Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)

First Advisor

Daniels, Thomas

Second Advisor

Ammon, Francesca Russello


Skiing has grown rapidly in popularity within the past six decades as resorts have recorded record numbers of visitors. Ski towns are now flooded with additional residents and visitors. Ski towns are now busy year-round as resorts have transitioned to four-season operations. Public transit in ski towns currently struggles to meet the needs of all population groups, but mainly the needs of service industry workers. Public transportation alternatives must be considered as a viable option to support the transportation needs of local year-round residents and transient populations. This study seeks to address the questions: What are the main transportation challenges that ski towns face? How is planning for ski town transportation systems different from those in other recreation areas? What role do the ski resorts play in public transportation systems? What are some of the most necessary transportation interventions for ski towns in the Western United States? This study will examine whether and how a ski town can successfully implement public transportation options that serve local residents, the workforce and visitors.

This is a comparative case study analysis that examines public transportation systems in the three ski towns of Park City, Utah, Vail, Colorado, and Truckee, California. This study’s methods include a survey of public perceptions regarding transportation in ski towns, interviews with transportation planning professionals, and an analysis of transportation plans. These three methods support final recommendations for ways these towns might seek to improve their public transportation offerings to better serve both the environmental and financial wellbeing of their towns. Public transportation has been a hot topic in the planning world, and planning for niche transportation systems, such as those in tourism-based destinations presents a set of challenges that needs to be better addressed and researched. Extensive research exists on tourism-based transportation and the funding of transportation systems, but few studies have focused on ski towns and those aspects that make this type of tourism transportation different. Getting visitors out of their cars solves many problems like driving accidents, reducing the often-gridlocked traffic, and navigating in the snow.


Concentration: Land Use and Environmental Planning

Concentration: Sustainable Transportation and Infrastructure