Teton-West Yellowstone Region Backcountry Winter Recreation Economic Impact Analysis

Benefits studied: ,
States: ,
Place: Jackson, West Yellowstone


This study found that participants in backcountry, non-motorized winter recreation generate a substantial economic, employment, and fiscal impact in the Teton-West Yellowstone region. This is the only study we are aware of that assesses the impact of this type of recreation.


This study’s findings will be of interest in communities where non-motorized winter recreation is popular. While the sampling approach and analysis appear well-considered, the estimates may be high if respondents are more avid than the average user. It is not clear if this was addressed in the analysis. Because Teton Pass and the Rendezvous Trails represent unique destinations for backcountry skiing and Nordic skiing, these values must be transferred to other locations with caution.


The study was based on public lands in the Teton, Wyoming-West Yellowstone, Montana region, including Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and the Rendezvous Ski Trails on the Gallatin National Forest.

Trail Type

The author surveyed resident and non-resident skiers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers on groomed and ungroomed trails, snowshoers, walkers or joggers, and snowbikers.


The purpose of this study is to highlight the community economic and fiscal impacts from backcountry winter recreationists, a group that may be overlooked in a region with high winter recreation use from snowmobiling and resort-based downhill skiing. The study also asked about user attitudes on the sufficiency of infrastructure. This study was commissioned by the Winter Wildlands Alliance.


This study finds that non-motorized winter recreation generates large economic and fiscal impacts for the region.

  • The median local user reported 54 winter days in the backcountry.
  • Backcountry skiing and cross-country skiing were the most popular activities for residents and non-residents. For residents, the median participant spent 25 days and 15 days per year backcountry skiing and cross-country skiing, respectively. For non-residents, 24% reported backcountry skiing as their primary purpose and 23% reported cross-country skiing on trails as their primary purpose.
  • Residents spent an average of $803 locally per year on goods and services related to backcountry recreation, including skis, clothing, guiding services, and entrance fees.
  • Non-residents spent an average of $273 locally per year on goods and services related to backcountry recreation.
  • The most important topics for resident and non-resident users were the area available for non-motorized use; the size, location, and number of parking lots; and the number of groomed cross-country ski trails.
  • Residents and non-residents spent approximately $18.5 million on winter backcountry recreation trips in the region. This translated to $3.0 million in labor earnings, which is 1 percent of labor earnings in Jackson and Wyoming. However, because one-third of these expenditures were made by locals, not all of this is new spending.


A total of 1,234 winter backcountry trail users were recruited at trailheads, which were stratified according to level of use and weekend versus weekdays. Surveys were administered online to recipients randomly from this pool, from which they received 209 usable surveys (41% response rate). The surveys gathered data on expenditures, demographics, use, travel distance, and attitudes regarding issues related to winter recreation in the region.

These data were used as input into a regional economic model to estimate economic impacts, but it is not clear which specific model was used.


Newcomb, M. 2013. Teton-West Yellowstone Region Backcountry Winter Recreation Economic Impact Analysis. Boise, ID: Winter Wildlands Alliance.