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Jesse Ritner

(Travel Fellow, 2020-21)
Jesse Ritner

Jesse Ritner

Travel Fellow

Making Snow: Weather, Technology, and the Rise of the American Ski Industry, 1900-present

Jesse Ritner is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin.  He studies U.S. environmental history in the twentieth century.  His dissertation, tentatively titled “Making Snow: Weather, Technology, and the Rise of the American Ski Industry, 1900-present,” argues that the rapid development of the ski industry following World War II only occurred as a result of snowmaking technology. By modifying weather through snow guns, and attempting to make snow through cloud seeding, the ski resorts made it possible to ski in places where it rarely snows at all. Essentially, the technology also provided insurance in snowy regions where snow droughts periodically made skiing impossible, putting resorts and ski towns at risk. Snowmaking thereby guaranteed resort guests skiable conditions months in advance, in the process incentivizing increased capital investments in the industry.  By thinking about snowmaking in terms of weather modification, his project sheds light on the role of weather modifying technologies as they relate to capitalism, climate change, and environmental justice.

Jesse grew up outside Philadelphia, where he frequently skied in the Poconos of northeastern Pennsylvania, which run almost exclusively on artificial snow.  Before entering graduate school, he worked as a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado.