When you think of the sport of bobsledding, you think of Switzerland or Germany, certainly not New York State. But New York has a much unknown history of its impact on the sport.
Bobsledding is rumored to have started in Albany, New York, before being introduced to Switzerland. Newspaper reports confirm that Albany once held bobsled races at its winter carnival as early as 1885, two years ahead of the Swiss. At that time, the sport became popular for elite tourists who enjoyed the risk, and that spurred growth of the sport in winter resorts throughout Europe.
The construction of the first track in the United States, at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, began in the late 1920’s for the 1932 Olympic Winter Games. Lake Placid won the bid for these Olympic games over Chicago due to the cutting-edge design, the most challenging in the world at the time. Hank Homberger, from Saranac Lake, designed and built the track and it opened for passenger rides on Christmas Day in 1930. Homberger, and his team, the Saranac Lake Red Devils, set a new world record on it in 1932 and later he went on to win a silver medal in 4 man at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid.
The new track in Lake Placid made the sport of Bobsled an activity anyone could enjoy and not just the elite, just as long as you were unfazed by high speeds on a twisty, icy track with little safety equipment. Subsequently, bobsled squads popped up all over the North Country—The Saranac Lake Red Devils, the Hurricane Bobsled Club from Keene, Capital Region Bobsled Club, the Lyon Mountain Miners, and many others.
Since these early days, Lake Placid has gone on to host a second Olympic Winter Games in 1980, 11 World Championships and countless International and national events and our area has seen many local and regional athletes participate and achieve success in the sport. We embrace our long history and hope you join us next year and we celebrate 90 years of sliding sports at Mt. Van Hoevenberg with the 2021 Bobsled and Skeleton World Championships in February 2021.