Lack of Snow Hurting West Yellowstone Businesses

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – A winter storm that could bring 6 to 11 inches of snow may be just the ticket for West Yellowstone businesses struggling because a lack of snow has Yellowstone National Park closed to snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

Scott Carsley, owner of Yellowstone Alpen Guides, usually offers tours of the park via traditional snowcoaches. Instead, he’s been using vans and sport utility vehicles.

“There’s been a lot of disappointment,” Carsley told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle for a story published Tuesday. He’s been giving customers discounts since they can’t tour the park the way they planned.

“We feel like farmers — we’re dependent on the weather, but we don’t get bailouts,” Carsley said.

Clyde Seeley, owner of the Three Bear Lodge and See Yellowstone Tours, said he is continuing tours using snowcoaches with rubber tracks or wheels instead of metal tracks.

“This is rather unique,” he said of the park’s lack of snow. “There are some pretty good stretches of bare pavement.”

When there is enough snow, he said he’ll convert his vehicles.

“We’re a hardy bunch, and we make do with whatever changes we’re dealt,” he said.

Change may be coming.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the Bozeman and West Yellowstone area from Tuesday evening through Wednesday evening. Total snow accumulations could be 6 to 11 inches.

Park spokesman Al Nash said anywhere from several inches to more than a foot of snow may be needed before the park can open to snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

“It’s dependent upon when the snow comes and what the conditions are,” he said. “It’s not just getting snow, but getting snow that will stay on the roads and pack well.”

Temperatures are forecast to fall to 11 degrees below zero Wednesday night in West Yellowstone.

Seeley said customers are still enjoying their trips through the park, including one recent trip in which the fog lifted to reveal frost on all the trees.

“It was beautiful,” he said. “You just can’t fault Yellowstone, no matter what time of year it is.”