History Of The


How It Began:

Lake Placid’s prominence as an international destination began early. With its pristine lakes, adjacent High Peaks, and abundant snowfall, the splendor of the natural environment had already set the perfect stage.

As leisure time rose through the late 1800s, Lake Placid became a natural hub for recreation and sport. But through the next century, it was a succession of community-minded trailblazers with a love of sport who forged the path of our Olympic legacy.

The years 1895 and 1904 were especially pivotal years. The first marks the founding by a group of educators of the Lake Placid Club and the establishment of a hotel on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid. The latter is the first time the club was open through the winter months. That was the year athletes began to ski, skate, and sled and Lake Placid discovered its destiny.

Through the early 1900s Lake Placid drew increasing attention as a world-class destination for winter sports. Then in 1920 Lake Placid secured its first international sanctioned event, the International Outdoor Speed Skating Championships. The success of this event put Lake Placid on the winter sports map. Then, in the following year of 1921, Lake Placid hosted its first International College Winter Sports Games, know as “College Week”. These games attracted the top US & Canadian collegiate winter sports athletes from 1921 – 1950.

Olympic Legacy:

With the region’s reputation firmly established, Lake Placid was chosen to host the third ever Olympic Winter Games in 1932. Athletes from 17 nations provided remarkable performances, further distinguishing Lake Placid as a nexus of winter sports greatness.


At the 1932 Lake Placid Games:

1932 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Lake Placid
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum




The US won the medal tally for the first time (12 medals total – 6 gold, 4 silver, and 2 bronze).

1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics US Mens Bobsled
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum




Edward Egan of the US was the first to medal in both the summer and winter Games. He won gold in boxing in Antwerp in 1920 and gold again in the four-man bobsleigh competition in 1932 in Lake Placid

1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Sonja Henie
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum



Only 11 years old at her first Olympics in 1924 (the first ever Winter Games), Norwegian figure skating phenomenon Sonje Henie came to Lake Placid in 1932 a seasoned veteran. She was a three-time Olympic Champion (1928, 1932, and 1936) in women’s singles skating, a ten-time world champion, and a six-time European champion. Henie won more figure skating titles than any other women’s skater in history.

1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Jack Shea
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum



The three-tiered podium was first introduced at the 1932 Lake Placid Games, and the first gold medalist to take the podium was Lake Placid’s own Jack Shea, born and raised in Lake Placid, he became a hometown hero when he won gold medals in the 500- and 1500-meter speed skating races in the 1932 Olympics. He is also the father of Jim Shea (Innsbruck 1964), and grandfather of Jim Shea Jr. (Salt Lake City 2002).

After Lake Placid wins the bid in 1974 to host the 1980 Winter Games, its sports legacy took another giant leap forward. Televised around the world, the 1980 Games gave us some of the most inspiring performances and unforgettable moments in the history of winter sports.



At the 1980 Lake Placid Games:

1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum




Thirty-seven nations represented by over 1,000 athletes arrived in Lake Placid at the height of an especially tense period in the Cold War.

1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Eric Heiden
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum



Eric Heiden of the US won gold in the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, and 10,000m speed skating events, setting four Olympic records and one world record in the process. He became the first person to win all five speed skating events and the first of only three to win five gold medals in individual events at a single Games (Summer or Winter). To this day, Heiden remains the only athlete to win five gold medals at one Winter Games.

1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics US Mens Hockey Team
Photo courtesy of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum




The US Men’s Hockey Team demonstrated the heart of champions by defeating the seemingly undefeatable Soviet team in what became known as the “The Miracle On Ice”, capturing the hearts of the entire nation as they went on to win gold.

1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics Mens US bobsledders Jeff Gadley and Willie Davenport
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee



Jeff Gadley, along with teammate Willie Davenport are the first Black men to compete on a U.S. Winter Olympic team in any sport. They finished 12th along with teammates Robert Hickey and Jeffrey Jordan in the four-man bobsled event. Also of note: Davenport is only the fourth American to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games (1968 Olympic Summer Games 110m champion).

Lake Placid’s legacy is born of Olympic glory and burns brilliantly yet today. The Olympic Regional Development Authority remains devoted to training athletes at all levels, to recreation in all seasons, and to hosting a broad spectrum of national and international events.

Today, each of the Lake Placid Legacy Sites have been expanded and modernized, setting the bar for sports competition and recreation. Whiteface Mountain’s awe-inspiring ski and snowboard facilities. Mt Van Hoevenberg’s powerful combination of Nordic and sliding sports installations. The newly rejuvenated Olympic Jumping Complex, the only facility in North America homologated for summer and winter competition. And the all-new Olympic Center in downtown Lake Placid with the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, its 1932 Jack Shea Arena,  James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.

All are set to once again to welcome the world. Boundless possibilities are in reach, and the excitement around the Lake Placid Legacy Sites is as high as ever as we invite you to share in the next chapter of our history!