Montana noticed a rise in outside recreation throughout pandemic

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BILLINGS — Montana’s outdoor recreation economy grew nearly 30% from 2020-2021. People are spending more time outdoors, and sales at outdoor sports stores like The Base Camp definitely reflect economic growth.

“Welcome to Base Camp,” said The Base Camp founder and owner Scott Brown on Wednesday.

Brown’s two storefronts are a staple for outdoor folks in their respective communities.

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

He’s seen a lot over the decades, but didn’t anticipate the changes of recent years.

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

Alina Hauter/MTN News

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Montana saw a 29.5% growth in people participating in outdoor recreation during the peak of the 2020-2021 pandemic. Brown has seen the impact of this firsthand.

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

He believes COVID has sparked interest in the outdoors after Montanans have been stuck at home for so long.

“People were so locked in and excited to get out, so our shoes and hiking gear have sold well,” Brown said.

Randy Robbins and his family have always loved being outdoors, whether it be paddling or hiking.

Alina Hauter/MTN News

“We like to be outside and like to be active together. As a family, it’s been very rewarding,” Robbins said.

The pandemic has put a damper on their outdoor plans, but it’s also given 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’ve definitely gotten a better sense of the trail system at Billings, which I really support,” said Robbins.

Brown is happy that his company has been able to help others discover the beauty of Montana.

“We’re one of the lucky companies that’s really thrived in the post-COVID era,” Brown said.