LAKE PLACID — Adirondack Mountain Club staff shared some of their plans for the Cascade Ski Center in Lake Placid during a virtual public feedback session this week.
The Adirondack Mountain Club, or ADK, finalized its purchase of the Cascade Ski Center in January. ADK’s board of directors approved a contract to purchase the Cascade Ski Center last October. They agreed to purchase the 200-acre property on Cascade Road for approximately $2.5 million, and the club was awarded a $500,000 state grant last December to help with the cost.
The club’s staff organized two public feedback sessions for the center to hear what people in the community think should be done with the facility. Tuesday night’s session was the first session, and the next session is scheduled for next Tuesday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. People can register for next week’s session at https://tinyurl.com/2p9buwtc.
Five members of the public praised the club on Tuesday for purchasing the ski center and gave ideas for how they think it could be improved while still retaining the features many community members enjoy. Fifty people registered for the virtual feedback session and 18 people attended, including ADK staff.
ADK Executive Director Michael Barrett said a large percentage of an estimated eight to 10 million annual area visitors drive through the state Route 73 Corridor, where the ski center is located in Lake Placid. He said the club sees “enormous potential” to use the center for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter months and for engaging with hikers in the summer months. He said in the summer, the club could help spread out trail use, give hikers the information they need to have a safe and responsible journey, help disseminate information from other local organizations like the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism and potentially collect data to contribute to the DEC’s visitor use management plan. Barrett noted Tuesday that the club still plans to continue offering the ski center’s existing retail and rental services.
Barrett said ADK plans to have a minimal presence at the center this summer, possibly providing restrooms and hiker information. When asked if the trails would be open for public use this summer, Barrett said the club would need to consider insurance factors first. He didn’t think there would be a problem with that, and he said ADK might make an announcement about opening trails in the coming weeks.
The Great Room
Barrett said he’s heard from recreationists about how much they value the ski center’s Great Room, a comment that received several head nods from people in attendance. The center’s Great Room typically offers food and warm beverages for skiers and snowshoers hoping to warm up after a long trek. Barrett said the club has noted the high level of community interest in maintaining that use.
John Drendel, an ADK member who’s been skiing and hiking in the area since the 1990s, expressed support for maintaining the Great Room’s winter use. He said the food and libations there have served as a “lifeline” for him after a long ski on the Jackrabbit Trail, which runs through the center, and he wants ADK to continue offering those services in the winter.
Barrett said the Great Room has a capacity of around 85 people, and the club hopes to use it as a classroom space when it’s not being used for recreationists. He said the club has ideas to expand its Three Seasons at Heart Lake program for area fourth graders there, make the room available to other community organizations that don’t have meeting places and continue to expand the club’s skills programming there.
Barrett said the club wants to expand its reach as outdoor educators while continuing to offer the services people know and love, and the club is working to achieve those dual uses for the room.
“It’s not necessarily the ‘what,’ it’s the ‘how’ to get there in a way that kind of pleases both audiences,” he said.
The center also has room for the club to expand its office space, employee housing and, as a result, its staff. Barret said ADK wants to hire more educators.
ADK has 40 staff members most of the year, according to Barrett, expanding closer to 90 during the busy season. He said ADK houses the “vast majority” of its staff. The ski center has a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment, which could house some additional staff.
Barrett said there’s a room next to the Great Room that’s large enough to support a few offices, a restroom and potentially a smaller classroom to support the larger classroom planned for the Great Room.
The lower level of the center also has 32 bunks, which Barrett said could be used to lodge hikers or to house interns from local nonprofits during the summer months. Barrett said the bunks are “no frills” rooms that remind him of his army days: cots with a mattress, bathrooms and a laundry area. He said the club plans to spruce the area a bit, though he said the bunks would be a “turnkey” renovation.
Adirondack Land Trust Conservation Program Director Chris Jage asked if ADK was considering building additional structures on the property to support the club’s different programs. Barrett said that the property didn’t come with additional building rights, so the club couldn’t legally build there now. He said there’s a possibility the club could transfer its building rights from Heart Lake to Cascade, with the permission of contiguous landowners. He said the club isn’t planning on that right now, but it will be a topic of discussion when ADK approaches its master plan for the center.
Kate Hacker, a member of the ADK board of directors, asked if ADK had considered seeking volunteers to act as trailhead stewards at Cascade. Barrett said that service would fit at Cascade, where people might be pulling off the road looking for a restroom or information. ADK Interpretive Manager Tom Manitta thought there would be opportunities in the future for the club to work with volunteers.
Naturalist Audrey Hyson said she’s volunteered for educational programs at places like the Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center and the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, though she’s a Lake Placid resident and would “love to volunteer right here.” She said the recreational aspect of Cascade is great, but she also sees the property as an important natural and historical setting.
Barrett said the club has discussed what it wants to name the ski center going forward, but the range of offerings that would be provided there has the club stumped on what to call it. Barrett asked for ideas from the public on Tuesday.
Drendel said people know and love the name Cascade, and he thought there was value in keeping it. Battisti floated the idea of simply adding “ADK” to the title, giving “ADK at Cascade Ski Center” as an example. Jana Pika, an ADK member, agreed that there should be something in the title to signify that the trails are no longer private.
Barrett said the club wants to make both locals and visitors feel welcome at the ski center.
Barrett said ADK wants to start a “gear library” to address the economic barriers that keep some people from hitting the trails. He said the gear library would offer everything from snowshoes to snowpants free of charge. He said that’s something the club hopes to achieve “in the coming months or year.” The club wants to make sure the public lands at the center are accessible to everyone, Barrett said, and ADK is interested in being a part of people’s first wilderness experience.
Michael Battisti, who recently retired as department head of the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Nordic Center, asked if the club planned to inventory the property’s trails or wetlands, and he expressed interest in helping with the process. He thought some recreational activities might not be suitable for all the trails. Barrett said the club is considering seeking consultants for work that requires that level of expertise. ADK Deputy Executive Director Julia Goren said someone volunteered to help the club with a biological inventory of the property, and she said some trail inventory could be done by ADK staff.
Battisti suggested partnering with BarkEater Trails Alliance, or BETA, to source volunteers to work on the trails; he thought the alliance had a waiting list for volunteers. Barrett said ADK has a working relationship with BETA and wants that partnership to grow. He said that the club is generally looking to partner with other clubs and schools.
Pika asked if ADK would consider offering groomed trails available for skijoring, a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a dog, horse or vehicle. Pika thought Paul Smith’s VIC was one of the only places that offered groomed trails available for skijoring. Goren said that ADK should talk about the possibility of skijoring at Cascade as a team and “absolutely” consider it.
More info, feedback
The club also held two feedback sessions in March with specific stakeholder groups including local governments, people who run facilities similar to the Cascade Ski Center, educators, people in local school districts, adjacent property owners and nonprofit organizations in the area, like the Paul Smith’s College VIC, according to Goren.
Barrett said ADK plans to incorporate feedback from the sessions into a master plan that looks at the property and its potential comprehensively. The club would incorporate that master plan into a comprehensive strategic plan, which ADK plans to leverage as it applies for grants to make the changes happen.
ADK plans to fully summarize all four sessions in a public document. Goren said ADK plans to make the summaries available on the club’s website, www.adk.org, after the sessions. People who can’t make the next feedback session can email their thoughts to ADK at [email protected]