The Economic Importance of Snowmobiling in Iowa

Benefits studied: ,
Uses studied:
Place: Statewide


This study found that snowmobiling is popular among Iowa households. However, snowmobiling’s economic impact in the state is relatively low because two-thirds of residents’ trips are taken in neighboring states and less than 1 percent of trips in-state are taken by out-of-state residents.


Although the findings are specific to Iowa, they are likely relevant for other states that are not seen as destinations for a particular activity. While these states may experience high participation by locals, the activity will not generate substantial economic impact if many locals travel outside the state and few out-of-state visitors travel there.


The study was statewide in Iowa.

Trail Type

The study surveyed users of groomed snowmobile trails.


The purpose of the study is to demonstrate the economic impact generated by snowmobilers to encourage the state to invest in promoting snowmobiling and in snowmobile-friendly amenities. The study was sponsored by the Iowa State Snowmobile Association.


  • Snowmobiling households take an average of 28 trips per year. Given the 11,306 snowmobiling households, this translates to 316,568 trips per year.
  • Respondents spent an average of $95 per trip on food and lodging, a result similar to other studies (see 56575960616263).
  • Of the $76.3 million spent per year on snowmobile equipment and trips by Iowa residents, 66 percent is spent in Iowa.
  • Non-resident snowmobile-related spending accounts for less than 1 percent of snowmobile-related spending each year.
  • While 59 percent of respondents rated state park access as very important, 21 percent found that access adequate.
  • While 74 percent of respondents rated multi-use trails as very important, 17 percent found them adequate.
  • While 80 percent of respondents rated connecting corridors as very important, 22 percent found them adequate.


The author collected data from Iowa snowmobile club members using an online survey. Respondents were asked questions about snowmobile use and demographics. The author also asked for rider opinions regarding snowmobile infrastructure, asking how important and how adequate respondents rated state park access, the availability of multi-use trails, and the presence of connecting corridors. There were 545 completed surveys, but it is not clear how many respondents were invited to complete the survey.

From these data the author developed a spending profile of Iowa snowmobilers, which was input into a regional economic model called IMPLAN. This resulted in two impact measures: 1) the amount of income and employment in Iowa that can be attributed to snowmobile-related spending by residents and 2) the potential income and employment that would stay in Iowa if residents took snowmobile trips in-state rather than out-of-state.


Otto, D. 2011. The Economic Importance of Snowmobiling in Iowa. Iowa State Snowmobile Association.