They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which means that a well edited video must be worth exponentially more. Luckily for the fans of Holiday Valley, Ashley Baron has been spending the past 11 years honing her love for photography and videography in ways that showcase the resort in the best light possible. Whether she is telling the story of the hard working snowmaking crew doing their job throughout the night only to be treated to a awe-inspiring sunrise first thing in the morning, or she is editing a promotional video that captivates the attention of travelers from all over the east coast, Ashley’s passion for the outdoors is evident in all of the work that she does for Holiday Valley.
On top of being incredibly skilled at her craft, she also happens to be a down-to-earth, all-around fantastic person. If you already have the pleasure of knowing her, this is not a surprise to you. If you don’t know her yet, the following is just a small glimpse into the life and mind of a rising star in the outdoor industry landscape.
Tell us a little about your upbringing. Where did you grow up? When did your love of snowboarding begin?
AB My upbringing would probably be considered a bit unorthodox to others as half of it was growing up as a biker kid. I moved around a lot but grew up in the Buffalo suburbs living mostly with my mom in Lancaster/Cheektowaga and spending every other weekend with my dad and younger brother at my dad’s motorcycle shop, Baron’s Bike Shop, in Alden, NY.
I always joke and say my brother and I grew up as wild biker kids, and there’s definitely some truth to that! We both started riding dirt bikes when we were about 3 years old and were always hanging around the bike shop getting dirty. The next door neighbors had two boys who we grew up with riding 4-wheelers and snowmobiles, playing outside all day; I was most definitely a tomboy!
My Dad always pushed me to do things that I might’ve been a little scared of as a kid. Anytime I crashed a bike or got hurt, he always said “get back on that steel horse that threw you” (obviously not for a serious injury) so I developed a sense of always pushing myself. Times with my mom were spent outdoors, camping and exploring. She always had my back and let me do things on my own to learn and grow which gave me a great sense of confidence.
My parents were awesome at letting me be me (maybe a bit of a wild child). I was allowed to rip dirt bikes, play in the mud, climb trees, just be an adventurous kid and it really shaped who I am today. To this day they are both my biggest supporters and always encourage me to chase my dreams and are supportive of my life choices.
I actually didn’t start snowboarding until I was 13 (and I‘ve never skied) after I moved to Randolph with my mom and joined the ski club at Holiday Valley. It didn’t take long to fall in love with snowboarding as I already was an adrenaline junkie, enjoyed being outdoors, and going as fast as I could.
What made you want to get into photography and videography?
AB My dad had a JRC video camera back in the late 80s so I grew up with a camera in my face; documenting my life from about age one. As a kid, I mostly ran away from the camera (as I do now, haha). I’d much rather be behind the lens than in front of it.
My mom’s side of the family is quite artistic, including having a very talented older brother who is a tattoo artist in Okinawa, Japan so I grew up drawing, painting and eventually got into photography. I felt like I had a natural knack for finding a good shot. Once I was in college, my videographer professor, Pat Murphy, is the one who really inspired me and got me hooked on documentary filmmaking. Thanks, Murph! I am very fortunate to have a strong core group of friends and supporters who continue to inspire me to keep doing great things.
At what point did you decide or realize that you could make a living off of your passion for the outdoor industry and video work?
AB It took a while! It’s funny because I graduated from SUNY Oneonta in May of 2010 with a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication and as graduation got closer, I was like “what the heck am I going to do with this degree in film production?”
Social media, YouTube and all the things we have access to now weren’t really as relevant then as they are now. I originally wanted to do an internship for TGR (Teton Gravity Research) in Wyoming, but I had just studied abroad in Swansea, Wales in the UK my fall semester (best decision of my life!) and I was pretty broke so I decided to stay closer to home. I’m sure I could’ve figured it out, but everything happens for a reason. I came home on the weekends from college to film snowboarding for fun and to learn more. I happened to meet a guy named Billy Bacon who was pretty ingrained in the local snowboard scene, and he eventually helped set me up with an internship at a local skate/snowboard shop in Jamestown, Suburban Blend (now Jamestown Skate Products.) Billy was a huge inspiration to me as he had been working in the video/photo industry and was a legendary snowboarder, thank you Billy!
