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Survey: Silent sports major tourism draw
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Silent sports and related events, such as the Birkebeiner cross-county ski race near Cable and the Wolf Man Triathlon at White Lake play an important role in Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation and economic development, according to a recent report.

“The Economic Impacts of Active Silent Sport Enthusiasts: A Case Study from Northern Wisconsin” showed the results of a two-year study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Extension, UW-Madison, and the bicycle industry.

Researchers focused on silent sports enthusiasts, defined for their study as people who participated in at least one cross-county skiing, biking or running event over the course of a year.

All types of recreation are very important to the overall health and economy of the county,” Chris Berry, executive director of the Langlade County Economic development Corporation, said. But what's interesting is how the silent sports are really gaining momentum. Maybe it's growing quietly, because it is silent sports after all. We all know that we have fabulous recreational opportunities but it's the quality of the events we put on that really impact the area as far as creating awareness and repeat visits.”

The study covered events that took place during 2012 in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer counties, but the results can also be translated to other counties and their events, such as the Wolfman.

“This year will be the 20th anniversary and thinking back to the first annual in 1995, there were approximately 40 to 50 starts,” Berry, an avid Wolfman volunteer and participant, said. “ Fast forward 19 years and the registration opened up on the first Monday in February and closed within days cutting off registration at 350 starts.”

About 95 percent of the roughly 26,700 silent sport event participants in 2012 lived outside the three northern counties in the study.

“These nonresidents and their trip-related expenses provided private sector stimulus to the local economies of the three-county region of northern Wisconsin,” Dave Marcouiller of the University of Wisconsin-Extension/UW-Madison and one of the report’s co-authors, said. “These events and their participants provide an important source of private sector stimulus to local retail and service businesses.”

The researchers found that nonresidents made approximately 56,500 individual trips to the northwoods to participate in silent sports activities. Spending by these visitors in 2012 supported more than 222 jobs in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer counties, translating into roughly $6.4 million of local employee wages and salaries.

Overall expenditure patterns suggest that nonresident visitors spent approximately $26.4 million in 2012 in total trip spending. Roughly $14.7 million in private sector stimulus was injected in local businesses in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer Count.

On average, active silent sports enthusiasts reported spending about $468 per trip with about $260 spent locally in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer counties.

When surveyed by the researchers about their experiences, nonresident visitors gave generally high marks to the events and trail conditions, as well as to local overnight accommodations and eating and drinking establishments. However, visitors reported low satisfaction with local cell service and Wi-Fi availability.

“Our goal in doing this study was to provide recreation planners, community developers and small business owners with information to help them improve the quality, availability and community impact of northwoods recreational opportunities,” Marcouiller said. “In doing so, we hope to help improve understanding and contribute to the long-term economic growth and prosperity of the region.”

Berry said that the study mirrors what she sees happening across northern Wisconsin.

In 2012, visitor spending in Langlade County topped $43.3 million, up 2.85 percent from 2011. Also during 2012, the tourism industry supported 511 jobs with a total personal income of $10.4 million.


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Kayakers are shown on the Wolf River during the 2013 Wolfman Triathlon. A recent study gauges the enormous impact of silent sports activities and competitive events, such as kayaking and the Wolfman, have on the economies of northwoods community.
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