Mt. Van Hoevenberg, named after Henry Van Hoevenberg, a well-known Adirondack pioneer and builder of the original Adirondack Loj, is well-known as a winter sports mecca. It’s located near Lake Placid, New York in the Adirondack Mountains at an elevation of 2,939 feet above sea level. Mt. Van Howevenberg hosted the 1932 Winter Olympics bobsled competition, and the 1980 Winter Olympics bobsled, luge, cross-country skiing, and biathlon competitions.
In 1982, the state of New York created the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, including Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Today, the venue is a training location for U.S. Olympic athletes and hosts numerous local, regional, national, and international athletic and entertainment events.
In September of 2024, Mt. Van Hoevenberg will host its first MTB World Cup XC Race, showing the world that it is a year-round sports destination. Singletracks talked to Kris Cheney Seymour, the Sport and Events Coordinator with ORDA to find out how the venue landed the event and how it’s preparing for it.
More than just a winter recreation area
Though Upstate New York has a reputation and history of winter sports, the community of Lake Placid is focused on year-round recreation.
“Lake Placid as a community has held Ironman competitions on an annual basis for 24 years,” said Seymour. Additionally, the area is aware of the changing climate patterns and has been transitioning toward focusing on summer sports activities for a while.
Among those activities is mountain biking. Seymour mentioned that mountain biking in Lake Placid has been robust for some time.
“Mt. Van Hoevenberg has had a recreational mountain bike lesson and rental program for decades in addition to hosting regional races over the years. Our facility was designed at the highest level for cross country skiing and biathlon. World Cup mountain biking is a natural fit.”
Building world class facilities with the help of New York State
In 2018, the State of New York decided to make a major investment in modernizing the facilities at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, said Seymour. The goal was to bring the venue up to international sport standards and make it capable of holding world championship level competitions and hosting year-round activities.
The upgrades made to Mt. Van Hoevenberg included the development of a new, 50,000 square foot lodge that included dedicated space for race offices, announcer booths, and anti-doping suites. Additionally, they built a stadium designed to interact with the venue’s cross-country and biathlon trails in the same manner as the one in Nove Mesto, a World Cup venue located in the Czech Republic. The total capital investment amount from 2018 to 2022 is $84 million, according to ORDA.
Putting upgrades to use at the 2023 Winter World University Games
Seymour said that the work done to revitalize the venue was accelerated to be completed in time for Mt. Van Hoevenberg to host the 2023 Winter World University Games. The Games are “a multi-sport event second only to the Olympics and Paralympics in size.” While the games themselves took place in various locations in a 60-70 mile radius of the mountain, “we were the production hub for the broadcast and pushed out media to 17 different markets.”
To help with broadcasting the event, Mt. Van Hoevenberg created media pedestals throughout its trail system that allowed cameras to plug into them and transmit live footage instantly anywhere on the planet. Having these capabilities allowed broadcast media to reduce the amount of time they needed to set up their equipment for an event from 1-2 weeks to 2-3 days.
Getting the attention of the Warner Bros/Discovery
Seymour told Singletracks there were people from Warner Bros/Discovery present among the media at the 2023 Winter World University Games. These were the same people who manage the broadcasting for the World Cup mountain bike races.
“There were a couple of conversations that took place for them to understand better how the venue worked.”
Both the conversations and the first-hand observations of how Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s upgraded broadcast operations functioned led to Warner Bros/Discovery reaching out to the venue and scheduling a site visit in May of 2023. “From there, we began working out the arrangement.”
Building a proper cross-country course
Warner Bros/Discovery and UCI held a trail design and build meeting with officials at Mt. Van Hoevenberg this past July to start laying out the course in a way that best utilized the venue’s stadium.
Seymour also told us there will be some interesting and new styles of features on the course.
“At the heart of the course, there is a three-and-a-half-million-gallon reservoir for snowmaking, and around that reservoir there are some really interesting rock formations that are framed by a stunning backdrop of the Adirondack Mountains.”
Seymour believes there will be some fun and interesting things that happen on the course during the race that will make it exciting for both spectators and riders. “The riders will find it to be a very cardiovascularly and technically challenging course.”
The course will go along with Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s reputation as a challenging venue for winter sports. “Our bobsled track is one of the fastest and most technically challenging courses on the planet, and our cross-country and biathlon courses are quite technically challenging. I think our mountain bike course will be quite similar.”
The first of three World Cup MTB rounds
Mt. Van Hoevenberg secured a three-year deal with Warner Bros/Discovery and UCI, says Seymour. The 2024 race will be year one of the deal.
“We’ve gone into the deal with the mindset that for year one we will not be building the forever course,” he said. “We look forward to being part of the global story of UCI World Cup mountain biking and sharing our Olympic village with the world.”
Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s vision is to build unique courses to keep things interesting for riders, spectators, and broadcasters. “We have the ability to be an active partner with Warner Bros/Discovery. We have professionals in sport, technology, events, and trails on staff doing trail-based events. We can adjust things over time or at the moment if we need to. It gives us the opportunity to be flexible and consistent at the same time.”
Planning for World Cup Mountain Bike Crowds
Seymour acknowledged the race will bring more people to the venue than other events it hosts. He said the crowd size will be comparable to that of the world ski jump competitions Mt. Van Hoevenberg hosts on a regular basis.
“We recently hosted 7,000 to 10,000 fans at the 2023 Lake Placid FIS World Cup ski jumping event, so we’re used to the people. We can move them efficiently. We have shuttles, we have parking on-site, and we have parking off-site. So, we can deal with thousands of people.”
Lake Placid also has a lot of lodging options for the expected crowds. In addition to hotels and resorts, “there’s multiple campgrounds around the area and the Airbnb market is really robust.”
Prospective visitors should not be concerned about traffic in Lake Placid. “Lake Placid is very much a walking community and a cycling community.”
Building excitement for Upstate New York
Seymour hopes to create a festival-like environment for the event. “Within Lake Placid, we’re looking for opportunities to create a festival within the village and at the race venue at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. There’s infrastructure in both locations to celebrate the event and the cycling culture.”
Additionally, Seymour feels the locals in the area want the event to be successful.
“The community is really excited about the UCI World Cup race. Lake Placid is growing as a tourist destination for cyclists. The region understands mountain biking is growing and believes we are a world class destination for it. This event will accelerate it. The event will bring new exposure to our area, and the community recognizes the importance of that.”