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The Rich History of The Skating Club of Lake Placid


Based in the historic Lake Placid Olympic Center, host of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics, we celebrate over 85 years of skating education and opportunity. 


The Skating Club of Lake Placid is proud to be a Learn to Skate USA program. The only ice skating program endorsed by U.S. Figure Skating, USA Hockey, US Speedskating and the Special Olympics. Learn to Skate USA offers every participant rewarding experience rooted in the lifelong benefits of ice skating.

The Skating Club of Lake Placid operates under the auspice of US Figure Skating. We have almost 200 members ranging in age from 3 to over 80 and provide year-round skating programs to the local community. The skating club, in collaboration with ORDA, often hosts national and international figure skating events.

In the 1920s the Sno Birds, a winter sports group sponsored by the Lake Placid Club, held competitions outdoors on flooded tennis courts. The courts were first flooded for winter use in 1921.

In the early 1930s, four Lake Placid girls began competing and skating in Sno Birds shows sanctioned by US Figure Skating. They were Clara Wilkins, Sadie Pelky, Helen Carter and Lorraine Bryant. Clara and Sadie left early on to skate in professional shows, while Helen won the senior ladies title before she too joined a show, and Lorraine stayed in Lake Placid and became our own “Ice Princess.” During the war Lorraine was called upon to help entertain the service men at the Lake Placid Club, which was serving as a rehabilitation center.

The Sno Birds hosted the annual meeting of the USA and Canadian figure skating and speed skating associations. It was during one of these meetings that the United States Figure Skating Association (previously USFSA, now US Figure Skating) was formed. During those early years, the USFSA included Canada. Eventually, Canada formed its own association.

Long before the first indoor rink was built in the 1930s, figure skating in Lake Placid was a popular sport not only due to the influence of the Sno Birds but also to the availability of outdoor skating on Mirror Lake.

In 1931 the Organizing Committee for the 1932 Winter Olympics and the town of North Elba began the construction of the Olympic Arena in the village of Lake Placid. The contractor, H.L. Garren, stayed on to manage the arena for almost 20 years. For the first time in winter Olympic history, the figure skating competitions were held indoors. Never before had any part of a winter Olympics been held under a roof.

Lake Placid was the place where modern competitive figure skating first really caught the nation’s attention. It was the first to hold competitions indoors and the first in North America to offer a summer skating program.

In the summer of 1932, Lake Placid became the site of the first summer ice session in the country. At this time the Adirondack Skating Club was formed in order to allow the club to sponsor competitions, ice carnivals and testing under the sanctions of the USFSA. In 1936 the name was changed to The Skating Club of Lake Placid. Lake Placid is one of the USFSA’s early members. From its beginning the club was instrumental in sanctioning and sponsoring many competitions, shows and other events. Ice dancing weeks attracted many skaters for social ice dancing as well as for competition. During the hard years of the Depression and World War II the income generated by these well attended skating events helped our community survive.


The “glory years” of figure skating in Lake Placid occurred during the early 1940s under H.L. “Jack” Garren’s administration, when the best skaters in the U.S. and Canada came to town in the summer to train under the best professionals in the world. There was plenty of opportunity for skaters of all ages to perform in ice shows comparable to the professional shows that toured the country and made movies in Hollywood.

When the Garren family left Lake Placid in 1949 for Troy, bobsledder Stanley Benham became the arena manager. In the 1950s, one of our club senior ladies was Phyllis Krinovitz, (Feinberg) of Saranac Lake, who was club Senior Ladies Champion in 1952. Another headliner during this period was Aldrina Lebel, who not only did figure skating but was a speed skater and, along with her brothers Leo and Kenny, was a champion barrel jumper.

Barbara Burgoyne Colby was the club professional during the 1960s and she choreographed all the club shows during that period. As a young woman, she came to Lake Placid to train in the 1950s and stayed on to marry one of our popular local athletes, William (Bill) Colby. Jack and Joan Devitt were the teaching professionals for the Skating Club from November 1969 until March 1984. They coached a local pair, Leeanne and Jeff Labrake, to US National Championships competition, once at the junior level, winning a bronze and the following year to senior level. The Devitts coached other locals who placed in pairs, dance and freestyle in North Atlantic Regional and Eastern Sectional Championships. Jack and Joan also coached non-locals from Canada and the U.S. to gold medals in figures and freestyle, and to national and international competition. During the Devitt's 15-year tenure with the club, they choreographed and produced 14 shows and skating portions of the opening ceremonies of the first Skate America. Afterward, they coached private students, several of whom were local SCLP members, to succeed in local, regional, and national competitions. 


Following the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the town of North Elba (that owns the Olympic Center building) signed a contract with the Skating Club of Lake Placid. The contract stipulated that in return for ORDA providing ice for the Skating Club of Lake Placid sessions, the club would provide volunteers for all the competitions and test sessions, and also skaters for corporate shows.

Since 1980, skating in Lake Placid has continued to flourish and be recognized as a top location across the US to train and compete. 

FIRSTS: The Skating Club of Lake Placid has many FIRSTS which throughout its history it has sanctioned and sponsored:

  • FIRST Winter Olympic Games in the USA 1932

  • FIRST Summer Ice Season 1932

  • FIRST Ice Dance Conference 1935

  • FIRST Summer Operetta (Carnival) 1932

  • FIRST Judges School 1936

  • FIRST Open Summeer Competition 1939

  • FIRST Eastern Sectionals 1938

  • FIRST US Summer Figure and Dance Tests 1943

  • FIRST US Championships to include an African-American competitor (Atoy Wilson, Novice Men) 1965

  • FIRST International Comp. USA Kennedy Games 1970

  • FIRST Ludington Training Session for Pairs 1975

  • FIRST FISU World Games 1972

  • FIRST Norton Skate “Flaming Leaves” 1979

  • FIRST Skate America 1981


OTHER EVENTS: The following events were sponsored and sanctioned by the Skating Club of Lake Placid, including the Figure Skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics, but were not “firsts”:

  • US National Figure Skating Competition: 1965

  • Sectionals-Eastern championships: 1938, early 1950’s, 1960, 1962, 1973, 1985

  • Regional-North Atlantic's: 1972,1979, 1982, 1984

  • Precision (now Synchronized Skating): 1983,1985

  • Empire State Games: 1981, 1982, 1983 (now hosted every year)

  • ISU Grand Prix Skate America, 2009 and 2019

  • ISU Junior Grand Prix Lake Placid, 2009 and 2019

  • Open Freestyle and Ice dance Competitions since 1930’s


  • FISU World University Games 2023! 

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