What is Yellowstone like during a partial government shutdown? To answer that, first, let’s talk about what a wintertime visit to this Park is like during non-shutdown times. Normally, most roads are closed to cars, but open to snowmobiles and snowcoaches. Each winter month, the Park gets 20,000 to 30,000 visitors (compared to 700,000 to 900,000 during the peak summer months). So even though it’s a lot slower than the summer months, wintertime Yellowstone still gets a good amount of visitors.
With the partial government shutdown, Yellowstone is still open, but National Park employees are not getting paid by the government to take entrance fees, groom roads, remove trash, or clean bathrooms. If the roads are not groomed (which costs about $7500/day), the snowmobiles can’t tour. Thankfully, many local snowmobile businesses and one local hotel (Xanterra) are pitching in their own money to keep roads groomed daily and bathrooms cleaned. About six of this hotel’s employees are cleaning the Park bathrooms that are being used. Also, snowmobile companies are packing in their own toilet paper and packing out their own trash. Here is a statement from Xanterra.
Without government involvement, you may be picturing Yellowstone to be a wintertime Lord of the Flies, but the government employees are still keeping an eye on the Parks. If conditions become unsafe at any time, roads and developed areas in the park may be closed. Emergency and law enforcement services are still available. All park regulations, including those regarding oversnow travel, remain in effect. In addition to Xanterra hotel, Old Faithful Snow Lodge remains open. The in-park restaurants that are normally open this season remain open. For current information on services offered by Yellowstone National Park Lodges, visit www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.
So, thanks to local businesses, vistors probably won’t notice a big difference in Yellowstone during the shutdown. The main thing is, plan ahead and be careful because although emergency services will be provided, the Park guide services will not. In other words, you are on your own unless you get in big trouble.
In addition to Yellowstone, there are many other amazing things to do in our area in the wintertime. There is the unbeatable skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, cross country skiing or snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park (which is open similarly to Yellowstone), snowmobiling to Granite Hot Springs, and sleigh ride tours at the National Elk Refuge (ticket sales and shuttle bus service to the sleigh boarding area will be relocated to the Home Ranch Welcome Center. More information on sleigh rides is available by calling 307-733-0277).
by Jessica Heath