While the National Park Service seems most determined to see snowmobiles tooling about Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is honoring two outfitters in West Yellowstone for moving away from snowmobiles.
In presenting the "George B. Hartzog, Jr." award to Randy Roberson of Yellowstone Vacations and Scott Carsley, owner of Yellowstone Alpen Guides, the coalition singled out two tour operators who "have been leaders in a transition that is making Yellowstone National Park a safer, healthier, and more attractive winter destination for a wider variety of visitors."
Coalition leaders were in West Yellowstone, Montana, this week to present the award, which is named after a former NPS director. Carsley was honored for his advocacy of snowcoaches for the past two decades and for the role he played in restoring Yellowstone's historic Bombardier snowcoaches, which now are the cleanest winter vehicles in the park.
Roberson, meanwhile, was recognized for believing that snowcoaches, not snowmobiles, are the future of winter transportation in the park. A recent NPS report stated that snowcoaches are up to 41 times cleaner than snowmobiles when it comes to vehicle emissions.
"As our national population grows by a few million citizens each year, it becomes an ever-bigger challenge to ensure that visitors can enjoy their national parks without overwhelming them with traffic, damaging their health and diminishing their uniqueness," said Bill Wade, chairman of the coalition's executive council. "These two tour operators are demonstrating in Yellowstone's fragile winter environment how this challenge can be met successfully."
During the past five years the number of West Yellowstone businesses that offer snowcoach tours of the park has doubled, from eight to 16, according to the coalition. This winter there have been wait-lists for groups that wanted to tour the park by snowcoach from West Yellowstone.
"Yellowstone's winter recovery still has a significant want to go, but these two businesses are a big reason it has come this far," said Wade. "Our oldest national park is clearly being rediscovered by Americans who want to view its wildlife in winter, take photos, and enjoy the park in quieter ways. The ongoing reduction in traffic, commotion and pollution is bringing them back. That is a wonderful turnaround in the making."