Snowmobiling in Minnesota: Economic Impact and Consumer Profile

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Benefits studied:
Uses studied:
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Place: Statewide

Overview

This study found that while Minnesota snowmobilers spend a large and growing amount of money each year (nearly $200 million in 2004). However, less than half of that spending occurs at destination sites. Efforts to shift spending on expenses such as equipment and fuel could increase snowmobiling’s economic impact, particularly in rural destinations in northern parts of the state.

Relevance

This study uses methodological approaches that could improve other impact studies beyond just snowmobile studies. Because economic impacts depend on where the spending occurs, these authors distinguished between spending occurring at home or en-route and spending at the destination. This distinction improves their ability to estimate local economic impacts, which is often of greatest interest. However, the authors relied on secondary data to estimate non-residential snowmobiling use, and given Minnesota’s appeal as a snowmobiling destination (see study 58), it is likely that their estimate of 8 percent non-residential use is low, leading to an underestimate of statewide economic impacts.

Location

The study addressed trails statewide in Minnesota.

Trail Type

The study examined users of the roughly 20,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails across the state.

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to better understand snowmobile use and economic impact in the state, in order to compare the benefits of snowmobiling to the amount invested by the state in promoting snowmobiling and supporting trail building and maintenance by local clubs. The study was conducted in “cooperation” with the Minnesota United Snowmobiling Association, but it is not clear whether this organization commissioned the study, as state snowmobiling associations did in other states for similar studies (see 565759616263).

Findings

  • Snowmobilers in Minnesota average 11 user days per year. Those who travel 100 miles or more for a trip generally take these trips 7 times per season and stay about 4 days.
  • Snowmobilers spent an average of $99 per outing, consistent with results in similar studies (see 565759616263).
  • Annual snowmobiling-related expenditures totaled $197.6 million, 92 percent of which was associated with residents.
  • Snowmobilers are spending more per person than they used to: total expenditures by snowmobilers nearly doubled between 1996 and 2004 (from $104 million to $199.6 million, not adjusted for inflation), while the number of registered snowmobiles increased by 20 percent (from 233,443 to 279,738).
  • Of the total expenditures by residents, 41 percent ($75.5 million) is spent at the destination; the remaining 59 percent ($106.7 million) is spent near the resident’s home or en route to their destination.
  • The authors estimate residents and non-residents contribute $130.7 million to gross state product.
  • Over half (57%) of respondents were willing to pay more for a state trails sticker to fund additional trail signage and grooming. Of those willing to pay a higher price, they were willing to pay an average of $18 additional (the median was $10).

Methods

The analysis is based on two mail surveys. The first targeted registered snowmobilers in Minnesota, sampling from a list of households in Minnesota with registered snowmobiles, and asked them questions about snowmobiling experience, expenditures, and demographics. There were 490 responses, for a 44 percent response rate. The second mail survey targeted snowmobile retailers and manufacturers in the state, which were identified by the Minnesota United Snowmobiling Association. They were asked questions about sales, employment, wages, and costs. There were 98 completed surveys received, for a 21 percent response rate.

Data on non-resident expenditures were extrapolated from Travelscope data provided by the Travel Industry of America. It is unclear whether this was personal communication, a report, or a publicly-available dataset.

The results from both surveys and the non-resident estimates were used as inputs into a regional economic model (REMI) to estimate the economic contribution of snowmobiling to Minnesota’s gross state product.

Citation

Schneider, I., P. Elisabeth, R. Salk, and T. Schoenecker. 2005. Snowmobiling in Minnesota: Economic Impact and Consumer Profile. University of Minnesota Tourism Center.