Yellowstone in Winter, Bombardier, snowcoach

Winter season off to strong start

Visitation to Yellowstone for the month of December was up 10.8 percent compared to 2008. Of the 18,107 visitors to Yellowstone in December, 9,483 came by automobile, RV, or bus; 4,740 were passengers on snowcoaches; and 4,512 entered the park on guided snowmobile tours.

Snowmobile and Snowcoach Visitation

 Dec 2009  Dec 2008  Dec 2007
Snowmobiles – Daily Average 190  233  365
Snowmobiles – Peak Day  293 (12/29)  426 (12/29)  557 (12/28)
Snowcoaches – Daily Average 36 39 45
Snowcoaches – Peak Day  58 (12/27)  53 (12/27)  60 (12/26)

(Editor’s Note: These are the corrected numbers, per Yellowstone officials.)

An average of 190 snowmobiles and 36 snowcoaches a day entered the park from the December 15 start of winter season to the end of the month. Both numbers are down compared to the same period in 2008 and 2007.

We’re a little surprised to see a decline in the snowcoach numbers; concessionaire Xanterra has put a lot of emphasis into running snowcoaches in the Park. We suspect part of the decline has to do with fewer snowcoaches entering the South and East entrances.

And the serious decline in snowmobiles may have greater ramifications in the gateway communities. Fewer snowmobiles means less of a need for paid guides. And while snowmobilers aren’t known as the biggest spenders in the world, they spend enough to help folks in Cooke City, Gardiner and West Yellowstone make ends meet during the winter. Part of the decline can be attributed to the wrangling over daily limits in the Park — but you could make the argument that all the wrangling was moot because the Park is attracting fewer snowmobilers and more casual visitors.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

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