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In-Depth: COVID hits Utah's outdoor recreation economy hard

Posted at 6:05 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 20:05:01-05

SALT LAKE CITY — According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation as a sector of the economy changes from state to state, in part due to the varied geography and in part due to the various industries included in the broad category of economic activity.

Read the report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

For example, Indiana isn't a hotbed for skiing or rock climbing, but they spend more money on RV's than any other state.

Manufacturing outdoor products does more for Wisconsin's economy than the actual use of that gear.

In Utah, people buy and rent a whole lot of things to use outdoors. Retail is the biggest money-maker.

Also in Utah, snow dominates.

Colorado, Utah and California generate 44 percent of all the money spent on snow activities in the United States.

The problem with reliance on snow? Sometimes it doesn't fall. Also, much of the money arrives in the form of distant travelers and air travel. That was the double whammy of 2020, where Utah's overall outdoor recreation revenue slid by 23 percent.

READ: Despite pandemic, Utah ski resorts looking to build on record-breaking season

Accompanying the economic hit, Utah lost about 21 thousand jobs. The sector employed 83 thousand Utahns in 2019 and 62 thousand in 2020.

Outdoor recreation spending was down nationwide by 18 percent from 2019 to 2020, a far worse decline than the overall economy saw when comparing the two years.

Still, some outdoor activity increased, generating more dollars from 2019 to 2020, most notably boating, fishing and RVing.