The Economic Impact of Snowmobiling in Valley County

Benefits studied: ,
Uses studied:
Place: Valley County


This study found that snowmobilers from outside Valley County, Idaho are an important source of revenue during the winter months, spending an average of three days per trip and $106 per day. This revenue stream is highly susceptible to weather, with visits dropping 40 percent in a low snow year.


This study is an example of a county-level analysis for a specific user group, and it incorporates creative questions into user surveys to evaluate policy changes. The estimate of economic losses from closure of snowmobile trails is likely significantly overstated, as it assumes that no other users would use those trails when, in fact, they may become more popular with non-motorized recreationists (see study 33).


The study is based in Valley County, Idaho, population 9,793 in 2013. The snowmobile destinations in the county are 1.5 to 2 hours from Boise, Idaho.

Trail Type

The study addresses all snowmobiling in the county. Most snowmobiling takes place on public lands.


The purpose of the study is to document the economic impact of snowmobiling and support snowmobilers’ access to public lands in light of conflicts with other users and resource management goals. The report also suggests ways to increase the economic impact of snowmobiling. The study was funded by the Idaho Snowmobile Association.


  • Snowmobilers spend an average of $106 per person per day during trips to Valley County. These findings are consistent with daily spending values in Montana (see study 56).
  • The authors estimate that approximately 50,000 snowmobilers visit the county in a good snow year.
  • The town closest to Boise (Cascade) attracted only Idaho residents, who visited frequently (14 times per year) and spent 2 days per trip.
  • The town farthest from Boise (McCall) attracted 40 percent non-Idaho residents. Snowmobilers in this area visited an average of 10 trips per year lasting 3 days each.
  • The authors estimate that low snow years reduce the number of snowmobilers by 40 percent, that closing all trails in the county would reduce the number of snowmobilers by 14 percent, and that a new snowmobiling event such as a race or fun run would increase the number of snowmobilers by 2 percent per event.


The authors distributed mail-in surveys to snowmobilers at trailheads, club meetings, rental shops, events, and condos. Respondents were asked how far they traveled on their trip, how long they were staying, expenditures, demographics, and attitudes about different snowmobiling-related policies. Of the 1,000 surveys distributed, 367 were received back, for a 37 percent response rate.

The authors break out much of their analysis across the three communities in the county–Cascade, Donnelly, and McCall–as they attract different populations.

The authors use these data as inputs to a regional economic model called IMPLAN estimate the impact of spending on local income and employment.


Larsen, R., S. Hines, and G. Taylor. 2006. The Economic Impact of Snowmobiling in Valley County. University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Bulletin 844.