The Olympic trail starts here

SARANAC LAKE – If local kids want to follow in the footsteps of their Olympic heroes, the signs at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center will show them the way.

The nordic skiing venue is now home to three trails named for local Olympians who grew up skiing its woods and slopes. The most recent was christened on Thursday. “Cookie Monster” is a 1.2-kilometer easy trail named for Annelies Cook of Saranac Lake, who was selected this week to the U.S. Biathlon Team that will compete in February at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This will be the first Olympics for the 29-year-old, who’s in her third season on the World Cup circuit.

Cook was presented with a “Cookie Monster” trail sign to take home during an impromptu ceremony Thursday evening in front of a large group of kids in the Dewey Youth Ski League.

“It’s awesome. I’m really psyched,” she told the Enterprise later. “This is maybe the coolest thing that’s happened to me since I found out, and I’m really honored.”

Cook said Dewey Mountain played a big role in her development as a skier.

“We skied here all the time,” she said. “Every Tuesday we’d do the races, and anytime I just wanted to go for a quick ski and not go all the way to Mount Van Hoevenberg (in Lake Placid), I would come here. I still do that. I have some awesome pictures of me and my best friends going over this jump we built by the building, doing total faceplants. I spent a lot of time here.”

This is the third trail at Dewey to be named after a local Olympian. The other two are “Timinator,” which honors Tim Burke, a Paul Smiths native and two-time Olympian in biathlon, and “Iron Bill,” named for Vermontville native Bill Demong, a four-time Olympian in nordic combined who won gold and silver medals at the 2010 games. Burke has already been named to next year’s Olympic team. Demong is also expected to win a nomination.

The signs that recognize the three Olympians, like all the other trail signs at Dewey, were created by Demong Designs, the company Demong runs with longtime friend Kris-Cheney Seymour.

Jason Smith of Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters, which manages the ski center for the town of Harrietstown, said the idea to name a trail for Cook has been in the works for about a year.

“We did it for Billy. We did it for Tim,” he said. “Annelies joined the team last year. We were hopeful that she’d be announced to be part of the Olympic team, which she has. It’s only the right thing to do. It’s perfect timing.”

Smith said during the ceremony that it’s not just Cook but her entire family who’ve been involved with Dewey. Cook’s sister Jessica is a youth ski instructor. Her parents, Dr. George Cook and Marijke Ormel, are frequent Dewey skiers, and Dr. Cook has helped maintain trails at the center, Smith said.

“Because the Cooks are an important part of the family here at Dewey Mountain, and because Annelies is an important part of this family, and she’s representing Dewey Mountain around the world, we’re going to do something super cool and name a trail after her,” Smith told the crowd.

The fact that such a small ski area has produced three Olympic-caliber skiers is unique and significant, said Jack Burke, Tim Burke’s father, who was also on hand for Thursday’s ceremony.

“It’s just incredible,” he said. “Often when I speak with people … I say we have three Olympic skiers who learned how to ski at Dewey, and I dare say there’s any other ski area in the United States that could make that claim.”

“I think it really speaks to the community,” Cook said. “Everyone here believes what people are capable of and they encourage big dreams, in anything. A lot of my classmates are in Hollywood or New York City doing stuff on television, doing stuff on Broadway. It’s not even limited to athletics. We have a community that fosters big dreams, which is really cool.”

Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or