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Empire State Winter Games

February 5, 2014 - John Stack
The Empire State Winter Games are this week (just as the Olympics start in Sochi Russia). Because of our history as an Olympic site, some things may be taken for granted. The ESGs might be seen as just something else that happens here, and that it will always be here. That is not true, as 4 years ago, the State pulled the plug on sponsoring the Games. The Games were almost cancelled. But, the Olympic Region stepped up. The same can’t be said for the Summer games, which haven’t been held since NYS pulled its sponsorship. But now, many local businesses, ORDA, Lake Placid, ROOST and North Elba are all much more involved in continuing on the Winter Empire State Games.

The Winter Games are much more associated with Lake Placid than any summer games venue has. It’s also a bit of location – not many places have all the winter sports venues all within a few miles of each other and the ability to house all the athletes and families. Plus, yeah, the 1980 Olympics were held here. Why else is it special? Nearly no other state has a Winter Games (I’m not sure if anyone else actually still has one). The villages of Tupper Lake (Women’s ice Hockey) as well as Saranac Lake (Cross Country skiing at Dewey Mountain) and Paulmiths (ski orienteering and snowshoe races)are also involved.

The games offer competition for a wide range of athletes. There are 1200 athletes competing this year. From very young children in figure skating, to high schoolers in Ice Hockey to national level competitors in skeleton. You don’t have to be the best. I competed in skeleton back in 2002, as well as snowshoeing . Although I competed against guys like future World Cup Champion Eric Bernotas in skelton, I did well in age group racing in snow shoes. My oldest son has been in Empires in skeleton, snow shoeing and Jr Bobsled. My 16 year old is competing in the inaugural Jr skeleton race this Friday at 7 PM (be there with cowbells!!).

I love the excitement of Empires. Going to the opening ceremonies to watch (or be lucky enough to participate) is always exciting. Many athletes will go on to much bigger and better things, as many athletes in Sochi are past participants of the Empire games. This year will be even more exciting, as the Empire Games overlap the Olympic games, and there will be many events planned around that, especially the lighting of the cauldron at 6 PM Friday. The games are also somewhat low key. Yes, all the athletes will be pushing hard and be serious. But, it is a great family event. There are many events associated with the games as well as normal winter fun activities only our region can offer. Nearlly all the events are totally free to watch. You may be able to watch the next Annelies Cook on the biathlon range or the next great Olympic hockey player like Amanda Kilbourne.

Come on out and cheer these athletes on. Regardless if they are going anywhere else with their sport or if they have aspirations of the 2018 or 2022 Games, support them all over our region this weekend!


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