With Christmas around the corner, I recently spoke to local sport shops and outfitters for gift suggestions for outdoor enthusiasts. Although advancements in technology and materials have produced a new generation of gadgets and gizmos, there remains a tried and tested collection of traditional equipment and clothing still to be found at most local shops.
With this in mind, I asked store owners for suggestions on specialty items, unique products or an unusual service that they can provide.
In Saranac Lake, I first spoke with Cory at the Blue Line Sport Shop, a venerable local outfitter with a history of providing outdoor sporting equipment. With such a wide selection of merchandise, it was difficult to tag down just a few select items.
Endlessly evident on the television at Christmas time is the one item that fills every boy's dreams and it's not a Wii. Rather, it's a Daisy Red Rider B-B gun, which is also available in a pink model for little girls.
Blue Line also carries a selection of reliable Filson clothing including fly vests, as well as wool-felt crusher hats, long considered a North Country fashion.
Shoppers will also find high-tech items such as colored stainless steel (BPA free) water bottles, Swiss Army knives and a Timex watch complete with digital compass and altimeter.
Down Broadway is the Two Horse Trading Company, which carries a variety of gift items as well as traditional sporting accessories including handmade sheath knives, Russell knives, fur hats and wool blankets. The store also maintains a wonderful library of "How To" books covering a wide range of topics.
Next door on Broadway is Major Plowshares, a traditional Army/Navy surplus store with a pleasant twist. In time for the season, they stock numerous wool items, bomber hats and other accessories geared more towards function than fashion. For stocking stuffers, check the display of pocket knives and Leatherman tools.
Around the corner on Dorsey Street is St. Regis Canoe Outfitters which offers canoes, kayaks, paddling supplies, tents, bags, stoves and more. Stuffers of stockings should consider Dave Cilley's new Adirondack Paddlers Guide, considered the most current and comprehensive source for canoe routes.
Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters is another outdoor specialty shop located in Saranac Lake. Providing paddle sports rentals in season, this little store offers equipment for hiking, camping and watersports. Featuring the latest in canoes and touring kayaks, with packages beginning at just $399; they also carry a full line of Mountain Hardware clothing, and gift certificates are available for rentals and guided trips, as well as season passes for Dewey Mountain Ski Center, where the first Ski Jam this season is scheduled for Jan. 9.
At Eastern Mountain Sports in Lake Placid, shoppers are easily overwhelmed by the variety of clothes, equipment and accessories. To help, their experts have assembled gift packages for ice climbers, bolderers and snowshoers.
Check out stocking stuffers such as a Backpackers Scrabble set, down booties or wool-lined Crocs. In addition to high tech, Hammerhead Carving Sleds, EMS now carries Ziffy sleds, a more maneuverable, mini-luge sled. Watch for their upcoming Holiday Booster sale featuring 20 to 70 percent off everything in the store.
On the other end of Main Street is Maui North, one of the area's leaders in snow sports equipment. Always a place to find the unique or unusual piece of equipment, Maui also carries a fully stocked clothing department for the latest in high performance ski wear. Stocking stuffers? Check out their goggles! Cunningham's Ski Barn, by the post office, also has a good selection of ski gear.
Further down Lake Placid's Main Street, I found Brian Delaney at High Peaks Cyclery ready to answer gift giving questions. "We have one of the best selections of nordic skis, boots, and poles in the area!" he informed me.
"And we're now carrying a new snowshoe from TSL that I discovered in Chomanix, France and made in Burlington,Vt. It's different because the full platform is under your foot, not just the toe."
High Peaks carries some unusual items such as small, handheld kites that allow skiers or skaters to ride the wind. For stocking stuffers, check out the new Flea lights, a brilliant, rechargeable bike light that attaches to both the front and rear.
Moving across the building, from one quality purveyor to another, I visited with Georgia at Jones Outfitters. Jones has a full line of Orvis gear and gifts, including sporting art and books. Dog lovers can find items for four footed friends that include skijoring harnesses, Dog First Aid kits, booties and coats. Stuffers include decorative fly earrings, Gift Certificates for Orvis Fly Fishing Schools or a selection of flies in a small wooden flybox.
Jones also has a boat sale, which includes a novel, sit-on-top kayak hybrid by Native. The unique craft features a pedal powered prop that is geared for speed and reverse. Incredibly stable, the roto-mold boat is a fisherman's delight.
If you still haven't found that perfect gift for your favorite outdoor traveler, all is not lost. Among those stores not to be overlooked this holiday season is the ski shop at Cascade Ski Touring Center on state Route. 73. Operated by Art Jubin, the store offers equipment for everyone from the casual ski tourer to the backcountry enthusiast to the most dedicated racer. A Season's Trail Pass is included with purchases over $200 and the first Full Moon Party is set for Jan.10.
Further along state Route 73 in Keene Valley is a store not to be missed. Currently busy with shoppers looking for quality clothing, boots, packs and tents; they provide a wide ranging inventory of outdoor equipment, with everything from flyrods to ice axes, sleds to slippers.
For enthusiasts of old school outdoor items, The Mountaineer carries Adirondack packbaskets by Cindy Tripp in traditional Mohawk style and wool ski knickers by Woolrich.
Get outdoors; enjoy the holidays!