If you’re traveling through the Adirondacks, you expect to see towering mountains and trees, but if you’re near Lake Placid, you might see something entirely different towering above you: the two concrete pillars belonging to the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex.
This Olympic Ski Jumping Complex has been used since 1921 with a series of various structures built over the years as ski jumping heights increased. The towers you see today were built for the 1980 Winter Olympics, though the land was regraded in the mid-1990s to increase the height of the jumps once again, as well as in 2021 to improve conditions and allow for training even during the non-snowy times of the year.
Today, the towers feature a 90-meter (295-foot) ski jump and a 120-meter (394-foot) ski jump which line up with current heights used for international competition and the Olympics. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a major tournament or Olympic hopefuls training on these hills.
I’ve watched ski jumping during the Olympics and have always marveled at this incredible sport, so I was excited to finally have to chance to check this spot out for myself in 2023 after they reopened from their latest upgrade.
The Olympic Ski Jumping Complex is located less than two miles southeast of downtown Lake Placid and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. It is across the street from the site of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics and backs up to the farm of abolitionist John Brown.
Entrance to the site is through the Intervals Base Lodge, which, in addition to selling tickets for the site, also serves as a small gift shop and cafe for those on the grounds.
Just beyond the lodge, there is a nice viewing area, which is a great spot to watch ski jumpers going down the hill should you be lucky enough to visit when they are practicing.
My family and I were unfortunate to just miss someone practicing on the hill on the mid-August day that we visited. It would have been really great to see someone participating in this sport in person to really get a glimpse into what it’s really like.
Near the viewing area, you can board an enclosed gondola for the short ride to the base of the towers.
These cars are very nice and totally safe for kids of any age since they are fully enclosed. They provide great views of the ski jumping towers as you ascend the hillside.
At the top of the hill, there are several great spots to check out.
My family and I started our time by walking the short distance to the lower entrance of the tallest ski jump tower. Here, an elevator takes you up to the main area just below the actual jumping area.
At the top, you’ll find a large and comfortable room that is reserved for jumpers and their entourage on competition days but is open to normal visitors the rest of the time. The best part of this space is the giant windows that offer views high above the forest. The views here are truly stunning, so make sure to take a minute to enjoy them.
You can even see downtown Lake Placid from here, though the lakes are obscured by the hills surrounding the town.
Once you’ve enjoyed the view from here, step out into the open-air walkway for a view of the ski jump itself.
From this vantage point, you can really get a great sense of how high these jumps are and how
insane brave these athletes are. I can’t imagine getting up the guts to complete a first jump.
In addition to this lower viewing area, you can typically climb a narrow metal staircase to an even higher viewing area just above the actual starting point. The views down the track are truly incredible, as are the views of the surrounding mountains.
Essex County, New York is certainly a place of incredible natural beauty.
Once you’ve enjoyed the view from the top of the tower, take the elevator back down and head to the other viewing area at the top of the hill. This space can be found on ground level on the far side of the larger tower from the top gondola platform.
During events and practices, this area is reserved for coaches but is open to the public if no one is on the hill. It provides more great views, including of the smaller hill and the park’s zipline (which runs during the warmer months of the year).
After enjoying these spots, take the gondola back down the hill, though there’s still one more interesting spot to check out at the base.
On the opposite side of the Intervals Base Lodge from the ski jump towers, you’ll find a large pool and a practice area for aerialists. There are three hills here that serve as practice for a variety of skill levels, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to see a practice.
During my time at the site, there was a large group of what appeared to be beginner/intermediate aerialists going down these hills. Even though most of them weren’t doing crazy tricks, it was still interesting to see this area in action.
The only negative of the complex is there isn’t much signage to tell you about what you are seeing, which would really add to the experience. However, on select days during the summer months, they do offer tours of the site, which are included for free with your tickets.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to plan my visit to coincide with one of these tours, but those wanting to really learn about the complex and the sports that use this area might want to visit during one of these tours.
Overall, my family and I had a fabulous time at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, NY. It was great to really get a feel for the incredible size of these structures and the dedication of the athletes who utilize them.
And, given the fact that you might get lucky enough to actually see an athlete going down these hills, this is a spot that you definitely won’t want to miss.
Olympic Ski Jumping Center
Hours: Hours Vary. See website.
Cost: Adults: $20, Children: $15
Address: 5486 Cascade Rd