Other than lift-served skiing, non-motorized uses are the most popular activities on the forest
By Bob Berwyn
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SUMMIT COUNTY — Downhill skiing continues to be by far the biggest single recreational use on the White River National Forest, as 75 percent of visitors to the forest say it’s their primary activity. On average, visitors to the White River NF spent about 17.1 hours participating in downhill skiing.
The Forest Service estimates about 9.12 million visitors total to the forest. Along with skiing, hiking, walking, wildlife viewing and sightseeing also ranked high on the list, as did driving for pleasure and simply relaxing.
The White River NF statistics were released in early August as part of the annualForest Service National Visitor Use monitoring report. National data for all national forests is online at this Forest Service website.
Aside from mechanized lift-served skiing, other winter recreational activities were the most popular activities. Crosscountry skiing was named by 7.8 percent of visitors as their primary activity, while 4 percent listed snowmobiling as their main form of recreation.
Snowmobiling far outpaced cycling, which was listed as a primary activity by only 1.7 percent of visitors.
Motorized trail activity and off-highway vehicle use combined were named by 0.9 percent of visitors as their primary activity on the White River NF.
Altogether, recreational activities on national forests and grasslands continue to have a big impact on rural communities, contributing $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. About 170 million visitors to national forests and grasslands helped sustain about 223,000 jobs, according to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
“This data shows once again just what a boon our forests are to local economies,” Tidwell said. “Because of forest activities, thousands of jobs are supported in hundreds of rural communities.
The average total trip spending per visiting party is $2,057.
One way those dollars are pumped into the local economy is through lodging. The survey shows that almost 73 percent of overnight visitors to the forest rent private homes in the area, compared to just 4.8 percent in developed and undeveloped Forest Service campgrounds.
Related figures show the breakdown of income levels.
The report also shows that a huge percentage if visitors to the White River NF wilderness areas are residents of communities adjacent to the forest, with Pitkin County and Eagle counties leading the way, accounting for 50 percent of all wilderness visits, while Summit County residents accounted for about 10 percent of wilderness visits on the forest.
Front Range residents accounted for about 16 percent of wilderness visits.
Sorted by age, Baby Boomers make up a majority of wilderness visitors, with the 50-59 age group leading the way at 25.2 percent and the 40-49 age group at 18.6 percent.
Researchers interviewed 44,700 visitors to the forests in 2010, ranging from commuters to wilderness trekkers. Overall, some 72 percent of those interviewed were in the forest for recreation.
According to the report:
• Recreation activities on National Forests and Grasslands sustain 223,000 jobs in the rural communities within 50 miles of the national forests and grasslands, where visitors purchase goods and services for their recreational activity.
• Visitors spend $13 billion directly in those communities within 50 miles of the national forests and grasslands.
• Visitor satisfaction is very high, with an overall satisfaction rate of 94 percent.
• Approximately 83 percent of visitors are content with the value received for any fees paid.
• Nearly 95 million visitors (over 55 percent) come to a forest to primarily engage in physical activity.
“We can’t rest with the release of this report. We need to work hard to maintain our infrastructure across the country,” Tidwell said. “And we need to continue to work with our partners to protect and restore our natural landscapes in a time of development, pest infestation and a changing climate.”
Filed under: Colorado, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, US Forest Service, White River National Forest Tagged: | recreation, Summit County News, Tom Tidwell, U.S. Forest Service, White River National Forest visitor numbers, wilderness