The group, Plow Yellowstone, is throwing its two-cents worth into the winter-use scoping plan, as the NPS is currently taking ideas from the public. There’s a lot of allure to the idea of plowing the road, even if it’s only during the winter season when the Old Faithful Snow Lodge is open. Going to Old Faithful in winter is expensive (Xanterra charges $110 or so for a round trip via snowcoach, though some private operators are cheaper), and you can’t dictate stops at many points between the two. Their website has some persuasive arguments; we suggest you check it out.
Truth is, we’d love to see that stretch of road plowed year-round. There don’t appear to be any safety issues involved: the road between Gardiner and Cooke City doesn’t invite any more accidents in winter than other times of the year. There don’t appear to be any wildlife issues involved, either: you’re as likely to run into bison in the Lamar Valley as in the Old Faithful geyser basins. And Yellowstone is amazingly beautiful in wintertime, so we’re all in favor of as many people seeing it as often as possible.
Instead, the true issue — we’re told, anyway — has to do with cost. It’s expensive to keep the Yellowstone roads open in winter, with plows often requiring daily runs during the times of the heaviest snowfalls. It’s one thing to keep the road between Gardiner and Cooke City open, as there are full-time residents of Cooke City and Silver Gate involved and other sources (i.e., mining-related legal settlements) paying for the plowing in recent years. But any talk of plowing Hwy. 212 east of Cooke City to the Chief Joseph Highway is quickly shot down by Montana and Wyoming officials because of the cost involved. And if you keep the road to Old Faithful open year-round, you need to man various services in the Old Faithful area, like gas stations and restaurants. Not impossible, but a task nevertheless.