Visitor numbers down last winter; recession, uncertainty to blame?

A bad economy and uncertainty about the legal status of the winter season probably drove down the number of visitors to Yellowstone National Park this past winter, as 86,793 visitors came to the Park between December 2008 and March 2009, down 13.2 percent from last year’s number of 99,975.

In an economic recession as widespread as the one at hand, all areas of the country are affected, of course. But matters were made worse when tourists were unable to plan for a winter getaway, as a winter-usage plan for the Park did not emerge until well into the fall. And when there’s doubt. people will stay home.

The economy and uncertainty also appear to have affected the number of snow vehicles in the park. This season, an average of 205 snowmobiles and 29 snowcoaches entered the park daily, compared to the 294 snowmobiles and 35 snowcoaches that came daily last year. Numbers were also down for the number of people driving through the North Entrance. Those averages are well below the maximum numbers of vehicles allowed in the Park (314 snowmobiles) under the temporary winter plan.

Add in the low number of folks entering from the East Entrance, and you had the ingredients for a really slow winter.

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