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State pledges $20M to upgrade Lake Placid facilities

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

LAKE PLACID — In the wake of a warm winter and record financial losses, the state is pledging $20 million worth of upgrades to its winter sports facilities at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid and Gore Mountain in North Creek.

The plan emphasizes year-round attractions. At Mount Van Hoevenberg — currently home of the state’s bobsled-luge-skeleton, cross-country skiing and biathlon venues — the state would finance construction of the longest “mountain coaster” in the United States. Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington would get one of the longest zip lines in North America.

A mountain coaster is similar to a roller coaster in that bobsled or sled-like cars would travel on rail tracks installed on the surface of a mountain. On some mountain coasters, riders are able to control their car’s speed with a brake system. There are more than two dozen mountain coasters in the United States. The Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster at Berkshire East Ski Resort in Charlemont, Mass., opened in 2014 as the longest one in North America at 5,450 feet, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the New York one would be longer than that.

While the governor’s office included the mountain coaster among the upgrades to Whiteface, it would actually be at Mount Van Hoevenberg, according to Jon Lundin, communications director for the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the state entity that runs the state’s winter sports facilties.

In an announcement Monday in Plattsburgh, Cuomo said Whiteface and Gore will get the funding because they aren’t good enough to compete globally. “Upscale amenities,” “conveniences” and “year-round attractions” were key phrases highlighted in the announcement.

“New York state has Olympic-caliber assets and world-class skiing, but the facilities at Gore and Whiteface are outdated and sub-par,” the governor said in a press release. “This investment will transform these resorts into year-round, world-class skiing destinations and attract new skiers and snowboarders from around the globe.”

The money will also go to improvements to Whiteface’s existing infrastructure and facilities, including continuing expansion and renovation to the ski center’s main lodge and parking lot, expanding the Bear Den Learning Center to include a bar and restaurant, and installing a chairlift connecting the Bear Den to the Midstation.

Wilmington town Supervisor and Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Randy Preston was elated with the announcement, calling the planned improvements “long overdue” and describing the upgrades to Whiteface as making the ski center “more Adiron-

dack-y.”

Preston said the zip-line idea has been discussed for a couple of years. He said he’s as excited about this as he was in 2013, when the governor announced a $12 million investment to repave the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.

“It’s absolutely forward thinking,” he said. “I am so happy to see this happening because the [ski center] lodge has been rundown for years. That was built for the Olympics in 1980. It’s not an Adirondack-y warm feeling at all. And if we are going to compete in the marketplace, you have to have the facilities up to snuff.”

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