Over 2,500 Feet of Vertical Regret: Mountain Biking Lake Placid's Little Whiteface - Page 2

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Departing the Cloudsplitter—America's fastest gondola—for an equally rapid descent of Little Whiteface  (Michele Buck)

In fact, mountain biking first came to Whiteface Ski Resort in 1996 and, in retrospect, the move seemed natural: pristine terrain on one of North America's most respected mountains in a region already world-famous for its decadent outdoor recreation. Flocks of Adirondacks free riders had already adopted good chunks of the surrounding region as their own private dirt-packed amusement park; the ground was fertile. Yet oft-heard concerns about potential erosion and severe environmental damage kept mountain biking off Whiteface, a revered winter institution long before it hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Enter High Peaks Cyclery, a Lake Placid institution since 1982. Working under the guidance of the International Mountain Biking Association, who continue to pave the way in sensible, environmentally friendly trail construction, High Peaks joined forces with the Olympic Regional Development Association (ORDA). Together, they carved some serious singletrack routes through the pockets of woods between the ski runs midway up the mountain and along the river valley at the base of the resort. A nominal fee got you shuttle access halfway up the mountain, and word started to spread that Whiteface had some sick fat-tire downhill routes. In 1999, when the Cloudsplitter Gondola opened, the last piece fell into place: high-speed transport for you and your bike to the top of the peak, with 20-plus routes to bomb down, tear across, and question your sanity with every plunge and pull of the brakes.

Little Whiteface, it should be noted, is little only in comparison to its neighbor, 4,867-foot Whiteface Mountain. While the upper reaches of Whiteface are off-limits to mountain bikes, the trails starting from the Cloudsplitter carve into the peak's southern sections, linking up at the base with a network of singletrack that reaches as far west as the town of Wilmington, New York.

Despite the ideal circumstances, however, I saw only two other mountain bikers the entire time I cycled on Whiteface, which, Mike confessed with a mixture of disappointment and incomprehension, is pretty much always the case. Whiteface is undoubtedly on the alpine skier's radar—the 1980 Olympics saw to that—but it still hovers below the horizon of most mountain bikers. With the kind of terrain that you can access from Cloudsplitter, however, the thin crowds won't last for long.

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Best Hotels in Lake Placid

$520-$887
Average/night*
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#1
The Whiteface Lodge
$159
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#3
Courtyard by Marriott Lake Placid
$143
Average/night*
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#4
Crowne Plaza Resort LAKE PLACID-GOLF CLUB
$163
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#5
Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

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