Competition resumes after subzero temps halt Winter Games
Athletes in the state's top winter sports competition in Lake Placid are gearing up once again to speed down the slopes after extreme cold delayed events at the Empire State Winter Games. Action resumed Saturday after wind chills fell far below zero on Friday, canceling at least two sports and postponing several others.
Ten-year-old Sophie Jordan was due to compete in Saturday's mid-morning mogul skiing event after training in the harsh weather Friday afternoon.
"Everything felt numb," Jordan said.
An arctic chill sweeping across the northeast brought subzero temperatures to Lake Placid with wind chills approaching record lows, forcing officials to hit pause at the games. The Olympics-style event is considered the county's longest and continuously running multi-sporting competition, featuring this year more than 2,000 athletes, many of them kids, in winter sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, and skiing.
Jon Lundin, head of communications and media for the Empire State Winter Games, said the decision was necessary to keep competitors safe from a -71 degree windchill that could cause frostbite in minutes.
"While we do want to put on a fantastic and exciting games, the most important thing that we need to do is keep the athletes, the fans, the spectators, the officials, the volunteers all safe from the cold," Lundin said.
The decision cancelled at least six skiing competitions, including the cross country and alpine events. Junior bobsledding and the skeleton were pushed off until next week, while speed skating was rescheduled for March.
Tom Gale, director of ski patrol at Whiteface Mountain, where several events were set to take place, said wind chills below -40 degrees can cause frostbite within two minutes of skin exposure.
"You can permanently lose that part of the body, and people lose their toes and fingers and pieces of their ear all the time. You hear about people up on Everest and high mountaineering. Just because we're not at 20,000 feet doesn't mean the elements can't affect us," Gale said.
Gale said competitors and parents braving Saturday events, when the wind chilld is expected to at one point reach -40, should use the buddy system to make sure they don’t have any exposed skin and to check for frostbite.
But some attendees are unfazed by the extreme cold. Michelle Stuart, parent of a young competitor, said she and her kids were prepared to endure the chill.
"We are used to the cold, and we're out in all temperatures and all conditions: snow, rain, sleet. They're used to it—they're hearty," Stuart said.
The remaining events are expected to wrap up Sunday.