Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country

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Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country
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Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country
Andrews, Thomas
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Denver, CO
Center for Colorado and the West
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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:40:25 PM] Home Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High CountryVacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High CountrySubmitted by nwharton on 1-19-2014 05:27 PMAuthor: William Philpott Publishing: Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2013. 497 pages. Black-and-white photographs, illustrations, maps, index, bibliography, endnotes. 6 x 9. $39.95 hardcover. Reviewer: Thomas Andrews Reviewer Affiliation: University of Colorado at Boulder William Philpotts Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country is the best book yet published on an array of critical topics in Colorado history: tourism, highway-building, the ski industry, the rise of the I-70 corridor, and the origins of Colorado environmental coalitions and land-use regulations. Whats more, Vacationland is far and away the most illuminating book yet written on postwar Colorado. Philpotts research is exhaustive (his footnotes cover more than one hundred pages), his prose is elegant but crystal-clear, and his interpretations are almost uniformly persuasive. Vacationland seems bound to earn vociferous praise from scholars. Yet this is also a book that merits widespread attention from general readers. If I were asked to recommend just one work to citizens or visitors seeking to orient themselves to the origins of the contemporary Colorado landscape, this would be it. Philpotts introduction defines Vacationland s terms and foregrounds its arguments. The books first chapter, Selling the Scene, tells how Friedl Pfeifer, an Austrian-born ski trooper stationed at Camp Hale, the famous Tenth Mountain Division post, stumbled into Aspen and found the town of his dreams. Philpott breathes fresh life into the oft-told tale of how Pfeifer and Chicago container magnate Walter Paepcke transformed this moribund mining town into the glitziest of all Colorado ski resorts. Aspen, Philpott argues, set the blueprint for the wholesale remaking of the Colorado high country into a region of leisure. It showed how an old mining or ranching town could find new life, if one turned remoteness and rusticity into selling points and converted extractive landscapes to recreational use (42). By the 1950s, the State Advertising and Publicity Committee was spearheading an increasingly organized effort to market highcountry tourism. The four remaining chapters of Vacationland trace the spatial, environmental, and political consequences of recreational consumerism. The Roads Nature Made? offers a fascinating look at I-70, which forged a new tourist corridor where none had existed before (79). Philpott shows how boosters along U.S. Highway 6 and U.S. Highway 40 jockeyed to convince state and federal highway agencies to pick their routes for the new interstate. The selection of the U.S. 6/Straight Creek tunnel site coincided with the creation of Vail, the main subject of Chapter 3, Our Big Yard. Once in place, Philpott claims, I-70 became integral to peoples sense of geography[,] defin[ing] Vails allegedly perfect location as surely as ski terrain and snow (130). EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanThe Ute people have lived in Colorado longer than anyone else.


Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:40:25 PM] Vacationland treats Vail as a compelling case study in the emerging connections between recreation, consumerism, and ideas of nature. Even more important, it argues that from its establishment, Vail was inextricably suburban. Vacation spaces, Philpott claims, borrowed from suburbia andsuburbia borrowed right back, so that the vacationers way of consuming nature and landscape shaded ever more into everyday life (151). From Colfax Avenue motels to assiduously renovated Georgetown mansions to the ranch houses sprouting up from Cherry Hills to Aspen, visitors and residents alike were coming to believe that the same environmental delights that suited a Colorado vacation also made Colorado a perfect place to make a home (165). Together, tourists and new residents to the state (many of whom first visited Colorado as tourists) drove rapid economic and demographic growth between the 1950s and 1970s. Chapters 4 and 5 of Vacationland trace a crucial irony: Recreational consumerism simultaneously drove breakneck development, and laid the foundations for struggles against the environmental impacts of growth. Chapter 4, Blueprints for Action, excavates the little-known but hugely significant story of recreational planning in postwar Colorado. Taking a page from the marketing efforts of Colorados tourist industry, recreational planners such as Arthur Carhart and Joseph Penfold built a critical, if now largely forgotten, bridge from Progressive-style, expert-centered conservation to popular environmental concern (222). Just a few years after several advocacy groups joined forces in the mid-1960s to form the Colorado Open Space Coordinating Council, this environmental coalition effectively partnered with Vail Associates and other heavy hitters in Colorado tourism to block a proposed tunnel that would have brought I-70 straight through the heart of the Eagles Nest/Gore Range Wilderness. Philpott starts his final chapter, The John Denver Tenor, with a memorable cameo of the strangely ebullient former folkie who absolutely embodied Colorados recreational-environmental ideal (239). In Rocky Mountain High, Colorados most famous permanent tourist bemoaned the very existence of tourist development itself (241). By the early 1970s, a growing chorus of Coloradans were beginning, like John Denver, to see tourism, commercial recreation, and development that catered to the leisure lifestyle as environmental problem unto themselvesand the need to curb them as the states most pressing priority (241). In an understatedly nuanced, pathbreaking analysis, Philpott contends that the same forces that had refashioned the high country into vacationland also fueled a growing environmentalist backlash. That backlash culminated in the landslide rebuke voters dealt the Winter Olympics in 1972. Thereafter, local growth-restriction measures continued to triumph. Yet efforts to impose stricter statewide controls on development repeatedly stalled. Philpott attributes the lackluster performance of environmentalists largely to the vacationland ethos: Consumerism, which literally teaches people to buy into the system, did not incline these Coloradans toward the kind of systemic transformation that the most ambitious land-use reforms would have entailed. It also discouraged big-picture thinking, the sort of holistic, ecological vision needed to follow through on the more comprehensive environmental movement (281). Vacationland concludes with a nod to the 1998 burning of Vails Two Elk Lodge project by the Environmental Liberation Front. In the end, Philpott argues, the place making that turned the I-70 corridor into vacationland yielded far more than tourist traffic and tourist dollarsit helped create a new kind of environmental consciousness a consciousness whose origins and limitations do much to explain why the anti-growth movement of the early 1970s fizzled out (302). There is only so much a bookeven one as sparkling as Vacationland can do, but most readers will undoubtedly pine for Philpott or some other scholar to start unearthing the story of highway development, recreation, consumerism, and political conflict in Colorado since 1980. This brilliant book, a marvel of the difficult art required to make cutting-edge, engaged historical


Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library[12/7/2015 3:40:25 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us scholarship accessible and relevant to the general public, deserves the broadest possible audience. Reviewer Info: Thomas G. Andrews is associate professor of history at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Author of Killing for Coal: Americas Deadliest Labor War he is currently completing a book on the environmental history of the Kawuneeche Valley of Rocky Mountain National Park.