I love traditions. Sadly, I’m old enough to have seen many that I once enjoyed come and go. It often seems that few survive more than 10-15 years until people either “outgrow” them, the government outlaws them, or sensibilities change, leaving them behind. Sometimes their passing makes sense, and I have little regret. There are however, those wonderful traditions, that once lost, are greatly missed.
Happily, some traditions still survive. Just outside of Lake Placid New York, Art Jubin and his family run The Cascade Cross Country Ski Center, where my family and I are frequent visitors.
Cascade is one of my favorite destinations in the “high peaks” area of the Adirondacks. The resort consists of a large central lodge, with, a number of cozy hostel-type bunk rooms in the basement, and on the first floor, a full service Nordic ski shop and service facility. My old friend Terry Watson is the cross-country ski instructor.
There is a large casual high-ceilinged bar and restaurant facility, with a huge stone fireplace, that can be a great comfort after a long ski on a cold afternoon. Most days in the winter they offer a nice lunch menu, very appropriate to the winter season. The dining room faces huge glass windows, with an absolutely breathtaking view of Algonquin, second tallest of the Adirondack’s high peaks. Though Cascade certainly serves many visitors to the region, it is also definitely a gathering spot for a certain local crowd.
I came to know Cascade in the late 1990s when I first visited one December afternoon for “apres’ ski” in the company of the irrepressible Dick Hall, well-known in the winter sports industry as one of the pioneers of “Telemark” skiing. I was immediately taken with the place. To this day, it remains a hang-out for somewhat eccentric Nordic skiing aficionados (sorta like me), as well as characters from the nearby Olympic cross-country, ski jumping and bobsled facilities. To visit there, particularly on a Thursday or Friday afternoon is to enjoy the company of some very unique and fun people.
The facility sits on some of the most beautiful property in the region. Though it is closed in the summer, it is generally open between late November and late March. There are many kilometers of well-groomed cross-country ski trails that access a wide variety of natural habitats, and spectacular vistas. Over the years, many times images from Cascade have been featured in articles on the site. It’s relatively easy to get nice images there.
Our winter trips to Lake Placid stereotypically occur in mid-January and early March. Every so often, if we get lucky, our travels there coincide with their signature event known as Full Moon Madness. This event, much-anticipated in the region, occurs 3 times during the winter, each time on the Saturday closest to the full moon.
Art’s daughter Jennifer tells me that the family has run this event continuously since the early 1980’s. It is a well-regarded and very popular local tradition. On “Full Moon” night, cars not only fill the large parking lot, but extend a mile or so down Route 73 in both directions. For a modest sum, it’s a lot of entertainment.
On that evening, the trails are illuminated with Coleman lanterns set up to guide skiers and snowshoers to several large bonfires built on the trail system. There a visitor will find draft beer, and hot dogs to be cooked over the open flames. It is not necessarily elegant, but it sure is festive and convivial.
Cross-country skiing in the dark can be a challenge . Mix in a little beer or wine and it becomes even more so. A head lamp is very helpful particularly if it is cloudy. Novice skiers should think about snowshoeing to the bonfires, so to avoid being tangled up in the balsams, or mired awkwardly in the trailside snowpack.
Round about 9:00, live music begins in the bar/restaurant and the crowd there slowly swells, as the trails begin to empty out. Some diehards stay out in the woods all night.
Living in the Adirondacks for the winter requires a hardy spirit which is evident as the dance floor fills with my fellow aging hipsters. The “enthusiasm” continues to the wee hours, when one generally observes a line of cabs queuing to pick up somewhat “tired” partygoers.
Important safety tip: If you visit Cascade on the post-full moon Sunday, do not in any way irritate the otherwise pleasant staff. Not only is Full Moon is exhausting to set up and run, but cleanup extends into the pre-dawn hours. Regulars tend to tread lightly the day afterwards for fear of verbal abuse, if not bodily injury.
Though Art Jubin Sr. remains in overall command, it is a relief to me to see the next generation of the Jubin family, particularly Art Jr. and now his younger sister Jennifer, embrace this unique institution and this wonderful winter event. I would hope to ski and visit there for many years to come.
This is one tradition that I would sorely miss should it be lost.
As usual, images in this article can be viewed ful size at henrysmithscottage@.smugmug.com in the gallery: Winter 2014-15