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Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country

by William Philpott

Publication Year: 2013

Mention the Colorado high country today and vacation imagery springs immediately to mind: mountain scenery, camping, hiking, skiing, and world-renowned resorts like Aspen and Vail. But not so long ago, the high country was isolated and little visited. Vacationland tells the story of the region's dramatic transformation in the decades after World War II, when a loose coalition of tourist boosters fashioned alluring images of nature in the high country and a multitude of local, state, and federal actors built the infrastructure for high-volume tourism: ski mountains, stocked trout streams, motels, resort villages, and highway improvements that culminated in an entirely new corridor through the Rockies, Interstate 70.

Published by: University of Washington Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ii-v


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pp. vii-vii


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pp. viii-x

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pp. xi-xv

Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with tourism. The impulse to leave home to experience for oneself the length and breadth of this vast land has been a quintessential part of our national heritage since the earliest days of the Republic. From the nineteenth century forward, the wonders of wild places and natural landscapes have exercised ...

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Introduction: Seeing Like a Tourist

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pp. 3-23

On t he Thursday before Memorial Day 1956, as t he mud in Aspen’s streets hardened and the meltwater rivulets up on the mountainside sparkled in the late spring sun, locals picked up the Aspen Times and found something unusual on page 2. The state publicity committee had taken out a full-page advertisement hailing the imminent tourist season.sup>1 Only the ...

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Chapter 1: Selling the Scene

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pp. 25-76

After months of planning and preparation, the Tenth Mountain Division invaded Aspen in early June 1943. The Third Platoon of the Tenth Recon spearheaded the attack. Striking out from Camp Hale, some twenty miles away, the elite unit traversed the steep-sided Williams Range, crested Red Mountain, and descended its southern face to ...

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Chapter 2: The Roads Nature Made?

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pp. 77-126

One of the weirder moments in Colorado tourist advertising came in 1956, when the members of the Highway 6 Association—motel and gas station owners, chamber of commerce officials, small-town newspaper editors, and others along the Colorado portion of U.S. Highway 6—decided that what their road really needed was a mascot. It must have seemed like a good ...

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Chapter 3: Our Big Backyard

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pp. 127-188

As the story goes, Earl Eaton, an Eagle County native and sometime ski-area, mine, and construction worker, accidentally “discovered” the legendary mountain while prospecting for uranium. It was the mid- 1950s, and Eaton had heard the buzz that Eagle County might be the next uranium hot spot. It wasn’t, according to his Geiger counter. But while ...

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Chapter 4: Blueprints for Action

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pp. 189-238

Decades before you could set sail in Summit County or timeshare a condo in Vail, you could find yourself a cabin up in some piney corner of the high country and live a modest version of the tourist lifestyle. That is what Arthur Carhart did when he bought a cabin in Hot Sulphur Springs, right on the Colorado River, in the early 1940s. An alpine retreat ...

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Chapter 5: The John Denver Tenor

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pp. 239-297

A lot of Coloradans will cringe at this, but back in the 1970s the leading symbol of their state was John Denver. Yes, he of the toothy grin, blond mop, and granny glasses, who lived near Aspen and sang of sunshine and soaring eagles and needing nothing more than mountains to get high.1 For the rest of the country—and for a great many Coloradans too—this ...

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Conclusion: How Tourism Took Place

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pp. 298-306

The eerie orange glow that lit the predawn sky over Vail Mountain made sickeningly clear just how fraught an issue big recreation had become. When morning came on October 18, 1998, the smoke still pouring from the shambles of Two Elk Lodge made the point clearer still. The massive log, glass, and stone structure, which had commanded a grand prospect ...


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pp. 307-407


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pp. 408-450

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pp. 451-458

In the years I’ve spent on this project, Colorado has been through four governors and gained about 1.6 million in population, and I swear Denver’s average daily high has risen a few degrees. Which is one way of saying that Vacationland has taken more time and trouble than I ever thought possible. But it always was, and has remained throughout, a true labor of ...


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pp. 459-497

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Further Reading

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pp. 498-500

The Natural History of Puget Sound Country by Arthur R. KruckebergForest Dreams, Forest Nightmares: The Paradox of Old Growth in the Inland West Landscapes of Promise: The Oregon Story, 1800–1940 by William G. RobbinsThe Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780295804613
E-ISBN-10: 0295804610
Print-ISBN-13: 9780295992730
Print-ISBN-10: 0295992735

Page Count: 516
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 855831574
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Vacationland

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Tourism -- Colorado -- History.
  • Mountain life -- Colorado -- History.
  • Colorado -- Economic conditions.
  • Colorado -- Environmental conditions.
  • Colorado -- Description and Travel.
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