Preliminary numbers show rising interest in snowcoach tours of Yellowstone National Park in winter and slightly declining interest in snowmobile tours.
According to park statisticians, during the recently concluded winter season 52,550 tourists visited Yellowstone via over-snow vehicles, a number that represents a slight, 0.7 percent increase over last winter's traffic.
Of that total, 30,756 came on snowmobiles, which is a 3.3 percent drop from the winter of 06-07, while 21,794 traveled via snowcoach, a 7.1 percent increase from last winter.
According to the park, an additional 35,901 people visited in private cars or buses through the end of February (an 8.0% increase from the same time period last winter).
Looking at the winter season as a whole, on average there were 294 snowmobiles in the park on a daily basis (the peak was 557), whereas the existing winter-use regulations allow for as many as 720. Under the new plan set to take effect next winter, the daily cap will drop to 540 snowmobiles. Breaking down that daily average shows 172 snowmobiles entered through the West Entrance (the peak was 350), 112 from the South Entrance (180 peak), 5.6 from the North Entrance (16 peak), and 1.3 from the East Entrance (11 peak).
What should be interesting to those who closely follow Yellowstone's snowmobile politics, aside from the growing snowcoach usage and dropping snowmobile usage, is that, on average, just 1.3 snowmobiles entered the park on a daily basis through the East Entrance. That's the entrance closest to Cody, Wyoming, where officials are fighting hard to convince Yellowstone officials to maintain snowmobile traffic through that entrance in the coming years. For their part, park officials have said it's too expensive to justify doing so, but officials in the Intermountain Region office have left the door open.
As for snowcoach numbers, through the winter there was a daily average of 35 coaches in the park hauling a total of 297 passengers. The winter's high saw 60 snowcoaches in the park on one day. Most of the daily traffic came through the West Entrance, which saw 19 snowcoaches, on average, enter the park with a total of 170 passengers.
The South Entrance saw eight snowcoaches per day on average with 56 passengers, while the North Entrance saw 5.4 with 47 passengers.