Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History



First Committee Member

Andrew Kirk, Chair

Second Committee Member

David Wrobel

Third Committee Member

David Tanenhaus

Graduate Faculty Representative

David Hassenzahl

Number of Pages



This dissertation examines the environmental, economic, and cultural conflicts over the private development of ski resorts in Colorado's National Forests between 1910 and 2000. Downhill skiing emerged as an increasingly popular winter activity during the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in western state such as Colorado. A part of the a larger outdoor recreational boom throughout the United States' during the interwar years, downhill skiing challenged the Forest Service's ability to meeting the public's growing appetite for year-round recreational opportunities. These challenges increased following World War II as the nation's growing population and affluence drew millions to their public lands to sightsee, camp, hunt, and ski. The Forest Service turned to private ventures to develop ski resorts to meet this growing public demand. But the development of ski resorts on public lands by private interest proved to be problematic when faced with competing views of public lands and public land management. The same natural allure that drew millions to the country's national parks, national forests, and other public lands also gave rise to a modern environmental movement, which called for the preservation of wilderness, limits on urban and suburban growth, and pollution reduction. These two emergent views of nature came into increasing conflict with one another over the management of public lands, particularly concerning the development of ski resorts. With more ski resorts, and more skier visits, than any other state, Colorado sat at the center of these conflicts. By the late 1960s, a growing number of critics began denouncing the environmental impacts of ski resorts on national forests. Over the next four decades, political battles raged throughout Colorado over the environmental, social, and economic impacts of ski resorts. Controversies such as Colorado voters' rejection of the 1976 Denver Winter Olympics, the fight to develop Beaver Creek Ski Resort, and the burning of twelve buildings on top of Vail Ski Resort by members of the extremist environmental group Earth Liberation Front pitted the American public's growing recreational demands against emergent concerns over the environmental and social consequences of the commercial development of ski resorts on public land for private corporate gain. These fights not only tell the story of skiing in Colorado, but Americans' changing understandings of nature and the larger environmental costs of outdoor recreation and tourism.


Colorado; Denver (Colo.); United States Forest Service; Politics; Deep ecology; Environmentalism; Outdoor recreation; Ski resorts; Public-private sector cooperation; Downhill skiing; Public lands; Winter Olympics; White River National Forest (Colo.); Environmental degradation; Environmental protection; 20th century


Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Sciences | History | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Social History | Tourism | United States History

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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