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.
Vacationland is more than just the tale of one tourist region. It is a case study of how the consumerism of the postwar years rearranged landscapes and revolutionized American environmental attitudes. Postwar tourists pioneered new ways of relating to nature, forging surprisingly strong personal connections to their landscapes of leisure and in many cases reinventing their lifestyles and identities to make vacationland their permanent home. They sparked not just a population boom in popular tourist destinations like Colorado but also a new kind of environmental politics, as they demanded protection for the aesthetic and recreational qualities of place that promoters had sold them. Those demands energized the American environmental movement-but also gave it blind spots that still plague it today.
Peopled with colorful characters, richly evocative of the Rocky Mountain landscape, Vacationland forces us to consider how profoundly tourism changed Colorado and America and to grapple with both the potential and the problems of our familiar ways of relating to environment, nature, and place.
"This history of the Colorado high country and the I-70 corridor will be indispensable in understanding how consumer culture and tourism shaped environmental politics and postwar landscapes. Vacationland is a smart analysis that's thoroughly researched and also fun to read."
- Annie Gilbert Coleman, author of Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies
"Written in a lively style and peopled by characters like balladeer John Denver and gonzo jounalist Hunter S. Thompson, Vacationland is a must-read for those interested in the environmental movement, modern tourism, and the power of the state in building the twentieth-century West."
- Susan S. Rugh, author of Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations
"Vacationland is a wonderfully written book that brings new insights to environmental and Western history by emphasizing how modern tourism redefined Americans' sense of place. 'Vacationland' is more than the resorts to which we travel; it is also the place we call home."
- John M. Findlay, Coauthor of Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West
"William Philpott's Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country is the best book yet published on an array of critical topics in Colorado history [...] What's more, Vacationland is far and away the most illuminating book yet written on postwar Colorado. Philpott's research is exhaustive, 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."
- Thomas Andrews, Center for Colorado and the West
"The author utilizes a bevy of archival and public documents. Photographs, maps, charts, and a substantial bibliography support the book. Recommended."
"Although a scholarly work of interest to environmental scientists and historians [...] the extraordinarily multidisciplinary nature of the content- illustrating economic, marketing, political, and sociological aspects of our American history-gives it broad appeal. The entertaining narrative style makes the content accessible to an audience beyond experts, suitable for students, and general readers."
- Kathleen Butler, Electronic Green Journal, April 2014
List of Illustrations
Foreword: At Home and at Play in the High Country by William Cronon
Introduction: Seeing Like a Tourist
1. Selling the Scene
2. The Roads Nature Made?
3. Our Big Backyard
4. Blueprints for Action
5. The John Denver Tenor
Conclusion: How Tourism Took Place
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William Philpott teaches history at the University of Denver.