Jay Rand has spent his entire life flying—literally. Growing up in Lake Placid, offered Jay his choice of winter Olympic sports and ski jumping became his passion at age 4. Growing up next to ski jumps, as he says, “… was the best place in the world.”
In 1920, the Lake Placid Club built the first 35 meter ski jump in Lake Placid, using a hillside itself as the jump surface. In 1921, the first competition was held there, drawing a crowd of 3,000. The jump went through a multitude of changes through the years, including, enlarging the longest jump to 75-meters for the 1932 Olympic Winter Games.
Fast forward to 1955, 4-year old Rand began the junior jumping program, training 3 nights a week, under the lights, at the Lake Placid Ski Jump and competing on weekends. Athletes moved higher and higher on progressively longer jumps, as they gained confidence and skill. Rand excelled and was selected to the U.S. Ski Team, at age 16, where he competed from 1966-1977, earning spot in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France.
In 1977, the old Lake Placid jump was demolished to make way for new 70 and 90 meter jumps for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. (As a side note, in 1994, the manner in which the size of a ski jump was classified was changed by the Federation of International Skiing (FIS) so the 70 meter became a 90 meter and the 90meter became a 120 meter.)
They were completed just in time for the Olympic test events in February 1979. One ski jumper had the “privilege” to be the first to test the jump and Jay Rand got the call to jump the 90-meter (Joe Lamb, another Lake Placid native was the other). He recalls, “They were still working on the tower, putting siding up. They exclaimed how crazy it was for me to be skiing off the jump and all I thought was how crazy they were to be hanging off the side of the tower.”
Rand, after his successful run with the ski team, returned to Lake Placid to work full-time on the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (LPOOC). He was also asked to manage the Olympic Jumping & Sports Complex, (then the McKenzie-Intervale Jumping Complex), which he did for 15 years before moving on to manage the Whiteface Ski Center for another 15 years.
Rand, as the Ski Jumps Manager, proposed that the facility be something that can be used year-round, once the Olympics were over. He installed a chair lift for guests to access the Sky Deck and elevator in the large tower. To make the ski jumps a thriving year-round destination Rand also advocated for the installation of summer jumping surface on the 70m jumps and oversaw the installation of a training pool for the new sport of Freestyle Aerials in the late 1980’s.
Fast forward again to present day and the Olympic Jumping Complex is exactly that, a thriving year-round destination, hosting hundreds of thousands of people each year and countless international and national events. Currently, the jumps are under-going major renovations to host the 2023 World University Games. Completed upgrades include a brand-new gondola, a new elevator, refrigerated frost rails on the ski jumps and an LED lighting system, all finished last winter. This spring saw the installation of the Sky Flyer zipline, a thrill for visitors of all ages, flying approximately 30 miles per hour from the top of a 70-foot tower, down 700 feet to a landing deck at the base of the complex.
Of course, this ride had to be tested prior to opening to the public on Friday, July 11, and once again Jay Rand was up for the challenge. On a drizzly, overcast day, Rand, currently the Town of North Elba Supervisor, showed up to take the inaugural ride on the brand new Sky Flyer, just as he did with the ski jumps back in 1979. He climbed the 70-foot tower, this time without skis, but with a mask. He was harnessed up by the Olympic Jumping Complex staff and as they counted down…3…2…1, he was off.
At the bottom he seemed thrilled. “People are going to have a lot of fun and enjoy that. It’s great to have additional added attractions, as this is such a competitive venue and not everybody can do ski jumping. This allows everybody the opportunity to enjoy the venue. It gives you a real feeling of what it’s like to soar in the air along the landing hill of the ski jumps, it’s like a 70-meter jump! The Town, Village, ORDA are all inter-relate and it’s a team effort. Everything ORDA is doing right now is very exciting and it’s nice to have facilities that are 100 percent, so we can say come on over world we are going to do it again.”
The Olympic Jumping Complex is open daily from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm for self-guided tours and the Skyride, a state-of-the-art gondola ride and glass enclosed elevator to the top of the 120-meter ski jump tower. The Skyride costs $20 or $15 for juniors and seniors. The Sky Flyer is available Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The cost is $45 per person and $25 for an additional ride. The Skyride is included in the pricing.
Interested in getting your kids involved in ski jumping? Visit NYSEF.org or call 518-946-7001 for information.