Winter Recreationist Conflict and Management Approaches at Vail Pass, Colorado


  • Aubrey D. Miller Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University
  • Jerry J. Vaske



Recreation, conflict, zoning, segregation, motorized, nonmotorized, snowmobiling, backcountry skiing


Managers of popular winter recreation areas rely on two primary tools to mitigate conflict between nonmotorized and motorized recreationists. First, physical separation of activities, or zoning, is used to limit interpersonal conflict between groups. Interpersonal conflict, or goal-interference conflict, occurs when the physical presence or behavior of an individual or group interferes with the goals of another individual or group. Second, “active management,” in the form of visitor education and enforcement of zoning boundaries, is used to minimize social values conflict. Social values conflict occurs between groups who may not share similar norms or values about an activity. This article focuses on a zoned, actively managed winter recreation fee area in central Colorado, the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area (VPWRA), to examine the effectiveness of these two management tools. We hypothesized that implementing and maintaining zoning, and active management, would decrease reported levels of interpersonal and social values conflict. Data were collected in 2003 (n = 224, response rate = 93%) and in 2014 (n = 242, response rate = 89%) from randomly selected VPWRA nonmotorized and motorized recreationists. A K-Means analysis was performed to identify clusters of nonmotorized and motorized respondents who experienced different types of conflict. Results indicated that interpersonal conflict decreased among nonmotorized respondents from 43% in 2003 to 28% in 2014. At the same time, social values conflict among nonmotorized respondents increased from 20% in 2003 to 35% in 2014. For motorized respondents, interpersonal conflict decreased from 20% in 2003 to 12% in 2014. In both 2003 and in 2014, motorized respondents reported no social values conflict. These results highlight a complex relationship between zoning and active management. Overall, the management approach at the VPWRA appears to have successfully reduced interpersonal conflict among nonmotorized and motorized recreationists, but not eliminated this type of conflict. Despite zoning, the VPWRA has travel corridors and destinations with overlapping nonmotorized and motorized use. These mixed-use areas may be responsible for the interpersonal conflict. The management approach was less successful at limiting social values conflict among nonmotorized respondents. Despite management efforts to minimize social values conflict through active management, nonmotorized respondents reported increased levels of social values conflict. To enhance effectiveness education campaigns should target the norms and values specifically held by nonmotorized recreationists, since social values conflict is not present with motorized recreationists. 

Author Biography

Aubrey D. Miller, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Master's Student, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources





Regular Papers