Montana Recreational Snowmobiles: Fuel-Use and Spending Patterns 2013

Benefits studied: ,
Uses studied:
Place: Statewide


This study found that snowmobiling is associated with high daily spending in Montana, with the average resident snowmobiler spending $108 per day and the average non-resident spending $148 per day. Despite the 4,000 miles of groomed trails available in the state, snowmobiling remains primarily an activity enjoyed by residents, who accounted for 93 percent of snowmobiling days in 2013.


This study could be used by those interested in state-level economic potential from snowmobiling. It is one of a series of state-wide snowmobiling studies conducted around the same time in IowaNew HampshireMinnesotaSouth Dakota, and Maine. In this study, although there are relatively few non-resident snowmobiling days, visitors to a community from within the state have the potential to generate large economic impact.


This was a state-wide study in Montana.

Trail Type

The study addresses snowmobiling across Montana.  The state-run Snowmobile Trails Program grooms 4,000 miles of trails in the state.


The purpose of this study is to help evaluate revenue for the Snowmobile Trails Program, run by Montana State Parks, which sponsored the study. The Snowmobile Trails Program is funded by fuel taxes and snowmobile decal fees, so the study evaluated how much gasoline snowmobilers use. The study also evaluated other expenditures and snowmobile participation to estimate the impact of snowmobiling in the state.


  • Eight percent of Montana residents snowmobiled in the previous year, accounting for 1.2 million days of snowmobiling in the state each year.
  • Non-residents account for about 97,000 days of snowmobiling each year.
  • Resident snowmobilers spent an average of $108 per day, $31 (28%) of which was for gasoline for snowmobiles. In total, residents spent approximately $96 million during the season.
  • Non-resident snowmobilers spent an average of $148 per day, $11 (7%) of which was for gasoline for snowmobiles. In total, non-residents spent approximately $14 million during the season.
  • In total, residents and non-residents added $1.2 million to the highway trust fund due to gasoline taxes.
  • Residents generally do not incur costs for lodging, and spend less on food, drink, and miscellaneous expenses than non-residents.
  • Access to snowmobiling areas was ranked as the most important issue facing snowmobiling by 62 percent of respondents, followed by safety and personal responsibility (12%).


The authors evaluated Montana residents and non-residents separately. Residents, identified from snowmobile registrations, were surveyed via phone and mail. Non-resident snowmobile use and related expenditures were drawn from five previous surveys done between 1997 and 2006, across which the authors saw relatively little change. They updated spending data using 2013 expenditure reports from the University of Montana Institute of Travel and Tourism.


Sylvester, J. 2014. Montana Recreational Snowmobiles: Fuel-Use and Spending Patterns 2013. Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of Montana.