Vermont doesn’t have some of the typical drivers of economic growth, like mineral wealth, vast factories, or a rapidly growing population.
Instead, we have something else of value: an iconic landscape of mountains, fresh water, forests, and fields.
That landscape draws both Vermonters and tourists outside to hike, ski, hunt, fish, boat, bike, camp, and more. All that outdoor activity adds up into one of the most important parts of Vermont’s economy.
Outdoor recreation is popular in the US and Vermont in particular:
- 142 million Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity within the last year for a total of 12.1 billion outdoor outings.
- In Vermont, at least 74% of Vermonters are outdoor consumers who participate in outdoor recreation each year.
Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy generates:
- $2.5 billion in consumer spending.
- 34,000 direct Vermont jobs
- $753 million in wages and salaries
- $176 million in state and local tax revenue
As reported on Outdoorindustry.org, last year a large group of Vermont’s outdoor industry business owners, manufacturers, retailers, outfitters, journalists, and media professionals gathered at the State House for the first Vermont Outdoor Industry Capitol Summit.
Event organizer Drew Simmons said:
“The Outdoor Industry is a non-partisan, broad-based economic driver. It’s geographically agnostic for the most part – as it is comprised of multiple and numerous activity-based communities … some small, some large, some that you’ve probably never heard of. But when they’re brought together, when they’re embraced as a whole, the Outdoor Industry has the potential to be a major economic driver for the entire State of Vermont.”
There are always surprising new stories about Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy.
This week it was about how bass fishing brings over $1 million to a corner of Lake Champlain. A few weeks ago it was about how the VAST snowmobile trail can bring $500 million to Vermont. Before that, it was about how Vermont outcompetes bigger states with our #1-in-the-East $900 million ski economy.
We can improve upon our advantages.
First, we need to remember that several leading outdoor brands have moved their base of operations out of Vermont over recent years. These include Tubbs Snowshoes, Look, Lange, Merrell, Garmont, Dynastar, Karhu, Isis and others.
While we still have many incredible companies based here (or partly here), we can’t afford to take them for granted.
Second, hopefully stakeholders in Vermont’s outdoor recreation economy continue to find ways to work together. These include gear makers, retailers, outfitters, publishers, and groups representing outdoor enthusiasts like hikers, hunters, anglers, skiers, and snowmobilers.
Third, the 74% of Vermonters who take part in outdoor recreation each year should continue to celebrate what they love. This is one of the best places in the world to get outside. Let’s keep it going.