The Old West rides again in the Adirondacks

It appears the winter season has finally arrived in the North Country, just in time for the looming holiday season. Although the snowpack has yet to set up a firm base, there is enough snow cover to ski in the woods, especially in the upper elevations, on tote roads and on the golf courses.

While we could use always use more snow, there there are plenty of alternatives, such as bird watching, hiking, grouse or rabbit hunting and track identification. It is always interesting to interpret the travel routes of various critters during the winter season, especially if you’ve got a few kids tagging along.

Although the first cold snap of the season has arrived, it is far too early to take to the ice for skating, skiing or ice fishing. While many anglers claim the first ice of the season provides the most productive angling opportunities, it also provides some of the shakiest ice of the season. I prefer to wait until there’s at least a 8 to 10 inches of ice before I tie on the skates or fire up the ice augur. I don’t want offer up my imitation of an olive in a cold martini.

Ice and whitewater are two of the most dangerous mediums known to man — not something to be taken lightly.

Fortunately, I’ve had enough work to keep me busy, and better yet, it has involved outdoor travel. Since the 1980s, I have operated AdirondacksOnLocation.com, a small location services company that provides support services for print, television, motion picture and digital production projects. Over the past month, we’ve hosted a variety of projects that have included a television commercial, a print advertising campaign for a German manufacturer of snow tires and a project for a soon to be released, digital rifle scope.

In all such instances, I wasn’t really selling an actual product. I was selling scenery, the Adirondacks’ most valuable resource. It can be used to convey the gentle beauty of cosmetics or the hard-charging power of a car, truck or powerboat, which it has on many occasions.

Over the years, the rough exterior of the Adirondack landscape has provided a backdrop for dozens of advertisements, ranging from LL Bean and The Territory Ahead to magazines such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated.

The 2004 Sports Illustrated 40th anniversary swimsuit issue, which was shot in the region was actually the largest selling publication on the planet in 2004.

Although the media enjoys the rugged beauty of the region, the true winner in the overall equation is the Adirondack region at large. When a television show, movie or magazine cover displays a product or image with an Adirondack scene, the residual advertising is considerable.

In the industry, this concept is known as “ambush marketing.” It occurs when the product — a hiking boot for example — receives more attention than the intended product.

The exposure achieved by the Sports Illustrated swimsuit portfolio was difficult to calculate. However, it surely dwarfed all the funding the New York State Division of Tourism contributed.

The last shot

The Adirondack region is currently in the sights of a similar opportunity, with the potential to deliver images of the region’s rugged landscape to an entirely new generation.

I recently met with a group of location scouts, producers and art directors who are considering filming a movie in the area. The project revolves around a young man who goes west during the late 1880s, and encounters buffalo, raging rivers, wild Indians, bitter cold and desperate men.

As the mountainman Jim Bridger once explained, “I’ve lived through shining times and starving times. I’d prefer a bit more ‘shine.”

As it relates to the Adirondacks, I agree with his assessment. Although the Adirondack region is well known for skiing, paddling, hiking and paddle sports, there is a long legacy of horses, horsemen and the dude ranch community, especially in places such as Chestertown, Stony Creek and Lake Luzerne, where ranches, barns, rodeos and the “western influence” remain apparent.

Sadly, the demise of Frontier Town was the beginning of the end for the Western culture in the region. Although several vestiges remain and thrive, the change in our culture, and especially in the the cowboy image have all combined to foster the end of the trail for many establishments that have lived and loved the Adirondack West.

With this background and history, I believe it is very fitting that a

production company is actually considering shooting a ‘new Western’ in the Park. And if it goes as planned, there may yet be evidence of the old West, Frontier Town and the cowboy culture in the Park.

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