Colorado Powder Keg

Colorado Powder Keg Cover

Winner of the International Ski History Association’s Ullr Award 

Finalist for the Western Writers of American Spur Award for Best Contemporary Non-Fiction Book 

In the frigid early morning hours of October 19, 1998, William Rodgers raced along Vail Ski Resort’s snow-covered ridge line setting fires. In a matter of minutes, flames engulfed six buildings across the mountain, including the ski resort’s aging ski patrol headquarters and opulent Two Elks Lodge. The most notorious act of “eco-terrorism” in American history, causing $12 million in damages to Colorado’s largest, and arguably most popular, ski resort, the Vail Arsons epitomized the fiercely divisive political battles over the development of ever-larger corporate owned ski resorts on America’s public lands throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

Questioning whether private interests should profit from the development of public lands and the role of the U.S. Forest Service in fostering the development of ski resorts, Colorado Powder Keg: Ski Resorts and the Environment examines Colorado’s ski industry and the emergence of the new postindustrial West, where mountains have become more valuable as ski resorts than as rangelands, causing the transformation once rural mountain towns into sprawling resort communities reliant on tourism.


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Praise for Colorado Powder Keg

“With a good sense of the deep tensions behind the well-groomed slopes of the Colorado Rockies, Mike Childers skillfully reveals new insights about the ski industry and environmental politics in the modern American West. He convincingly argues that even notorious acts of eco-terrorism must be viewed not as aberrations but within the context of reasoned debates about power and control over resources. Childers’s careful linking of the rejection of the 1976 Denver Winter Olympic Games bid by the citizens of Colorado to the evolution of ecoterrorism is inspired. Colorado Powder Keg gives voice to the conflicted opponents of industrial tourism who challenge our assumptions about who speaks for nature and why.”

Andrew G. Kirk, author of Counterculture Green: The Whole Earth Catalog and American Environmentalism

“In lively and compelling prose, Mike Childers explains a new and important set of conflicts crucial to western and environmental historians. Colorado Powder Keg uses the history of Colorado’s ski industry to examine the high stakes game of public land use in the West, and the U.S. Forest Service’s struggle to balance our competing desires for economic growth, outdoor recreation, and environmental protection.”

Annie Gilbert Coleman, author of Ski Style: Sport and Culture in the Rockies

Colorado Powder Keg is a long-sought, unbiased, and gripping account of the ski industry’s ambivalent relationship to the natural environment and its cozy relationship with the U.S. Forest Service. Using the history of Vail as its centerpiece while incorporating all signature themes from the ski industry’s history nationally, the book raises important questions about the treatment of the public trust in Colorado ski country.”

Michael J. Yochim, author of Yellowstone and the Snowmobile: Locking Horns over National Park Use

“Environmentalists, perhaps because many of them are skiers, have not subjected ski and snowboard areas to the intense public scrutiny that logging, mining, and other users of public lands undergo. Yet ski areas are the most glaring scars on our national forests today. This fascinating and provocative study focuses on mounting environmental concerns about the heretofore little investigated Colorado ski industry.”

Thomas J. “Dr. Colorado” Noel, coauthor of Colorado: History of the Centennial State


The American Historical Review

Environmental History

Center for Colorado and the West at Auraria Library

Choice Reviews Online

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