A new study from Jackson economist Mark Newcomb estimates that human-powered backcountry winter recreation in Grand Teton National Park, parts of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone contributes $22.5 million annually to the region’s economy.

Newcomb and colleague Karl Meyer conducted random surveys over the course of the 2012-13 winter season of resident and non-resident backcountry visitors who participated in the activities of backcountry skiing and snowboarding (also known as alpine touring or AT), cross-country skiing both on and off groomed trails, snowshoeing, walking/jogging on groomed backcountry trails, and over-snow biking.  The survey asked for data about annual expenditures on goods and services related to these forms of backcountry recreation as well as the location and frequency of backcountry visits.

Topline findings of the report, which was commissioned by Winter Wildlands Alliance and funded through a LOR Foundation grant, include an estimated $12.5 million direct annual economic impact by nonresidents who participate in these activities while visiting the region and $6.5 million annual contribution from resident spending related to backcountry winter recreation. Newcomb estimates $3 million in annual wages to employees who work in jobs directly stemming from these forms of winter backcountry recreation and $1 million in tax revenues to state and local government.  The geographic area of impact focused on the communities of Jackson, Driggs/Victor and West Yellowstone and includes Teton County in Wyoming, Teton, Bonneville, Fremont and Madison Counties in Idaho, and West Yellowstone, Montana.

“We know anecdotally that winter backcountry recreation is increasing throughout the study region,” said Newcomb who, in addition to experience in environmental economics and urban and rural planning, worked for 25 years as a backcountry ski guide and avalanche course instructor. “However, to date, there has been little information available about how these activities impact our economy.”

Per person expenditure estimates are $803 spent annually by residents in-region and an additional $255 spent out-of-region on goods and services for backcountry winter recreation; and $273 per person per visit by nonresidents spent on backcountry winter recreation goods and services during their visit to the region.

Winter Wildlands Alliance Executive Director Mark Menlove said WWA chose the Teton-West Yellowstone area for this pilot study because it is renowned for its backcountry winter recreation, is well managed, and offers an excellent mix of recreational opportunities. “This study verifies that backcountry recreation creates jobs and contributes significantly to the local economy,” said Menlove. “It’s hugely important for Winter Wildlands Alliance, both as a pilot project we hope to replicate in other regions and as a practical tool for land managers and planners in the region to use in resource allocation and management efforts.”

The study also reinforced the quality of the winter backcountry opportunities in the region with 81 percent of nonresidents and 74 percent of residents who skied or snowboarded in the backcountry reporting they were “very satisfied” with their experience.

An executive summary of the report is available here Teton Winter Recreation Economy Executive Summary and the full study here Teton-West Yellowstone Winter Recreation Economy Report.


It’s been a long, long time coming – 15 years, 1.1 million public comments and the most grind-it-out, exhaustive campaign Winter Wildlands Alliance has ever embarked on – so all of us at WWA are thrilled with today’s release of the Final Yellowstone Winter Visitation Plan from the National Park Service.

From a Yellowstone National Park that a decade ago looked, smelled and sounded more like a wild west race track than the pristine winter refuge it was set aside to be, our nation’s first national park has made a remarkable recovery. Fewer vehicles, commercial guiding requirements, and tighter restrictions on noise and emissions have led to a Yellowstone today that is cleaner, quieter, and far better for skiers and snowshoers and for the Park’s iconic winter wildlife. With today’s announcement of final regulations  governing snowmobile and snowcoach use in the Park, the protections leading to this recovery are set in place for the long haul and ensure future generations can experience the enchantment of Yellowstone’s winter season on its own terms.

Over the 15 years it’s taken to accomplish this success, WWA and our partner organizations have utilized every tool available including direct citizen advocacy, meticulous use of scientific research and substantive data, and, when called for, taking our case to the courts. Today, I offer a personal and heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all of you who created the groundswell of public support that got us here.

For the coming winter, Yellowstone will continue to operate under the same interim plan as the past four winters. This plan allows up to 318 snowmobiles and 78 snowcoaches per day in the park and sets strict noise and emission standards for all over-snow vehicles.

Beginning in winter 2014-15, the new winter use plan will take effect. This plan puts in place even stronger noise and emissions standards and manages over-snow vehicle use through “transportation events.” A transportation event is one snowcoach or a group of up to 10 snowmobiles (with a daily average group size not to exceed 7 snowmobiles). 110 transportation events will be allowed each day split among the different Park entrances and no more than 50 events per day can be snowmobile groups.

Another component of the plan is that certain side roads and trails will be set aside for skiing and snowshoeing and all of Yellowstone’s winter backcountry areas will be protected for wildlife habitat and for human-powered access.

WWA and our partners have worked closely with NPS officials as they proposed and developed the new transportation event approach. We believe this approach accomplishes our goal of protecting and preserving Yellowstone’s magical winter ecosystem while providing sustainable access that allows visitors to experience the natural sights and sounds of winter in the Park. We congratulate Yellowstone National Park on the completion of this plan. We congratulate you, our members and constituents, who insisted on a plan worthy of our nation’s most iconic winter sanctuary!

A program of Winter Wildlands Alliance, SnowSchool is an unforgettable winter adventure that combines hands-on science education with outdoor snowshoe exploration for 28,000 K-12 students each winter.  The recent cold autumn weather is a good reminder that the SnowSchool season will soon be upon us.  But it’s far from business as usual this year; with major changes happening across the country’s educational landscape it’s clear that the SnowSchool program must also evolve in order to stay relevant.

