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Montana saw increase in outdoor recreation during pandemic

Posted at 1:05 PM, Nov 19, 2022

BILLINGS - Montana’s outdoor recreation economy grew nearly 30% from 2020 to 2021.

People were spending more time outside and the sales at outdoor sports stores, like The Base Camp, definitely reflect the economic growth.

“Welcome to The Base Camp,” said the founder and owner of The Base Camp, Scott Brown.

Brown’s two storefronts have been a staple for outdoorsmen in their respective communities.

“I opened my Helena store in 1975 and the Billings store in 1990,” Brown said.

He’s seen a lot throughout the decades but didn’t expect the changes that came along the last few years.

“It was interesting talking about COVID, and the effect COVID had on our sales,” said Brown.


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Montana saw a 29.5% growth in folks participating in outdoor recreational activities from 2020 to 2021 during the height of the pandemic.

Brown has seen the effects of that firsthand.

“It actually increased our sales by double digits, by 20% in ‘21. In 2020, we were closed about seven weeks, and yet our sales were similar to what we had in 2019,” Brown said.

He believes that COVID-19 spurred an interest in the outdoors have Montanans were stuck at home for so long.

“People were so cooped up and excited to get out and so our footwear has sold well and walking clothing,” said Brown.

Randy Robbins and his family have always loved being outdoors, whether it’s paddleboarding or hiking.


“We like to be outside, and we like to be active together. It’s been a very rewarding thing to do as a family,” Robbins said.

The pandemic did throw a wrench in their outdoor plans, but it also gave them the opportunity to explore more locally.

Living in Billings made it easier for the family to spend time outdoors when national parks were closed.

“We definitely got a better sense of the trail system in Billings which I’m a big supporter of,” said Robbins.

Brown feels fortunate that his business was able to help others explore the beauty of Montana.

“We’re one of the lucky businesses that have really prospered during the post-COVID era,” Brown said.