Steamboat area trails generate an estimated $17.3M to $24.1M in visitor spending |

Steamboat area trails generate estimated $17.3M to $24.1M in visitor spending

The Mad Creek trail in 2018.
Scott Franz

Editor’s note: This story is the second of a two-part series about trail use and the economic value of trails in the community based on a recently completed study.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Visitors hitting area trails generate $17.3 million to $24.1 million in spending to Steamboat Springs area businesses annually.  

These numbers come from a recent study of the use and economic input of Steamboat area trails, including the Spring Creek Trail and the Buffalo Pass and Emerald Mountain trail networks. RPI Consultants completed the study, which was commissioned by the city of Steamboat Springs.

These impacts were established based on trail counts and survey questions asked of people at trailheads. The counts established how many people used the trails, while the surveys determined what proportion of those users were likely visitors or part-time residents. Surveyors also learned about visitors’ spending and lodging habits.

The lower end of that range — $17.3 million — is based on well-established data at Spring Creek and Emerald Mountain, where there is a longer history of trail counts. Gabe Preston, principal at RPI Consultants, said this is a more certain number.

The higher number — $24.1 million — includes estimates of annual trail use based on estimated use of Emerald Mountain trails without counters and the preliminary trail counts collected on Buffalo Pass trails last year.

When the jobs and payroll that multi-million dollar spending supports is factored in, RPI estimated the total economic output of these trails is between $26,190,000 to $36,480,000. 

Where visitors on the trail spend their money

Of the 730 users surveyed, 24% were visitors, and of those visitors, 23% stayed overnight, most of them in paid lodging.

“Almost all of the visitors are staying two nights,” Preston said. “On average, it’s about four nights, which is a healthy length of stay as an average.”

The average overnight party spent four nights in the area and spent $1,884 over the course of their stay. Most of this, 47%, goes to lodging. Other spending categories were food and drinks (20%), recreation and entertainment (12%), other (11%) and shopping, gifts and souvenirs (10%).

Most visitors, 43%, stayed in paid lodging while 23% camped, 23% stayed with friends and 11% identified themselves as second homeowners or members of a timeshare.

Those who spent time in town did so dining out (88%), shopping (48%), rafting or tubing (15%) and performance entertainment (14%). Fifty-one percent participated in other activities such as visiting the hot springs, athletic competitions, the farmers market and the rodeo.

Slightly more visitors came from in-state — 55% were from Colorado, mostly from the Front Range metro areas, and 45% came from elsewhere in the United States.

Most visitors stayed in paid lodging.
Courtesy city of Steamboat Springs
Most visitors stayed at least three nights in Steamboat.
Courtesy city of Steamboat Springs
Overnight visitors spent the bulk of their dollars on lodging.
Courtesy city of Steamboat Springs
Most visitors ate out at local restaurants.
Courtesy city of Steamboat Springs
Most visitors came to town on vacation.
Courtesy city of Steamboat Springs

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.