Mirror Lake Inn is a magnet that pulls you back
to Lake Placid year after year.

A few black and white pictures in my family’s photograph album show a young girl at Santa’s Village on Whiteface Mountain in Upstate New York’s Adirondack Region. Among the photos taken at this Santa Claus theme park near Lake Placid, one shows the 10-year-old sitting in Santa’s sleigh and another captures her petting a reindeer. The girl was me and the photographs were taken several decades ago when the seeds of a lifelong passion for the Adirondacks were planted.

Almost every year since those long ago visits to Santa’s Village (it still exists), I have returned to the Adirondack Mountains, in particular the town of Lake Placid where I have watched it blossom into a popular and full-blown vacation destination. I have also watched the evolution of the Mirror Lake Inn, the grand dame of the town’s hotels. Over the years, this all-seasons lakefront resort has attracted high profile guests dating back to 1932 when Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics and the Norwegian Team occupied the entire hotel. When the town again hosted the Olympics in 1980, champion skaters Dick Button and Toller Cranston made the Mirror Lake Inn their home away from home.

Perched on a hillside on the edge of town, overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack high peaks, this imposing white wooden structure was originally built in 1883 as a private residence and it wasn’t until 1924 that it became an inn. At that time it was taken over by William Rufus Wikoff, who earned his wealth from pioneering and developing the “Fuller Brush Man” concept.
Wikoff and his wife, a Lake Placid native, were responsible for launching the splendid inn we see today. However, in the late 1980s the building was ravaged by a tragic fire but was rebuilt within the same year returning the structure to its original charm and splendour. With two additional buildings that have since been added there are 129 gracious rooms and suites—some of them offering wood burning fireplaces and Jacuzzis.

In spite of its grace and rustic sophistication there isn’t a shred of stuffiness about Mirror Lake Inn. In this regard, Conde Nast magazine referred to the inn’s character as “polished, not snooty”. This is a family-owned establishment that manages to blend elegant furnishings and luxurious décor with the inimitable Adirondack style that is both casual and comfortable.

Mahogany-clad public rooms, gleaming walnut floors, carved wooden staircases, great stone and marble fireplaces, antiques, antler chandeliers, Adirondack-style furniture and stuffed animal heads give the place a warm, woodsy feel. Moreover, guest rooms are equally as pleasing as the inn’s public spaces each offering “designer rustic” furniture and incomparable views of the mountains and lake.

The inn may be a century-old building but its amenities are anything but vintage. This includes a modern, full-service spa that has all the bells and whistles. It offers unique body treatments like the signature Adirondack maple sugar body scrub and a seaweed body mask. The full range of treatments includes specialized massages such as custom stone therapy, deep tissue, Swedish and Thai massages, reflexology, mud wraps and all the body beautiful stuff like facials and pedicures. Just down the hall from the spa is an indoor lap pool complete with sauna, whirlpool, a waterfall and panoramic views of Mirror Lake and the backdrop of mountains.

The hallway just off the reception area is lined with framed awards for everything from best ski resort in North America to being named among the top 500 hotels in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine. Several awards of distinction have recognized the inn’s cuisine and wine cellar. I tested both and although I’m neither a food nor wine critic, I give them both two thumbs up. The View is the resort‘s main dining room and while it’s impossible to surpass the mountain vista that lies beyond the room’s panoramic windows, the actual dining experience places a close second. This is a restaurant that focuses heavily on locally grown food products–meats, poultry, fish, berries, greens, vegetables and herbs–which the inn’s chefs turn into tantalizing menu items. In addition, the inn has built a particular reputation for its Adirondack flapjacks drenched in hot, locally tapped maple syrup.

The Mirror Lake Inn would undoubtedly be a renowned resort even if it was in the middle of nowhere but it has the great advantage of being located in one of the most scenic areas in Upstate New York on the edge of a town that has attracted hordes of visitors ever since Lake Placid hosted its first Olympics. Within easy walking distance from the inn, downtown streets are lined with a vast selection of name brand outlet stores together with shops selling everything from bear rugs to antler lamps, antiques, Adirondack furniture, fine art, jewellery, knitwear and homemade chocolates.

Moreover, jam-packed streets aren’t a Lake Placid occurrence that only happens during the sunny days of summer. This is a year-round resort town whose winter attractions in the area are legendary—due largely to the sports infrastructure that was put in place for the Olympic Games. Former Olympic venues offer a speed skating oval for daily public skating, bobsled and luge rocket rides and downhill skiing on Whiteface Mountain (Nov. to mid-April) with close to 70 trails and the steepest vertical drop in the East. The natural environment itself provides opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice climbing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and dog sled rides on Mirror Lake.

For more information about Mirror Lake Inn go online at www.mirrorlakeinn.com or call 518-523-2544. For more information about Lake Placid see www.lakeplacid.com or call 1-800-447-5224.