The primary driver of winter tourism in Oregon is the snowsports industry, which has a significant impact on the economy of Oregon. Oregon does not have the notoriety of Colorado, California, or British Columbia as a winter tourism destination with large developed resort areas, such as Vail, Squaw Valley, and Whistler-Blackcomb. However, Oregon has one of the deepest and most consistent snow packs in North America with the longest ski season in the country. A recent report released by the University of Oregon's Community Service Center and ECONorthwest highlight both the direct and indirect impact of winter tourism, specifically snowsports, on Oregon's economy.
In 2012, Oregon's employment during the summer tourism season (June-August) was approximately 7 percent higher than the winter tourism season (December 2011-February 2012) in the leisure and hospitality industry, as well as the subset of leisure called accommodation and food services. The 2012 tourism season was in-line with the 10-year norm, where employment averaged 7 percent lower in the winter compared with the summer tourism season (Graph 1).
Locally, employment between the two tourism seasons varies more than the state average. For instance, employment in leisure and hospitality for the Oregon Coast was 19 percent lower in the first quarter (winter) of 2011 than the third quarter (summer). Southern Oregon was 12 percent lower, the Willamette Valley 10 percent lower, and the Portland Metro area was 7 percent lower. Perhaps most surprising was Central Oregon, a region known for winter recreation, where the winter leisure and hospitality employment in 2011 was 17 percent lower than the summer employment. In addition to having lower levels of employment, average wages in leisure and hospitality are also lower in the winter season compared with the summer. Average wages range from being approximately 19 percent lower on the Oregon Coast in the winter to 8 percent lower in the Portland Metro area.
Gateway communities receive a large economic boost in the winter as a result of their proximity to ski resorts, specifically lodging facilities, restaurants, outdoor and ski shops, and retail stores. In fact, according to the Oregon Skier Profile, some of the more popular non-snowsport activities that destination ski visitors participate in include shopping, fine dining, sightseeing, craft beer tours, movies, festivals, and wine tasting.
The total number of snowsports participants in Oregon is staggering. In the 2010-11 winter season, the University of Oregon estimated that approximately 178,600 skiers resulted in just under two million visits to Oregon ski resorts. The vast majority of these visitations (80%) were by day visitors or those who spend a day participating in a snowsport and return home to their primary residence at the end of the day. The remaining 20 percent were destination visitors or those who spend one or more nights and two or more days consecutively skiing or snowboarding away from their primary residence. Although the total number of destination skiers is relatively low compared with the number of day visitors, proportionally their economic impact is far greater than day visitors (Table 1). According to the survey, the 20 percent of Oregon skiers who are destination visitors account for 40 percent of all direct spending, primarily due to much higher off mountain spending than day visitors.
|Destination Skiers Spend More Per Visit|
|Expenditure Category||Total Spending||Percent of Total|
|Total day skiers||$138,708,310||45%|
|Total destination skiers||$122,949,168||40%|
|Total All Categories||$311,244,379||100%|
|Source: University of Oregon Skier Survey, 2010-2011 ski season|
When looking specifically at the economic impact of the snowsports industry, the University of Oregon's Community Service Center estimated that the industry creates a total economic output of around $480 million, personal income of more than $190 million and employs nearly 6,800 individuals (Table 2). The report also highlighted the multiplier effect of the snowsports industry. For instance, every $1 million in ski spending generates an additional $900,000 in spending somewhere else in Oregon. In addition to having a spending multiplier there is also an employment multiplier in Oregon's snowsports industry. The report found that every 10 jobs in the ski industry are on average linked to another four jobs elsewhere in the state.
|Total Economic Impact of Oregon's Snowsports Industry (2010-2011 Season)|
|Source: University of Oregon Skier Survey, 2010-2011 ski season.|
Overall, the winter tourism season in Oregon, specifically the snowsports industry, has a large impact on the economy. The impact of the snowsports industry is likely to rise in the coming years as the popularity of skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing has been growing over the past decade. According to SnowSports Industries America (SIA), national participation in snowsports has increased year-over-year with the exception of the winter of 2011-12, which had the lowest national average snowfall since the early 1990s (Graph 3). However, last season's low-snow year nationally likely had a positive impact on the local snowsports industry as most of the resorts throughout Oregon recorded above average snowfall. For instance, Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon received 528 inches of snow in 2011-12, which was almost 12 feet greater than their season average. Snowsports participants are known for "chasing powder," which could have resulted in a substitution effect, where those skiers and snowboarders who would normally ski in other parts of the country instead visited Oregon.
For more information about the snowsports industry in Oregon, visit Ski Oregon's website ( www.skioregon.org/blog.php?id=278), to access the Oregon Skier Profile and Economic Impact Analysis created by the University of Oregon's Community Service Center and ECONorthwest.