The vital contribution of snowmobiling to Valemount

Survey says…

Dianne St. Jean
Survey says…
Metro Newspaper Service

There shouldn’t be any question or doubt as to just how much snowmobiling and related industries brings to the Valemount economy, not after the release of findings of the study “The Economic Value of Snowmobiling in Valemount.”

The study was commissioned by Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) early this year and completed in September.

Results of the study, prepared by Miranda Murphy, CPA and Pacific Analytics on behalf of VARDA, are based on information gathered through businesses as well as surveys given to snowmobilers on their spending.

A brief overview of the results was presented by VARDA General Manager Curtis Pawliuk at Valemount’s Regular Meeting of Council on November 26.

$6.46 million dollars/55 jobs

According to the economic impact analysis based on survey results snowmobilers spent approximately $6.46 million in Valemount during the 2017/2018 winter season.

Predominantly snowmobilers are males aged 20-49 (78.7%), with 19% in the 50-64 age group and 1% each for 20 and under and 65 and over.

86% of those snowmobilers come from Alberta, 7% from Saskatchewan and 6% from British Columbia. With those stats, let’s hope that Alberta finds a way to stabilize its economy.

The average snowmobiler takes 5.2 trips to Valemount every winter, with the average trip length being the length of a weekend (2.9 days to 3.1 nights).

Most snowmobilers spend their evenings in local establishments, eating out an average of 2.7 nights per trip. The majority use hotel or motel accommodation (58%), 15% use B & Bs, 12% a vacation rental house or cabin, 10% hotel or motel with kitchenette, and 2% own a second home here in Valemount.

The analysis also found that snowmobiler spending supports 55 jobs in the Valemount economy, whether through direct, indirect, or induced effect (household spending of employees).

The categories of spending include accommodation, fuel, restaurant and bars, groceries, parts, repairs and accessories, guiding or instructional services, as well as VARDA income (trail fees, memberships, etc.)

VARDA manager Curtis Pawliuk gave a brief presentation of study results on the economic value of snowmobiling in Valemount at the November 26 Regular Council Meeting
VARDA manager Curtis Pawliuk gave a brief presentation of study results on the economic value of snowmobiling in Valemount at the November 26 Regular Council Meeting
Dianne St. Jean PHOTO

The reason for the study

The snowmobiling industry has been essential to Valemount in helping to recoup its economic footing, switching from a forestry-dependent economy to a diversified one in which tourism plays a key role.

VARDA has played a key role in promoting and solidifying that transition.

Since 2004 they have managed trail grooming and shelters in local snowmobiling areas, and also provide and promote avalanche forecasting and training.

They also represent the needs of trail users in regards to conflict resolution surrounding backcountry use, so there are many reasons that a study like this was needed.

Both Pawliuk and Mayor Owen Torgerson commented at the Council meeting that this study is a very powerful lobbying tool that provides hard data that can help VARDA, and in turn, the Valemount economy, continue to move forward.

What snowmobilers say about Valemount

“Valemount has a special place in my heart.”

“[I] love to support local people working so hard to support an industry.”

Snowmobilers also stated an appreciation for the variety of terrain in the areas between Valemount, McBride and Blue River, most using Valemount as a hub.

“The areas are all close to town and easy to access with the short trails to the alpine,” says the report; also that the areas are large and have varied terrain, so snowmobilers of all riding abilities can choose terrain to stay relatively safe in different avalanche conditions.

Comments about the community and the people of Valemount are that they are friendly and welcoming, and always willing to help others out.

There were also concerns listed by snowmobilers, such as limited or irregular business hours, parking issues, and high fuel prices. While they recognize that this is typically beyond control of Valemount, there were suggestions to have marked premium gasoline available for snowmobilers.

In conclusion, and to use the words of the report itself, “It is evident that snowmobiling makes a significant direct contribution to the area’s economy and supports the ability of the village to maintain year-round business operations through the slower winter months.”

But perhaps the best way to end this is to give a message from Valemount itself to the snowmobilers… “Thank you”!