Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

Patricia A. Stokowski


Ski areas attract and cater to tourists and are often powerful symbols of cultural identity and place-based meaning. Within contexts of mountain tourism development, ski areas also communicate messages to orient visitors and residents to special features and qualities of the natural environment. This research specifically focuses on how Vermont ski areas and their neighboring rural communities use language, symbolism and imagery, within the context of website communications, to shape cultural meanings of nature and place.

A sample of small, medium, and large ski areas, representing a range of development sizes, locations, and recreational offerings, were paired with their adjacent rural communities. A qualitative content analysis and a textual analysis of photographic images and written texts from ski area and town websites examined presentations of “nature” and place. Website presentations were compared across ski areas of different sizes, and between towns and ski areas. Findings show that portrayals of “nature” differ by the size of the ski area, but are similar across rural towns – though towns tended to produce a discourse about “nature” divergent from that of ski areas. In addition, both ski resort and town websites used images and texts of “Vermont” symbolically in constructing their place identity, though they did this in different ways. This study contributes a better understanding of the ways that ski areas and rural communities work both independently and collaboratively to create and sustain meaningful physical places and cultural myths. Aligning public communications electronically to present a more unified place identity to visitors and residents alike has potential planning and management implications for tourism development, especially in rural regions in Vermont and elsewhere.



Number of Pages

101 p.