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Winter sports partly shut down

ORDA closes some venues, reduces visitation at others, cancels events

The Skyliners — a synchronized skating team from New York City, Connecticut and New Jersey who are three-time U.S. silver medalists — practice at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center in August 2019 for the World Synchronized Skating Championships, which were scheduled for early April but canceled Friday due to coronavirus concerns. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is closing some of its venues and reducing the visitation capacity of others amidst the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, more major events at ORDA venues have been canceled, including the International Skating Union’s World Synchronized Skating Championships originally scheduled for early April and the USA Bobsled/Skeleton National Championships March 20 and 21.

The state ski centers ORDA runs are still open, but with limited capacity.

Whiteface, Gore limited

The Whiteface gondola casts a shadow in spring 2014. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington announced Thursday night on its website that the facility will be open during regular business hours with limited capacity. It is operating with a 50% density reduction within the indoor facilities, and the Cloudsplitter Gondola closed for the season at the end of the day Friday. All the lifts and seating capacity will be controlled.

Specifically, the Whiteface website states that 50% of the seating at all indoor spaces has been removed. On the lifts, family members and friends who wish to ride together may do so, and strangers/singles reserve the right to have their own chair. Attendants will only pair people up on quads if they want. There are no changes to the restrooms. Shuttles will not operate for the rest of the season. All children’s programming and lessons have been canceled for the season, including day care.

And all Whiteface events and live music performances have been canceled. Those events include the Rail Jam and History Tour on March 14, Give Back Sunday, Make a Wish and Season Pass Holder Appreciation Day on March 15, Apple Butter Moguls on March 21, Grommet Jam on March 28, Banked Salmon on April 4, Pond Skimming on April 11 and Easter events and activities on April 12.

Similar restrictions were posted on the website for the Gore Mountain Ski Center in North Creek and the Facebook page for the Belleayre Mountain ski center in the Catskills, which ORDA operates.

ORDA CEO Michael Pratt speaks at a meeting on coronavirus at the Conference Center in Lake Placid Friday. (Enterprise photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

Nordic skiing even more limited

ORDA CEO Mike Pratt said Friday morning that the Olympic Jumping Complex and the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg will be closed to the public for the rest of the season, except that the cross-country ski trails at Mount Van Hoevenberg will remain open — although restricted due to spring weather and conditions. The mini loop will be the only trail open.

Unrelated to the coronavirus, Mount Van Hoevenberg moved Friday’s men’s and women’s 15k cross-country ski races for the U.S. Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association National Championships to the Olympic Jumping Complex, due to spring-like weather and trail conditions.

Also due to weather and trail conditions, the ski center canceled the annual Lake Placid Nordic Festival and Loppet, which was scheduled for today, according to the Mount Van Hoevenberg Facebook page.

Olympic Center

All operations in the Olympic Center will operate with a 50% density reduction within the indoor facilities, including the Lake Placid Olympic Museum and public ice skating.

People who want to walk around the 1980 Rink in the Herb Brooks Arena will not be able to do so, ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin said Friday, but visitors can still walk into the arena to take photos. Historic tours of the Olympic Center were still held Friday, but it wasn’t clear whether they would continue.

Events canceled

Pratt said all events at ORDA venues have been canceled for the next few weeks. That includes the ISU’s World Synchronized Skating Championships set for April 3-5 at the Olympic Center. All 6,000 seats were sold out.

The Italian and Chinese teams had already pulled out.

ORDA, the ISU and U.S. Figure Skating issued a joint press release about the cancellation Friday, saying that the decision was made in light of New York’s restrictions on public gatherings and the U.S. travel ban affecting 26 European countries due to the pandemic.

“While we are disappointed for all the teams that worked so hard to qualify for these world championships, U.S. Figure Skating supports the ISU’s decision as we globally work to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” U.S. Figure Skating President Anne Cammett said in the press release.

The decision affects skaters from 25 teams representing 19 countries, including five-time world medalists and 28-time U.S. champions Haydenettes and three-time U.S. silver medalists the Skyliners. The cancellation puts an abrupt end to the synchronized skating season. U.S. Figure Skating withdrew its two entries from the ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships 2020, which began Friday.

“I’d like to thank ORDA, the village of Lake Placid and the many volunteers who worked tirelessly to prepare for a world-class event,” Cammett said. “We certainly want Lake Placid to host these championships in the near future.”

Two other big events at the Olympic Center were canceled earlier in the week. On Thursday, it was announced that two huge hockey tournaments — the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s final four and the CAN/AM Challenge Cup for younger players — were canceled as concerns continue over the spread of the novel coronavirus. The CAN/AM tourney was expected to start Thursday and run through the weekend. The ECAC semifinals and championship game were set for March 20 and 21.

Right now, events through April have been canceled, but events in May and beyond have not, as of Friday, according to Lundin. The annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, for example, is on the schedule for May 3 to 7.

“We’re still talking about the fantasy camp, and a decision has not been made at this time,” Lundin said.

With this year being the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, the fantasy camp was sold out quickly, with 65 campers on tap to play with and be coached by members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

Sliding sports cancel

USA Bobsled/Skeleton and USA Luge, both based in Lake Placid, announced Friday that they are canceling programs and events through the rest of the season.

USA Bobsled/Skeleton canceled the National Championships “in an abundance of caution for the safety and well being for the community, partners, athletes, coaches and staff,” according to a press release. The races were originally set for Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21, at the Mount Van Hoevenberg sliding facility.

“We understand the drive and passion of athletes to compete, but as we have seen the number of cases of COVID-19 drastically increase over the last few days, without any signs of slowing, and the ease in which the virus is spreading, we must exercise caution when it comes to the safety of the athletes,” USABS CEO Aron McGuire said in a statement.

USA Luge is canceling all on-ice events at Mount Van Hoevenberg through the rest of the season, including the annual fantasy camps, athlete training, youth screening camps and Masters Championship, spokesman Sandy Caligiore said Friday.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and with our athletes, future athletes, coaches and members in mind, we felt it necessary to terminate the season at this point,” USA Luge CEO Jim Leahy said in a press release. “I have also instructed our staff to cancel any domestic and international travel plans for the time being.”

Also, an April 4 open house at USA Luge headquarters on Church Street, where the team’s new indoor refrigerated training center was to be unveiled, is being postponed. It will be rescheduled for a later date.

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