I learned a ton that summer, created a bunch of skateboard videos for the shop and just really grew my passion for filming action sports and the outdoors. Then my internship was over and I was back at square one - asking myself what I do next? Winter of 2010-11 was approaching and I begged my friend Pat Morgan to at least let me be on the Holiday Valley Park Crew for the season so I could be outside (I had worked in the Main Chalet cafeteria for a couple years on college breaks). Little did I know at the time, he was scheming up a plan to have me start making some terrain park videos. So I started the winter on “Park Crew” and Pat and I began creating content for the parks on the side. Holiday Valley had never had an official videographer (some people like Billy and Bob Knab helped with photos through the years) so when they noticed these terrain park videos coming out, Pat had to tell them that the girl he hired for the Park Crew was actually making videos. They must have been impressed because shortly after that, they asked if I could make videos for other areas of the resort and the rest is history!
I most definitely have to thank Pat Morgan here. To this day, I consider his faith in me and his friendship one of the most important aspects of my career because he gave me the chance and opportunity to pursue this life I live now. Those first 4 years working with Pat were an absolute blast and were the building blocks to the skillset I have today. Thank you, Pat Morgan!
As I gained more experience, I started getting recommended for video work to local businesses in the Ellicottville and Jamestown area. In fall of 2011, a friend of mine (Collin Hayes) helped me come up with my video production company name, ABCinematography, and I’ve been going non-stop in this field since. Not sure there was an exact point where I realized I could make a living. I just kept shooting, growing and the more I did, the more I realized there was no stopping and this was something that truly made me happy.
What equipment are you shooting with these days?
AB Right now I’m using a Panasonic Gh5 with a metabones adapter with Canon lenses. I have a Panasonic DVX200 as my workhorse video camera. Both have been incredibly versatile in all the shooting scenarios I have worked on. The newer GoPros have been great to work with as well, I’m really digging the HERO 9.
Over the years, you’ve captured some incredible content for the Valley. Please take us behind the scene a bit and describe what goes into a typical photoshoot for you. How are you preparing in order to make sure you get the assets you need?
AB Thank you! Before each season begins, I draft out a media to-do list and meet with the marketing team to figure out what our top priorities/needs are and what are some other things we’d like to see or want updated. This is mostly commercial content, photo needs for the brochure and some fun ideas like creating the HV Yodeler Resort Report to give people a look at current conditions and tell stories of our employees and guests and why they love HV.
The only planning I really do for the HV Yodeler is choosing who will be featured, connecting with them a little beforehand, then meeting up and following along as they do their normal routines here skiing, being together and making memories. Then I do my best to edit that content! The magic really comes in editing: making it all come together with some music and feel-good sound bites. As for the rest of the content you see such as snowmaking, grooming and other behind the scenes action, I make a side list of these and work on them so everyone can get to know who and what our amazing crew here does when the resort closes for the night. These shoots are mostly run and gun - just going out and following along with the crew trying to get their best sides (everyone has a best side, haha.) And then when I’m out getting the shot, we get lucky with some incredible scenery like sunrises on Morning Star!
I have to give a special shout-out to the Holiday Valley management here too. They have been absolutely amazing all these years and just all around supportive of my work and my ideas. A lot of times I’m just getting out on the hill and getting content I feel our guests and followers would like to see and they always trust me and have great feedback. I’m extremely fortunate to have them as my management - their love of skiing inspires me, they’re always making sure Holiday Valley is top notch, they know how to make this place fee like a small hometown resort and not a giant corporation. More importantly to me is that they’ve always treated me like family.
What has been the most exciting project that you’ve worked on for Holiday Valley so far? Why?
AB The 60th anniversary video was definitely one of my favorites as I got to dive deep into our history here and tell the story of Holiday Valley. What it means, why it’s so important to so many people and why we’re still going strong today. It all comes from our roots!
