people are chasing us so this was real good, though now I have to go retrieve my hat. This is my first time in Lake Placid and I think that's part of the purpose of what the governor is trying to do, show off the North Country. The governor has sold me. I plan to come again but first I am now going to try the wonderful sport of curling."
And sell Gov. Cuomo did, with more than 250 visitors, area leaders and their families, and members of the media out curling, skating, ski racing at whiteface, bobsledding, speed skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and learning hockey skills. The weather was picture perfect, and the governor took full credit.
"The governor loves to highlight the resources not only of the Adirondacks but those from around the state," said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens. "The Adirondacks are a place that he holds very near and dear to him. He wants to do everything he can to get the word out and the let the world know what a great resource we have here both from a natural resource and a recreational perspective."
The participants recreated with a vengeance and no more so than governor who drove out to Gabriels to hit the trails with contingent of snowmobile enthusiasts. While several in the media raised questions about the rail or trail divide, most were there to just have a good time.
"I want the governor to take away how much fun snowmobiling is. That's it," said Jim McCulley. "I think a lot of people misunderstand snowmobiling. Sure it is a motorized vehicle with power, but it is also very enjoyable. The scenery is beautiful. Everything about it is a lot of fun, and there is a lot of camaraderie. It's a group of very active and very enthusiastic people."
While that group enjoyed speeding over the wide-open spaces, others had thrills of a different nature in mind.
"Personally, I am hoping to achieve a new land speed record in the bobsled," said Assemblyman Dan Stec. "My hero is Steve Holcomb. We have a lot in common, a similar build. I am a little taller, but I think if he can bring home a medal there in Sochi, I can bring home a medal here in Lake Placid. We are on my home turf, home course, and I'm feeling good about it."
"I have competed in the curling against Senator Little," said Keene Supervisor Bill Ferebee. "She pulled it off again. The score was 4 to 5. It was close, but she did a great job."
"I think we should add curling to the Empire State Games," said Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism CEO Jim McKenna, pleased with his own experience throwing the stones for the first time.
"This event is good for two reasons," said Stec. "The obvious one is promoting winter tourism in the Adirondacks, and this is great as it draws attention to our area. Maybe less obvious to the general public but important to me is the opportunity to bring downstate legislators up here to see what we have to offer, see our strengths, see our weaknesses, so when we are working on issues together in Albany, a picture is worth a thousand words and visiting a place is priceless. So the opportunity to have people from downstate to see what a wonderful place this is yet with our own challenges. They are going to drive over some bumpy roads to get here, and that's all good too because they are going to be able to join us when we have issues."
"We need to support the Olympic venues that are here," said Assemblyman Andrew Raia underscoring Stec's point. "The athletes who live and train in Placid and competed in Sochi like Matt Antoine represent all of us in New York. We need to keep the venues at the highest international standards. It would be a shame to lose our athletes to sites out West. Our bobsled and luge athletes are competitive because this run is one of the best and toughest in the world. It is paramount that Lake Placid stays or gets back to being the site of world-class facilities."
"We have beautiful weather, a lot of people are here, everybody has a smile on their face, and the governor has done great thing in bringing Albany to Lake Placid to see what we have here," said North Elba supervisor Roby Politi. "I think it is important that the Senators and Assembly people can come to Lake Placid and are able to see the venues we have, the facilities we have, the beauty we have here so they know that the money that they are investing in Lake Placid has been well spent. It is also important for the master plan of this community that we carry on its dedication to hosting world-class events. I am thrilled about it, and I think everybody who is here today is happy."
"I am so glad I am here," said Assemblyman Keith Wright of Harlem. "This is my first time up here, and it is all they said it was. It is a winter wonderland. You know, anybody can do anything as long as they are exposed to it. No question about it. Believe me, I am going to tell everybody I know about this trip."
"This is an amazing place," said Assemblyman Joseph Saladino of Long Island. "I think every New Yorker should come out and visit. The facilities are amazing. The people are wonderful. We got a chance to ride a bobsled, and that was a thrill of a lifetime. It's tremendously exciting and it is a lot of fun. There are all kinds of ways to play, recreate and enjoy. It's great for the family and the daredevil too. We have learned how wonderful and hospitable the people of this region of the state really are."
"Tourism is a big industry in New York state," said Gov. Cuomo. "The Adirondacks is a story that we have not told enough. People who are in upstate New York, especially the Adirondacks, understand how beautiful it is. People, by and large, don't know. People downstate in New York don't know. People across the country don't know. We want to get the word out, and that will help with tourism, which will help with the economy, and we love to do it because we have fun doing it."