From the mountain to the valley: the flows and frictions of commuting in a resort geography

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This research examines the commuting experiences of laborers who travel upwards of 60 miles to work in the resort town of Big Sky, Montana, USA. Using semi-structured interviews with commuters and an ethnographic approach, this case study describes the phenomenon of rapid luxury amenity growth with a focus on how on workers experience the commuting burdens of endemic housing shortages. The analysis draws on concepts from resource geography, urban planning, and transportation studies to elucidate the relationship between the spatial footprint of the resort economy, commuting and the subjective well-being of workers. To categorize a wide range of subjective descriptions of the commute, the study offers the framework of flows and frictions. A focus on commuting provides a new way to understand how costs externalized by the resort economy are adapted to, and absorbed by, workers. As wealth inequality continues to create demand for high end tourism and real estate, these results are an important contribution to understanding the associated social and spatial costs that accrue to resort laborers.




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