How long have you been working with Holiday Valley?
AB Just finishing up my 11th winter season! I work year-round here so I do get to enjoy and capture all the seasons here.
What is the most fun thing about your job?
The whole job is amazing. Being able to use my skills and talents to make a place look as great as it is, is truly rewarding! One of my favorites parts about it though is getting to know our guests and employees. I love hearing their stories and using my abilities to show how awesome they all are. I get to meet a lot of really great people and it makes my job that much better.
I'd have to say though that one of my favorite series to work on definitely has to be the Old Man Winter videos! I'm not sure anyone realizes how much fun the back end of making those videos really is. I find myself talking like him for days after a shoot, they really are a blast! We definitely picked the perfect person to play to part. When he’s not out shooting, you can usually find him ripping through the glades at Holiday Valley. We are truly blessed that Old Man Winter spends so much time on our slopes!
In your world of content creation, who helps inspire you? Who is out there that you look up to the most?
AB This is tough, there’s so much out there these days! It’s hard to keep up sometimes. There’s always the “big guys” like TGR, Jimmy Chin, Travis Burke, Curtis Morgan and the BBC (love their documentaries) that I aspire to be half as cool as someday. But a lot of my inspiration too comes from the “little guys” - other resort videographers, my fellow freelancers, the others also trying to pursue their passions in these fields - there’s so much to capture and it’s really cool to see how everyone perceives the world around them.
When you’re not shooting, how are you spending your time these days? What other passions do you have that you enjoy doing?
AB I love being outside! Whether it’s snowboarding, riding my motorcycles (I have a 94 Harley Sportster and a Kawaski Super Sherpa), traveling, being on and in the water, exploring new and old places, traveling, shooting photos for fun and not work, skateboarding, chasing waterfalls and sunsets, adventure camping with my dog Willow and boyfriend Ryan, raising some money for our local animal rescues, helping my friends out with their local businesses and catching up with my friends and family.
Speaking of Willow, we’d be doing the readers a disservice if we didn’t talk about your dog a little bit. How old is she? How did you two come to be in each other's lives? Why is she called Willy Goat? What’s the most fun thing about her?
AB Haha I’d say so too, since Willow is my sidekick! We found Willow under a porch 6.5 years ago and think she is about 8 years old now. She is the most incredible dog and adventure buddy - turns out she loves all the things I love to do too! I can’t even tell you how we trained her, she just showed up in our lives one day, we kept feeding her and the rest is history. I take her on shoots with me, paddle boarding, skateboarding, sunset chasing, exploring and that’s when I noticed she loved climbing on everything. Out onto the end of fallen trees, scaling up rocky cliffs, hopping onto the tallest rock - hence her nickname, Willy Goat because she is part goat. Circle back to growing up on dirt bikes - when I turned 16 I got my permit to be on the road so I’ve been on motorcycles my entire life - when I’d drive anywhere with Willow, she’d have her head out the car window no matter what speed and just listened and behaved so well. I decided to buy a Kuryakyn Pet Palace, which is a basket made for small dogs and see how she’d do riding on the back of my bike and she loved it! We started off slow, but it didn’t take long at all for her to get it that she just needs to sit back and enjoy the ride.
I think because she is just happy being with me, rather than being left home, she was game on from day 1 (and she knows she always gets to go somewhere fun!) I got her a little copilot hat and some doggles for the open road and she’s the best little touring buddy. I use the photos I get of her throughout the year and make a calendar of all her grand adventures and we donate the proceeds to one of the local animal rescues to say thank you for all their hard work.
Now that the ski/snowboard season is more than half over, what are you looking forward to the most about this summer?
AB I feel like there’s no rest for the wicked, haha. I always enjoy the little break in April after a long winter, but usually I go right into creating videos for my freelance clients. I look forward to the change of scenery though and starting up something fresh. I cannot wait to do some camping, motorcycle riding with Willow, wake surfing, skating and enjoying the sunshine.