Gov. Andrew Cuomo led a group of lawmakers on a day-long visit to the Adirondack Park yesterday.
The Adirondack Winter Challenge is part of his administration's $60 million effort, launched last year, to boost upstate tourism. The event was also designed to build support in Albany for state-run tourism sites that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year to operate.
The day’s big photo op comes with Andrew Cuomo climbing on a sleek snowmobile, surrounded by snowy woods under a brilliant blue sky.
"Want to find which is the fastest," he says.
The goal, Cuomo says, is to keep pushing upstate New York as a must-see destination.
"It's not just about fun," Cuomo said. "It's about economic development and jobs."
The vast majority of New York state’s tourism industry begins and ends in New York City, but Cuomo is investing tens of millions of dollars trying to change that.
He's boosting places like the Tug Hill, the Finger Lakes and the Adirondacks with ads promoting snow sports and scenic resorts.
New York state also runs some of the biggest upstate tourism destinations – including ski resorts in the Adirondacks and the Catskills and Olympic sites around Lake Placid.
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall says it’s important to remind lawmakers from around the state why these sites are worth a big taxpayer investment.
"They're relevant to the world, they're relevant to Lake Placid, they're relevant to New York state," Randall says. He said the governor's show of support was "over the top."
On this day, it seems like an easy argument to make. Assemblyman Andrew Raia from Long Island says his constituents get why Lake Placid matters.
"There's nothing better than watching the Olympics and seeing Lake Placid after an Olympians name and feeling the pride," Raia said.
Raia – who took a run on the Olympic bobsled track Sunday – says he thinks New York state may need to spend even more money maintaining Lake Placid’s role as a leader in winter sports.
"We might not be maintaining the venues like we should be," he said, noting that some athletes have relocated to Park City in Utah and other sites in the western United States. "We must not let that happen."
Meanwhile, during yesterday’s event, Cuomo tied this vision of a revitalized tourism industry in upstate New York to improving job numbers.
Leaders from the North Country have been delighted to see Cuomo focus so much of his energy and attention upstate – and on the Adirondacks in particular.
"I call him our number one tourist," said state Senator Betty Little from Glens Falls.