Outdoor Recreation Bolsters Colorado’s Economy with $28 Billion Annually in Consumer Spending

June 27, 2017

Media Contact

Jennifer Pringle
Outdoor Industry Association 
VP, Marketing Communications and Research

Boulder, Colo.

Outdoor recreation is a huge economic force in the state of Colorado. It generates $28 billion in consumer spending annually and contributes a whopping 229,000 jobs and $2 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to a ‘sneak peek’ of the Outdoor Recreation Economy State Report released today by the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). Colorado is OIA’s home state, and its numbers are the first the association is releasing.

“Colorado has a lot going for it in terms of outdoor recreation access and economics—people choose to live in Colorado because of the healthy, fun lifestyle that exists here, and the businesses that thrive here, rightly take advantage of the strong employee base that loves to get outdoors,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of OIA. “It is no coincidence that growth in Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy has coincided with Colorado continuing to be ranked as a leader in the nation in overall economic growth, the growth of new businesses and as a healthy population overall.”

OIA’s report also highlights that more than 71 percent of Colorado’s 5.7 million residents participate in outdoor recreation each year, “reinforcing that communities across Colorado recognize that outdoor recreation supports a healthy lifestyle, contributes to a high quality of life and—perhaps most importantly—attracts and sustains employers and families.”

“My office’s primary focus is to galvanize and promote the outdoor recreation industry in our state and support and encourage Coloradans to spend more time outside. The numbers in OIA’s report highlight that more than 71 percent of Coloradans participate in outdoor recreation. This clearly demonstrates that

Coloradans are indeed seizing that opportunity,” said Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Outdoor recreation is a significant and impactful economic engine for our state, and this is due in large part to our residents’ and leaders’ support for the outdoors.”

The report highlights another point many in the industry already know—that outdoor recreation doesn’t just generate a healthy lifestyle or significant dollars but also adds 229,000 jobs to Colorado’s job pool (as highlighted earlier) and nearly $10 billion in wages and salaries. In comparison, the oil, gas and mining industries total 58,000 jobs.

“OIA’s Outdoor Recreation Economy report reflects what Smartwool and many in our industry have known all along—it makes dollars and ‘sense’ to locate your business where your product is used,” said Smartwool President Travis Campbell. “Thanks to its public lands, access to recreation, and an educated, skilled workforce, Colorado is a fantastic location for outdoor industry companies and their employees.”

As outlined in the state report, Colorado remains well positioned to continue to grow its outdoor recreation economy, but as with any sector, there are actions that can support and grow the industry. Outdoor Industry Association urges state policymakers to:

  • Adequately fund state and local parks and trails to make them attractive and accessible to families and friends seeking to get outside;
  • Take steps to raise awareness of the importance of the outdoor recreation economy (for example, Colorado has shown leadership by establishing Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Office and a Public Lands Celebration Day);
  • Develop and plan urban areas in a way that means every citizen can get outside and recreate within 30 minutes of their home; and
  • Support policies that encourage outdoor innovators to start businesses in Colorado.

On July 26, the full reports for all 50 states will be released. Southwick and Associates conducted the report on OIA’s behalf over the past year. This is the second such report and the 2017 report is the largest, most comprehensive report of its kind, in part, because there was a 70-percent increase in survey responses from the previous study. The activities included in Southwick’s research include camping, fishing, hunting, motorcycling (on/off road), off-roading (ATV, 4×4, etc.), snow sports, trail sports (backpacking, climbing, etc.), paddle sports, wheel sports (bicycling on/off road) and wildlife viewing.

About Outdoor Industry Association

Based in Boulder, Colo., with offices in Washington, D.C., Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) is the leading trade association for the outdoor industry and the title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer. Outdoor Industry Association unites and serves over 1,200 manufacturers, supplier, sales representative and retailer members through its focus on trade and recreation policy, sustainable business innovation and outdoor participation. For more information, visit outdoorindustry.org.