1 Nov. 2019 — 12:00 noon — WAG 316

Jesse Ritner (UT)

“Making Snow and Designing the X-Games: Technological Innovation and the Production of a New Ski Culture”

“Making Snow” explores the cultural and material entanglements of manufactured snow, the development and professionalization of snowmaking through a shared language of metrics, and the rise of a new “urban” ski culture, embodied by the X-Games and defined by radness. Utilizing often underappreciated trade publications, along with more frequently analyzed popular publications, popular literature, and ski movies, this paper demonstrates how snowmaking was a necessary prerequisite to the ascendancy of the ski industry in winter tourism. “Making Snow” is in conversation with two different literatures on skiing. The first, best exemplified by Annie Gilbert Coleman, studies intersections between race, class, and gender in the creation of a hegemonic ski culture. The second, most recently explored by historians Andrew Denning and Michael Childers, interrogates skiers’ relationship to environment through analysis of discourse and political activism respectively. In contrast to these two prevailing analyses, “Making Snow” demonstrates the hybrid relationship of various discourses of environment and ski culture with alpine skiing’s material foundations. In the process, this paper suggests how a case study of the ski industry can demonstrate the limits of capital-driven resilience strategies to deal with long-term industry-threatening crises such as climate change.


Jesse Ritner is a graduate student the University of Texas History Department.