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Mixed reviews of winter season from Gardiner businesses

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Posted at 9:01 AM, Mar 26, 2023

At the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park, last June’s flooding wiped out the summer season for many businesses in Gardiner. Because of that, there was hope for a big rebound this winter.

Cara McGary, the owner of In Our Nature Guide Service didn’t see it. She said, “It certainly pales in comparison to other winters.”

Lots of guiding companies tell MTN the same thing. They hoped for a big winter surge, which never really happened after access to the park was restored at the end of October.

“In town, I would say it didn’t feel very busy. I think a lot of that had to do with the Mammoth Hotel closure,” said Terese Petcoff, the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

It’s been a great winter for wildlife watching in the Park this season. The snow is deep and the crowds are smaller. That’s wonderful for those who want to avoid the crowds, but not so great for businesses who depend on those crowds.

“The economic aspects are not great and I especially worry about my employees and hope that they have enough to keep themselves fed and pay utilities and rent and that sort of thing,” said McGary.

But not everyone suffered.

Wade Launch, the owner of the Gardiner Town Station Conoco told us, “Our winter has really turned out very nice.”

Across the street, the manager of the Absaroka hotel said this winter was a great season for him because people who couldn’t stay in the still-closed Mammoth Hotel, stayed at his business instead. Now, hopes are high for the summer.

Petcoff said, “I think it’ll be really good. I think that we’ll be adequately staffed and will be able to handle the capacity that we’re expecting.”

“I think it’s going to be a big summer because there were a lot of people last year due to the floods, canceled their trip entirely, said Lisa Joslyn, the owner of Sky's the Limit Guiding.

Launch added, “I am very optimistic about this summer. Easter will be the next tell-tale, for me anyway, on how the summer will go.”

Guide McGary, who is hanging on through the lean winter, sees an upside to almost everything. She said, “You know, you either get time or money and rarely both. So, we’re getting some nice time to collect our thoughts, prepare for the summer, reevaluate and reassess how we do things and hopefully come back even better in this next year.”

McGary told us she used some of that extra time to visit friends in Australia. But now, she says it’s time to get back to work.

Business owners in both Gardiner and West Yellowstone tell MTN they hope for a big return of international tourism this summer after that business largely dried up during the pandemic.