Wyoming’s Out-Of-State Snowmobile Industry Explodes; “Wyo Has Definitely Been Discovered” From Cowboy State Daily

(Photo Courtesy Dayton Gooder via the Cowboy State Daily))


Since we seem to have a recreation theme this week (and discussing outdoor tourism vs. local and impacts), I thought this Cowboy State Daily article from earlier this week might be of interest.


With more than 2,000 miles of groomed snowmobiling trails and millions of acres of back country powder, Wyoming offers an unparalleled winter recreation experience that includes the elusive feel of exploring undiscovered country.

But more and more snowmobilers are discovering Wyoming.

Out-of-state snowmobiling permits rose 38%, according to a 2020-21 report from the University of Wyoming and Department of Agricultural Economics as compared to its previous report for the 2011-12 season.

Registered residential snowmobiles, meanwhile, dropped 13% for the same period.

Surging Midwest Interest

Minnesota now accounts for 27.8% of Wyoming’s snowmobile tourism, followed by, in order, Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Illinois and Michigan.

But Taylor believes the Midwest is catching up.

“What has happened,” Taylor said, “is with the improvement in the equipment and snowmachines, people can go farther into the mountains than ever before. And so, more and more people have become attracted to that.”


Wyoming’s The Whole Package

One of the trends that may be helping drive up the Cowboy State’s snowmobiling tourism, now worth an estimated $193.8 million annually, is that a number of other states have begun closing access to motorized backcountry riding.

“People go where there is access,” Taylor said. “We have access in Wyoming, where places like California and Nevada and (states) like that, the access has been shut down to motorized travel.”

Wyoming also offers an unparalleled backcountry experience in multiple locations around the state, including Yellowstone, Togwotee and the Snowy Range.

“Just the beauty of it, I mean, the farther back into the hills it just seems like the prettier it is,” Taylor said. “And so it’s the terrain, it’s the enjoyment of the riding, the better snow, the vistas.

“You know, it’s just the whole back country experience is exceptional in Wyoming.”


Consistent Snow Helps Too

The high elevation also helps, Gooder acknowledges.

“The higher you get, the more consistent your snowpack is,” he said. “Our snowpack is always really consistent. Riders are able to come out, you know, plan vacation months in advance and they’re able to rely on having good snow. We average roughly 350 to 400 inches of snow a year up here.”

The Snowy Range also has one of the largest grooming contracts in the state, Gooder added, which is another key reason the destination is attractive to so many snowmobilers.

4 thoughts on “Wyoming’s Out-Of-State Snowmobile Industry Explodes; “Wyo Has Definitely Been Discovered” From Cowboy State Daily”

  1. How delightful ; not one of these reports even uses the words environmental impact or impact on wildlife let along examining these realities.

  2. What exactly is meant by “access has been shut down to motorized travel” anyway? That some California national forests have adopted legally-required winter travel management plans?

    A lot of context missing here.

    Regardless, it’s a stretch to say any loss of access in California explains why Wyoming is the destination of choice for out-of-staters. Most of the states listed are a lot closer to Wyoming than California.

    Also, as noted by a different person in the article, the Snowy Range is the “first big mountain range you hit coming from the east.”

    • While I also question whether that many people are actually going all the way from California to go snowmobiling in Wyoming, I do know that recent OSV planning has resulted in some massive closures of snowmobiling areas in California. I don’t know the details because I’m not a snowmobiler, but I’ve certainly heard some of the multi-modal motorized advocacy groups like Blue Ribbon talking about that. One big issue I’ve heard about is that the Forest Service designated a mile wide corridor of essentially de facto wilderness along the Pacific Crest trail and banned snowmobiles anywhere near it, which took out a ton of popular riding areas. That’s also affecting summer OHV recreation, since any road crossing or within a half mile of the Pacific Crest Trail is being closed as well.


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