I've heard that people who live in NYC often never visit the Statue of Liberty and that there are people who live in Florida that have never seen the Everglades. That's how I feel about Lapland Lake — I've lived in the same area for over 20 years, but I had just never been there myself. And, as I recently found out, man was I really missing out!
I turned onto Benson Road in Benson, NY and drove up the long, winding, picturesque road. After about two miles, I crossed over the pretty Hatch Brook Bridge. Another mile later, I passed by the tiny Benson Town Hall, across from which was an interesting, random Adirondack structure, with a sign reading "Draw Bridge." Hmm... I thought, I'm sure there's a story behind that, but I had some skiing to get to so I drove on. Around 4.5 miles along the road was the Trailhead for the Northville - Placid trail (NPT). This is the southern starting point for the 133-mile trail that snakes through the center of the Adirondacks and some great hiking and cross-country skiing can be accessed all along its route.
Just a bit after the parking area for the NPT, I saw the sign to turn for the Lapland Lake Resort and X-C Center. About a quarter of a mile later, and I'm surprised to see a small Scandinavian community bustling with activity pop into view. The main lodge stands to the left with a parking lot, currently filled with 15-20 cars. About a dozen people strolled about carrying snowshoes, cross-country skis, and backpacks. It is a bright sunny Adirondack day and everyone seems to resemble real-life versions of the sunglass-emoji face. It's going to be a great day to ski!
I stepped into the lodge and was greeted by Paul, one of the owners — a tall, quietly enthusiastic gentlemen. He had just gotten back from grooming some of the trails, a winter morning ritual for him. Every day, Paul comes back with a firsthand look at trail conditions for the start of the day.
After getting my trail pass for the day, Paul slid over to the rental shop, located right next to the ticket counter and switched from ticket salesperson to equipment renter. I am a downhill and backcountry skier so I do not own my own cross-country skis. Paul asked for my shoe size and then selected some skis and poles from their extensive array of equipment. He very patiently showed me how the boots clip into the ski bindings. Bindings and boots for cross-country skiing have changed over the years so this short tutorial was great.
The trails at Lapland Lake are easily navigated using their trail map and following signs. Each trail's designated direction for skiers is important, you don't want to be heron-boning up a trail and come face-to-face with someone going downhill! There are also designated trails for snowshoers that skirt the perimeter and weave throughout the resort. The trail names are all Finnish which adds to the Scandinavian feel of the place. Luckily, nobody quizzed me on any pronunciation!
I find my way over to the green (easy) trail nearby to find out if I remember how to do this. I see people of all levels switching about, some in the tracks and some on the more open section of the trail for skating, and...*BAM*! It's like riding a bike! Before I know it, I feel completely comfortable on my lighter-than-my-usual-downhill gear and I'm gliding right along.
Many of the resort's 50K of trails wind through beautiful Adirondack forest area and 38K are tracked with skating lanes. A green trail can be taken right out to the beautiful Woods Lake which is part of the property. On this beautiful day, the ice is good and thick, so I ski out onto the lake under the crisp Adirondack blue sky. A brilliant field of bright white snow stretches out all around me.
As I head back to the lodge, I pass by some of the resort's eleven cottages or tupas. They all have sitting areas, wood stoves, kitchen facilities, and sleeping accommodations. Some can even fit up to 10 people! And, they have direct access to the ski and snowshoe trails. Overnight guests also have nightly access to the illuminated ski trail to the lake, the tubing hill, the ice skating pond, and the resort's authentic Finnish wood-burning sauna! What a great idea for a family getaway!
At the lodge, I wander about, taking in the relaxed atmosphere. A couple sits on the couch enjoying the warmth of the wood stove as they plan out their ski route on a trail map. The lodge cat quietly moves among the guests, inspecting and approving along her route. Upstairs, hot sandwiches, soup, and fresh baked goods are for sale and long tables await hungry skiers, looking to take a snack break.
One of the most pleasant aspects of the resort is the enthusiasm of the staff and their eagerness to share their love of cross-country skiing with everyone. They offer various levels of lessons and are quick to tailor each lesson to the specific needs of each student.
All in all, Lapland Lake is just a beautiful little piece of heaven tucked away from the rest of the world. And, the skiing there can be Finn-tastic!