Abstract: A New Deal for Recreation: The Forest Service and the Development of Sun Valley Ski Resort

Dylan J. Esson


Nearly every historian who has discussed the history of ski resorts has pointed to the creation of Sun Valley ski resort in 1936 as a watershed moment in winter recreation and tourism history. Bankrolled by the Union Pacific Railroad, Sun Valley is credited with ushering in the era of the destination ski resort thanks to the marketing genius of Steve Hannagan, a man who first made Miami Beach a household name and later did the same for Sun Valley. What this story does not take into account, though, is the role that the federal government played in promoting and ensuring the success of winter sports in America. Much of the most reliable ski terrain was located in the National Forests, which were overseen by the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture. The story of Sun Valley, then, illustrates that the Forest Service's developing appreciation for recreation was as important to establishing resorts like Sun Valley as the resort's marketing capabilities.