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The Rocky Mountains, Economy

livestock ranching, Grand Teton National Park, Royal Gorge, Glacier National Park, major significance

Although irrigated farming, livestock ranching, and lumbering offer limited economic opportunities within the region, the two major commercial activities in the Rocky Mountains are mining and tourism. Small mines are scattered throughout this region, but several have achieved major significance at one time or another. Major finds of gold, lead, zinc, and silver were discovered around Leadville, Colorado, particularly in the last quarter of the 19th century. Today, Leadville continues to be a mining center and is the home of the Climax mine, which employs over 3,000 workers. This mine is the world’s largest producer of molybdenum, which has a very high melting point and is used to make the heat-resistant steels used in automobiles, aircraft, and various commercial and industrial appliances. The Coeur d’Alene area of northern Idaho also continues to be a productive mining center, producing substantial quantities of silver, lead, and zinc.

Tourism is based on abundant natural attractions and outdoor recreation and has become the most vigorous part of the region’s economy. Resort communities have been established to cater to the region’s tourist industry, and their population often grows exponentially during peak tourist seasons. Skiing is the dominant winter season activity. Major destinations are Aspen, Vail, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain in Colorado, as well as Sun Valley in Idaho and Snowbird in Utah. In the summer, tourists flood the region to visit points of interest, such as Pikes Peak, Royal Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Glacier National Park.

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