Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Q&A with Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer




Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer are the authors of the new book Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort That Never Was. Both journalists, they live in the Denver area.


Q: What inspired you to write Disneyland on the Mountain?


A: We are both journalists and Disney history buffs, and we were fascinated to learn several years back that Walt Disney tried to build a ski resort and all-year recreation destination in Mineral King, California, in the 1960s. Wanting to find out more about the story, we began to research it obsessively.


What we initially thought was a small piece of trivia—that Disney tried to add a ski resort to its empire and it didn’t work out—was so much more than that. It was a story that spanned nearly two decades and involved Walt Disney’s death in the middle in the project, the rise of environmentalism, and the case going to the Supreme Court. No one had told the full story before, so we wanted to.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: There was so much research involved—visiting a number of archives, combing through thousands of old newspaper stories and oral histories, tracking down decades of Disney annual company reports, reading letters from people who were there at the time, and more.


Importantly, we talked to dozens of sources in order to really understand and piece together what happened over a long timespan. We were able to talk to a number of people who were there at the time this was happening in the 1960s and ’70s—including a handful of Disney employees, some environmentalists and Mineral King cabin owners, and even Michael McCloskey, the then-leader of the Sierra Club, who led the fight and legal battle against Disney’s project.


One surprise to us was just how contentious the battle got. We were interested to learn there was a protest at Disneyland, for example, and we were able to find very strongly worded letters, editorials, etc., on both sides of the battle.

We also were surprised to learn how genuinely important the Mineral King project was to Walt Disney—he was really inspired by nature and wildlife. He won numerous awards for his efforts to bring awareness to nature and wildlife, including a 1955 honorary lifetime membership from the Sierra Club—the same organization that later protested and sued to block his project.


Q: The writer Jake S. Friedman said of the book, “We see an even-handed portrayal of Walt as both a conservationist and a showman, and how his plans inspired real change in our country's policies.” What do you think of that description?


A: We appreciate it and feel like it’s spot-on. A lot of people know Walt as a showman—as the talented, gregarious guy who graced their television screens, who created beautiful films, who created Disneyland.


But there’s also another side of him that people don’t know—that of a conservationist. He was really inspired by nature and wildlife, and his goal for creating the Mineral King resort was to get people to see that area and appreciate it. He said over and over again he wanted to preserve its natural beauty. We are excited for people to find out more about Walt as a conservationist in our book.


Q: Disney has been in the headlines for political reasons lately--what do you see looking ahead for the company?


A: Disney’s political battles now are very interesting, because many people believe it’s rare for Disney to have conflicts like this. But they actually had political battles back in the 1960s and ’70s when trying to build this California ski and recreation center. People can read more about that in our book.


Disney is undoubtedly a juggernaut, and we’re impressed at how they stand up for what they believe in and what they think is best for their customers and employees. We think they’ll get through the latest scuffles, and we’ll see if it makes them stronger.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: We’re certainly busy with our day jobs—Kathryn works as a business journalist focusing on the workplace, and Greg is a health writer for a university—but we are beginning to work on our next book idea. It’s also nonfiction, and something we think might interest readers of Disneyland on the Mountain. It’s too soon for details, but we’re excited about it. Fingers crossed!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Our goal in writing this book was to tell the story from both sides—the Disney side and the environmental side—so readers would have an understanding about what drove each side, what they wanted, and why they wanted it.


We switched points of view pretty much back and forth throughout the book, and we are excited to hear which side readers feel should have won. We believe the case for both is equally strong.


We’d love to hear from anyone who reads the book; you can reach out to us through Thanks for your interest!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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