Chances are you’ve heard about the education reforms happening across the country right now.  A coalition of twenty-six states has led the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.  This new educational framework moves American science instruction away from a presentation of mere facts, and towards more contextualized and meaningful science learning.  Based upon international benchmarking, the Next Generation Science Standards aim to more fully engage students in the practices of science.   This development has also coincided with the National Governor’s Association led creation of the Common Core State Standards for mathematics and language arts.   With a majority of states adopting one or both of these reforms, the result is big changes in American education.

To keep SnowSchool up-to-date amidst these changes WWA has been working hard to align the program with the new national standards.   SnowSchool has always been about introducing youth to the wonders of their local winter landscape and fostering ecological literacy among students.  At WWA we believe our ability to achieve this goal is greatly enhanced by aligning SnowSchool with new developments in education.  And while our existing 2013 SnowSchool Curriculum and Activity guide has recently been updated to align with the new national standards, the process will be an ongoing one.  To stay relevant in the new world of science education a program like SnowSchool must strive to be more than a simple “one and done” field trip.  To address this issue WWA has been working for some time on developing components of the SnowSchool program that create dynamic classroom learning experiences which in turn connect to learning experiences in the winter environment.

The results are, for example, 6th grade students working with hydrologists in the classroom to construct a model of their local watershed system prior to their snowshoe field trip.  And this winter at the high school level SnowSchool students will work with snow scientists to gather local snowpack data and, once back in the classroom, compare the data with historical trends.   The result of these modifications is that SnowSchool participants are transformed into passionate student scientists and snowshoe explorers.  As we work to implement these ideas on a national scale, your continued support of WWA helps provide an exciting SnowSchool experience for thousands of students across the country.

Boise, Idaho — Winter is full of ups and downs so why not celebrate winter and embrace the UP?  It’s time to dust off the skis, pull on your parka, grab your ski buddies,  and celebrate the fun and beauty of winter at the Ninth Annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival.  The ten unique films included in this year’s Backcountry Film Festival will inspire you to embrace the UP.  The Backcountry Film Festival makes its world premiere November 1 in Boise Idaho and will then tour to more than 100 showings around the world.

The films come from renowned filmmakers who search backcountry corners across the globe to submit their best work, and from grassroots filmmakers who take a video camera out on their weekend excursions and submit their best films.

The festival was created in 2004 to highlight Winter Wildlands Alliance’s efforts to preserve and promote winter landscapes for human-powered users. From a single showing in Boise that first year, the festival has grown to include showings in locations throughout the United States, Canada and overseas to Antarctica, Europe, Australia and Asia. Funds raised stay in local communities to support like-minded, human-powered recreation efforts and to raise awareness of winter management issues, avalanche safety and winter education programs.

This year’s program includes:

  • Valhalla from Sweetgrass Productions and winner of the 2013 “Best of Festival” is the tale of one man’s search to rediscover the freedom of his youth. Feeling the distant heat of it’s fire still burning in the mountains of the frozen north, he sets out in search of those tending the flame—the untamed, the wild, and the outcast dwelling on the fringe.
  • Trail Break by Powderwhore is a beautiful black and white portrait of deep powder skiing.
  • Morning Rituals, is a day in the life of an undercover ski bum.  Presented by Chris Dickey of Orange and Purple.
  • Youth, from filmmaker Corey Rich, inspires us to pack up the kids and proves that backcountry skiing is a family affair.
  • Bolton Valley is the story of how a small community fought to save their beloved ski area.  Winner of “Best Conservation Film” award.
  • Nokhoi Zeekh: In search of the Wolverine.  Five Americans set off on a month-long ski expedition through northern Mongolia to document one of the world’s most iconic but least-known winter species.
  • Bigger Braver, filmmaker Luc Mehl turns the camera on a young female athlete who shares her insight into the courage and strength involved in seeking big mountain adventure.  Winner of “Best Short Film” award.
  • From filmmaker and storyteller Fitz Cahall at Duct Tape then Beer comes Strong.  Capturing Roger Strong’s reflections about moving forward after a tragic avalanche.
  • Poor Man’s Heli, skier Antoine Boisselier thinks outside the skin track and comes up with a new and unique way to the top of the mountain.  From Mike Douglas at Switchback Entertainment.
  • From filmmaker Jason Thompson and Drew Stoecklien comes Take the Ride, asking the question; “when you have a dream will you buy the ticket? Will you Take the Ride?”

Best Conservation copyBest of Festival 2013 copyBest Short

We encourage you to buy your ticket and take the ride!  Come embrace the UP with Winter Wildlands Ninth Annual Backcountry Film Festival.

Land use is a touchy subject for snow and off-road dealers, often spurring an us-against-them mentality for most parties involved in the heated debate. But Mark Menlove,executive director of the Winter Wildlands Alliance, argues that digging deeper into the debate will reveal that us-against-them isn’t the case. “Certainly, a part of our mission is to work for balance between opportunities for nonmotorized and motorized winter activities,” Menlove says of the WWA. “But to say we’re trying to eliminate snowmobiles is simply not true.” Click HERE to read full article.