From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 36 - 5/4/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sled Dealers Expect Boost if Yellowstone Put Off Limits
In long run, they see potential drawbacks
by Rob Shaul

Late last month, the National Park Service banned snowmobiles from 23 National Parks, Scenic Trails, and National Parkways. In November, the agency will make the decision on whether or not to extend the ban to Yellowstone and Teton National Parks. Most observers predict snowmobiles will be banned from these two parks in 2002.

If snowmobiles are banned from Yellowstone, its possible some of that activity could move down to the national forest lands of Sublette County.

In terms of business, Gary Neely of Bucky's Outdoors, a Polaris dealership says the Yellowstone ban would increase his business in the short term. "But I don't think it would be an overall benefit," he continues, "it would be a headache, more than anything."

In the long run, Gary believes a Yellowstone ban would do "more harm than good," to snowmobiling in Sublette County. He expects to see even more-crowded parking lots and possible future restrictions down here. He notes that Jackson Hole snowmobile tour operators already bring tourists to snowmobile at Granite and Cliff Creeks in Hoback Canyon, and that two or three tour operators have commercial tour permits for the Continental Divide Trail.

Arctic Cat dealer Ken Smith of Boulder's K&N Power Sports agrees with Mr. Neely. Ken thinks a Yellowstone ban will be an economic boost in the short term, primarily through an increase in parts and repairs. However, he fears the long-term effects. "There's going to be so much heavy usage here that we're going to be more regulated. That's what I'm afraid of."

"At first it would make a hell of an impact," says Ski-Doo dealer Ryan Persinger of Performance Tech, "but after that it wouldn't be good."

For its part, the U.S. Forest Service expects an increase in snowmobiling on the Bridger-Teton Forest in Sublette County if Yellowstone is closed, but how much of an increase isn't clear. Big Piney District Ranger Greg Clark expects some Jackson tour operators to offer trips out of Alpine and into the Wyoming Range and Greys River drainage. However, he questions whether tourists will want to spend 6 to 7 hours in a vehicle traveling to and from the Horse Creek or Upper Green parking lots. Unless the winter destination shifts from Jackson to Pinedale, he's not sure there will be a major increase in snowmobile tours from Teton County showing up at Horse Creek or the Upper Green.

Richard Robertson with the Pinedale Ranger District remembers there was a "significant increase" in users in the Upper Green during the federal government shutdown in 1997. However, like Mr. Clark, he questions whether Jackson Hole winter visitors will even want to go snowmobiling without the opportunity to see Old Faithful and other park attractions. He notes, however, that of the five outfitters with snowmobile tour permits for the Continental Divide Trail, three are from Jackson.

We tried to call several Jackson snowmobile tour operators to see if any had plans to shift their operations south if the Yellowstone ban went into effect. However, none would talk to us.

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Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul