Fuel-Use and Spending Patterns 2013
The Bureau of Business and Economic Research’s most recent surveys suggest that about 8 percent of the state's households include snowmobile recreationists. Nearly always, the whole family participates. With an average household size of about 2.5, perhaps as many as 100,000 Montanans participate in the sport each winter.
Nonresident snowmobilers are important contributors to the Montana economy. Many winter visitors to West Yellowstone, for instance, use snowmobiles. West Yellowstone has successfully promoted itself as “The Snowmobile Capitol of the World”. Since Yellowstone National Park instituted limits to snowmobiling inside the park, visitation has dropped. Nonresident snowmobilers still visit the area but have diversified their snowmobiling areas.
Our estimates suggest that nonresident snowmobilers spend about $147 per activity day, including food, lodging, and often, snowmobile rental costs. Nonresidents accounted for about 97,000 activity days during the 2013-2014 snowmobile season, spending an aggregate of nearly $14.3 million in Montana. That spending supports about 200 winter jobs.
On average, residents spend much less per activity day than non-residents ($56); most of their out-of-pocket costs are for gasoline. Resident yearly spending is about $96.3 million over half spent on gasoline for snowmobiles and transportation.
We estimate that resident and nonresident snowmobilers buy about 4.3 million gallons of gasoline per season. With a base tax of $0.27 per gallon, we estimate that snowmobilers in Montana generate over $1.2 million in revenue for the state highway trust fund.
Access to snowmobiling areas is a concern of Montana snowmobilers. They are also concerned about a lack of personal responsibility affecting access to some areas.
In short, snowmobiling is a popular, revenue-generating winter recreation for Montana. It is popular with a solid share of households in the state, and popular with nonresident tourists.
Published July 2014
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