This winter will be the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice," when a scrappy group of amateur U.S. hockey players upset the dominant Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Three decades later, there is no Soviet Union, but Lake Placid is still thriving as a second-home destination — in winter and in summer.
"At least 70% of the market, maybe 80%, is second homes, and it has been that way ever since the Olympics," says real-estate agent Robert Politi, owner of Merrill L. Thomas.
Second homes have predated even the first Olympics held here, back in 1932. Lake Placid sits in the midst of the Adirondack wilderness, where wealthy New Yorkers built summer compounds known as "Great Camps" in the second half of the 19th century.
"There are two kinds of second-home owners — those who use their places for the whole summer, and those who come occasionally and rent them out," Politi says.
Second-home buyers in Lake Placid live mostly within driving distance, coming from New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Canada.
Lake Placid visitors can see the hockey rink, tour the museum, ski the alpine and Nordic runs, even speedskate on the Oval and ride bobsleds. The ski jumps tower over the village, many Olympians live here (it has one of three U.S. Olympic training centers), and major championships are held annually in skating, sliding and skiing.
"We're famous for the winter, and weekends are busy in ski season, but in summer it is seven days a week," Politi says. The town's Ford Ironman Triathlon USA sells out every room for miles in July, but weeks of horse shows and other major events fuel a strong year-round rental market.
Much of the Adirondacks is designated "forever wild," New York's strictest zoning. Lakefront property is the most desirable, often with boathouses. Adirondack-style houses on Lake Placid start at $3 million but cost much less on surrounding lakes. In the village, Politi says "the hot part of the market right now is homes under $500,000."
A look at three Lake Placid neighborhoods
•Village of Lake Placid. Home to the Olympic museum and arenas and a quaint waterfront Main Street, the village sits on smaller Mirror Lake. The small downtown is mostly condos, starting in the high $200,000s, but the houses on the lake, all within walking distance of shops and restaurants, start at $1 million. The Lake Placid Club, a former resort with two golf courses and beach club, is being redeveloped as a residential community, with lots starting at $385,000 and five condos from $450,000 to $675,000 (lakeplacidclubresort.com).
•Lake Placid. The lake begins just outside the village and is more than 2,000 acres, with islands and bays, creating many miles of shoreline. Most of it is protected, with about 300 lakefront houses, many accessible only by boat. It is the area's most desirable spot, with very few large developments. The luxury resort Whiteface Lodge sits just off the lake and is the area's only fractional real-estate offering, with four-week shares from $55,000 to $225,000 (thewhitefacelodge.com).
•Other lakes:Great Camps and more modest homes are popular on many other lakes in the region, including Long Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Lake Titus and the Saranac Chain of Lakes, 18 miles of interconnected lakes. Adirondack-style lakefront houses begin around $1 million.