Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Dale Miller

Second Advisor

Amanda Carrico

Third Advisor

Keith Stockton


This project looks at the relationship between climate and outdoor tourism in Colorado. In a time where rates of outdoor and adventure tourism are increasing, and the climate is also changing, the relationship between these two variables is important. Focusing on a case study of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), this project looks at past trends of park visitation and climate, analyzing how these variables have fluctuated together. Visitation data was collected from the National Park Service Database. Climate data, represented as measurements of air temperature, snow depth, and precipitation increments, were collected from SNOTEL weather stations through the Natural Resources Conservation Service Report Generator. Multiple bivariate correlations and regressions were run to analyze the data. Visitation and climate data were compared with sales tax revenue data from surrounding counties through regression analysis. These analyses were done in order to analyze the influence of climate on economic measures through the intermediary relationship with tourism. A negative correlation was found between snow depth and visitation, a positive correlation between air temperature and visitation, and an insignificant relationship between precipitation and visitation. The final tests revealed a positive relationship between visitation and the economies of surrounding towns. Further impacts of climate change on RMNP are discussed, and the study is put into context with other research. The conclusions of this thesis finds that while climate change can have a significant relationship with outdoor tourism and related economies, the extent and direction of these relationships are determined by the specific type of activity and the ecosystem in which tourism takes place.