The record summer visitation numbers in Yellowstone country are carrying over into winter for Island Park and West Yellowstone, Mont., with people flocking to the area to snowmobile, ski and tour the park under a blanket of snow.

On Thursday morning, Collette Rinehart, executive director of the Island Park Chamber of Commerce, said gassing up her car at the small-town station was not so typical.

“I just pulled into the gas station right now, and I’m the only car, and there are 17 sleds here getting gas,” Rinehart said. “That’s kind of the way it is. … They’re not that busy normally in the winter.”

Snowmobile rentals, guided tours and snowcoach tours have all seen an uptick in business from previous seasons, and reservations for many tours are booked for the season, according to shops and town chambers of commerce.

Wendy Swenson, marketing director at West Yellowstone Visitors Center, attributes the increase to the pandemic, new people moving into the area, and the region having snow before other areas of the country.

“We’re seeing a lot more people who haven’t done it before and new people moving into the area that are trying new things,” Swenson said. “It’s a combination. We’re still seeing that uptick in domestic travel from across the country for outdoor recreation.”

Justin Severson, manager of High Mountain Adventures in Island Park, said not all of the growth in business can be attributed to the pandemic.

“I’d say it’s just the growth of the area,” Severson said, who rents ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. “I’d say the growth in Island Park has been on a constant upswing. I don’t want to say it’s up double, but it’s up a third. … We have 50 new sleds, and we might have been better off with 60 or 70. That’s our forecast for next year.”

In West Yellowstone, the Backcountry Adventures shop says all of its snowmobile tours into the park are booked for the season and other rentals are mostly filled.

“People are calling for President’s Day weekend, and it’s been booked for over a month now,” said Brock Wilson at Backcountry Adventures. “With how far out in advance things are getting booked, that’s unusual.”

Wilson said they have some availability for sleds going into the nearby National Forest and some seats available for snowcoach rides into the park, but guided snowmobile rides into the park are all booked.

“People who can’t do their European vacations are coming here,” he said. “But people are sick of being cooped up and want to get out in the mountains or wilderness and play.”

The Free Heel and Wheel shop in West Yellowstone caters to all things Nordic in the winter season and says despite not seeing large busloads of customers reserving cross-country skis or snowshoes because of pandemic restrictions, their rentals to families and friends has made up the difference.

“I think we’re seeing as much rentals or more than we have in the past years,” said co-owner Kelli Hart.

The new SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Island Park came online in June and was one of the Marriott chain’s top performers.

“We had a phenomenal summer and nearly sold out from June 15 to October because Yellowstone was having record visitation,” said Robin Beard, general manager of the Island Park hotel. “Our Marriott and a Marriott outside of Zion National Park had the most business in the entire chain.”

Beard said business is robust during the winter with about 30% occupancy during the week and close to full on weekends.

Rinehart said the influx and growth has been a challenge to Island Park on a few fronts.

“I think the people who deal with the food, beer and rentals are happy so far this year,” she said. “The biggest hurdle is employees and housing. We just don’t have affordable housing for the people.”

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