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Mountains of money : the corporate production of Whistler resort Horner, Graham

Abstract

The aim of this thesis is two-fold. My primary, theoretical aim is to present an alternative way for geographers to approach the study of tourist resort development. For over twenty years, resorts have been understood through the framework of evolutionary models, the most widely-used being Richard Butler's 1981 Tourist Area Life Cycle. I argue that the time is ripe for a more sophisticated approach which i) identifies the multiplicity of actors involved in the destination-making process and elucidates the interactions between them; and ii) situates the resort within a dynamic, capitalist economy, increasingly dominated by large corporations. I suggest that one way we can do this is to take particular moments in a resort's trajectory and examine the responses made by key players in the production of the resort. My starting point for my investigation into Whistler Resort, British Columbia is the merger in 1996 of its two ski mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, under the ownership of Intrawest Corporation. A recent wave of consolidation in the North American ski industry has seen increasing numbers of once-independent ski areas coming under the control of four large corporations, Intrawest being one. My second aim with this thesis, therefore, is to shed light on the process of ski resort development in light of the recent industry reorganisation. In particular, I use my case-study of Whistler to interrogate the corporatisation thesis of historian Hal Rothrnan. Rothman's account of resort development in the twentieth-century American West leads him to view large corporations as extractive forces which pay scant respect to local communities and cultures, treating them instead as marketable commodities. The experience of Whistler, however, suggests a much greater degree of mterdependence and co-operation between the ski corporation and local stakeholders in the resort - a situation that arises because of its unique administrative, political and economic context.

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