Canyonlands Research Bibliography


The Risk-Recreation Lifestyle in the Intermountain West


Wendy A. Sanbom

Document Type


Publication Date



Typically in the sociology literature, identity is said to coalesce around work or the family. However, some authors argue that leisure pursuits may be central to the individual's identity. This perspective is addressed in the recreation literature by such concepts as specialization and commitment. "Specialization" or "commitment" refers to the process through which a person invests enough time and money in a particular recreation activity that the activity eventually permeates all aspects of one's lifestyle, including one's identity and social world membership. Though researchers have posited the importance of recreation to the specialist's lifestyle decisions, none has actually investigated the influence of recreation on lifestyle. In this paper, I explore recreationists' lifestyle decision making by elaborating on the concept of passionate avocations and focusing on risk recreationists in the Intermountain West. I designed an interview protocol to determine the ways in which people's commitment to adventure sports affects their lifestyle. Upon interviewing a total of forty-five respondents in three adventure-sports meccas, I found that risk recreationists base key lifestyle decisions on access to recreation opportunities. Respondents had moved to Jackson (WY), Crested Butte (CO), or Moab (UT) to enjoy adventure sports. Once they had migrated, most worked in the service sector to support their lifestyle. Interestingly, although many had college degrees, most accepted relatively low-pay, low-skill jobs. Respondents spent the vast majority of their free time, and most of their disposable income, doing adventure sports. They enjoyed the lifestyle immensely, but they incurred various costs such as low income, limited career options, few opportunities to use their education, strained romantic relationships, and distance from family. They claimed that while the adventure lifestyle was of primary importance, they intended to move into more traditional careers in less recreation-oriented communities within a few years. This study reiterates the identity centrality of leisure and provides evidence that specialization strongly influences recreationists' lifestyle decisions and social world membership.


Publisher: Utah State University

This document is currently not available here.