For the cover story in today's Outdoors section, Times staff writer Charles Duhigg goes to Utah and tries to find out what ensues at 2004 Adventure Team, which he calls "one of Philip Morris International's most secretive—and successful—Marlboro promotions." Mostly he doesn't find out: the event is closed to Americans and especially journalists, though it mostly takes place on public land. His lede:
Harley Bates is steaming. He pushes past the off-duty cop standing in front of his ranch and charges the reporter and photographer.
"Get the hell off my land!" he says.
"Sir, I'm a reporter … "
"You're scaring people taking their pictures as they drive in!"
A quarter of a mile away, the roof of a school bus crowns a small hill. Through a telephoto lens, tiny figures mill about. The reporter and photographer take turns looking for wisps of cigarette smoke.
The story revisits how Marlboro was mostly a woman's cigarette until an ad guy hit on the idea in 1962 of linking the brand to rugged cowboys. Men fell for the dupe. Sales jumped 5000% in eight months. Marlboro, Duhigg writes, has been the world's most popular cigarette since the 1970s. And the event in Utah is a key part of its marketing.