The Economic Impact of Snowmobiling in Utah

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Place: All Utah counties

Overview

In Utah, snowmobile use generates substantial economic activity that is concentrated in the population centers along the Wasatch Front and accrues largely to equipment, gasoline, and food retailers. Snowmobile registrations have been steady over the past two decades while the state’s population has grown, showing a decline in participation rates across the state.

Relevance

This study is relevant for snowmobile advocates interested in trends in snowmobile use and associated spending. The authors do not report spending by people who do not live in the county, which would represent new money to a community, so the economic impact estimates are difficult to interpret.

The report includes a copy of the survey instrument. The authors used a map in the survey where respondents could mark the location of their most recent trip. This approach helped them more accurately attribute trip spending to individual counties, as trail users likely can locate the trailhead but may not know its county.

Location

This study evaluates all counties in Utah.

Trail Type

This study measures the effect of snowmobile trails.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to support snowmobile businesses and user groups that advocate for protection of and funding for snowmobile destinations.

This study was prepared for the Utah Snowmobile Association with funding from the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, the Park City Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, Weller Recreation, Ski-Doo—BRP, Cutler’s Performance Center, Bear Lake Funtime, and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.

Findings

  • The number of registered snowmobiles has remained steady over time: there were 13,000 registered in 1998 and 11,000 registered in 2017. Meanwhile Utah population has increased by 77%, indicating the snowmobile participation rate has declined substantially.
  • Snowmobilers’ average age increased from 43 in 1998 to 54 in 2017. The authors suggest that the participation rate is decreasing because older snowmobilers are not being replaced by new, younger riders when they stop riding.
  • The economic impacts of snowmobiling are concentrated geographically, with five counties (Salt Lake, Summit, Utah, Wasatch, and Weber) getting two-thirds of the 918 jobs created. As in similar studies in Idaho, these are the population and retail centers for the state.
  • Snowmobiling’s economic impact also is concentrated in terms of the sectors affected: 63% of employment supported by snowmobiling accrues to five sectors (motor vehicle and parts dealers, gasoline stores, restaurants, food and beverage stores, and real estate).

Methods

The authors surveyed a sample of 1,500 households with snowmobiles registered in the state, drawing proportionally from each county. They administered their survey via mail and an online version. Respondents were asked detailed questions regarding their most recent snowmobiling trip, general information about snowmobiling during the previous year, and basic socioeconomic information about their household. The report includes the survey instrument.

Citation

Smith, J.W. and Chase C. Lamborn. 2018. The Economic Impact of Snowmobiling in Utah. Prepared for the Utah Snowmobile Association. Logan, UT: Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, Utah State University.