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Tourism and Community Identity

Brief by Central Staff

Tourism – April 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine

Tourism and Community Identity

Can a town retain its identity after industrial tourism arrives?

A 16-page article in the Winter 1998 edition of Montana: The Magazine of Western History examines Colorado’s Steamboat Springs and its struggles through the years. The article, “Powder Aplenty for Native and Guest Alike: Steamboat Springs, Corporate Control, and the Changing Meaning of Home,” was written by Nevada historian Hal K. Rothman.

While places like Aspen were “reinvented mining towns” or places like Vail “conceived as a resort atop a ranch,” skiing in the cowtown of Steamboat Springs was a necessity at the turn of the century. The town was “home to people who regarded skiing as a daily activity and whose allegiance to the sport grew from the historic need for winter mobility, not from fashion or trend,” Rothman writes.

Rothman found some stories that often get missed, such as the division between “freaks” and “stomps” in the local high school during the 1970s. Freaks represented the urban and suburban youth with an anti-authoritarian view, while stomps allied with the area’s ranch ethic.

“By the end of the 1970s, the stomps had disappeared, suggesting that ranch families had declined in number and the children of those who remained embraced the cultural construct of the newcomers rather than older traditions of the town.”

Much of what happened to Steamboat happened to other Colorado towns as capital flowed in for resort development, Rothman writes, but “Of all the ski towns that faced these dilemmas, Steamboat Springs mounted the most sustained and successful resistance to change.”

Montana is available at some bookstores and newsstands (though we haven’t seen it on any Central Colorado shelves), but a copy of this edition can be ordered at 800-243-9900; the cost is $6.50 plus shipping.

Rothman’s new book about tourism in the West, Devil’s Bargain, is in the bin at Colorado Central, and is scheduled for review in the near future.