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Making meaning out of mountains : skiing, the environment and eco-politics Stoddart, Mark Christopher John

Abstract

This research provides a sociological analysis of skiing as a form of outdoor recreation and nature tourism in British Columbia, Canada. A qualitative multi-method approach is used, combining discourse analysis, interviews with skiers, and unobtrusive field observation at Whistler Blackcomb and Whitewater ski resorts. Through a focus on discourse, embodied interactions among humans and non-humans, and flows of power, this research describes an environmental ambiguity at the centre of skiing. There is a tension between interpretations of skiing as an environmentally-sustainable practice and notions of skiing as an environmental and social problem. Skiing is based on the symbolic consumption of nature and is understood by many participants as a way of entering into a meaningful relationship with the non-human environment. However, interpretations of skiing as a non-consumptive use of non-human nature are too simple. Social movement groups disrupt pro-environmental discourses of skiing by challenging the sport’s ecological and social legitimacy. Many skiers also articulate a self-reflexive environmental critique of their sport. In these instances, skiing is brought into the realm of politics. Recreational forms of interaction with the non-human environment tend to be at the periphery of environmental sociology. At the same time, sport sociologists tend to focus on the social dimensions of outdoor recreation, while bracketing out non-human nature. This research brings these two fields of inquiry into dialogue with each other, thereby addressing this double lacuna.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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