Snow activities, particularly at ski resorts, saw a decrease of 37% or $40 million in economic impact in 2020. Photo: Nick Sulzer // Buckrail

WYOMING — The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released statistics on the outdoor recreation economy nationally for 2020.

According to the report, outdoor recreation accounted for 3.4% or $1.25 billion of Wyoming’s current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP), the fourth-highest percentage in the nation. Outdoor recreation accounted for 4.3% of Montana’s GDP,  3.8% of Hawaii’s GDP and 3.7% of Vermont’s GDP.

In 2019, outdoor recreation accounted for 4.2% of the state’s GDP or $1.69 billion.

Comparing 2020 to 2019, employment in outdoor recreation also took a hit. Employment levels dropped from 21,344 people were employed in the outdoor recreation sector in 2019. In 2020, 14,187 people were employed but the percentage of total wages declined only 0.1%.

Snow activities were the largest conventional activity in Wyoming at 92.2 million dollars. Nationally in 2020, snow activities added $4.7 billion dollars.

Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources released a press release sharing the report’s findings.

According to the release, snow activities, particularly at ski resorts, saw a decrease of 37% or $40 million in economic impact, which wiped out many gains in other recreational activities.  Equestrian activities and hunting and shooting sports also declined by 28% and 21% respectively.

“Many outdoor activities saw significant growth, including snowmobiling and ORV riding, which saw an increase in permit sales of over 18% and 16% respectively from 2019 to 2020.”  said Chris Floyd, Manager of the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation.  “Although the overall outdoor recreation economic impact numbers declined, most of the losses in the sector were due to limits on a few activities, such as snow skiing and outdoor events, which experienced heavy impacts due to closures and other restrictions during the pandemic.”

Many businesses reported strong sales of outdoor recreation equipment and vehicles, which would have been even higher had supply chains been able to keep up with the demand.

“Our gross sales were up over 40% in 2020 compared to 2019 and it is continuing through 21 where we have surpassed 2020 gross sales year to date,” said Mark Black, owner of Cycle City Wyoming, a powersports business in Evanston. “Our issue now is the supply chain, where the manufacturers are limiting not only quantities but models as well, and sometimes shipping incomplete units that are waiting on chips for instrument clusters. The demand has been pretty consistent and I don’t see it dramatically decreasing for the near future.”

State Parks visitation in 2020 was up 41% over 2019 and other land managers reported similar increases in use, and these high numbers helped increase economic activity statewide as other economic sectors saw declines during the pandemic stated the press release.

According to the release, next year’s BEA report is likely to show that outdoor recreation activities played a strong role in the state’s economic rebound, particularly since most closures and travel restrictions were eased or lifted this year.


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Buckrail @ Lindsay

Lindsay Vallen is a Community News Reporter covering a little bit of everything; with an interest in politics, wildlife, and amplifying community voices. Originally from the east coast, Lindsay has called Wilson, Wyoming home since 2017. In her free time, she enjoys snowboarding, hiking, cooking, and completing the Jackson Hole Daily crosswords.