While Yellowstone National Park officials are going to be requiring much cleaner snowcoaches in the not-to-distant future, one operator has gone ahead and made the move to the cleaner technology.
Randy Roberson, who operates the Buffalo Bus Touring Co. in West Yellowstone, said it just made sense to go ahead and invest in the cleaner vehicles, which can run winter and summer.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to wait,” Mr. Roberson said in a press release. “These new coaches can be customized in a dozen ways to provide the perfect Yellowstone touring vehicle. They are better for our visitors as well as for the park and it’s exciting to be investing in them.”
Manufactured in Indiana, the 2011 Ford “Odyssey” mid-size coach features picture windows, up-scaled, roomy seating and spaces for visitors to easily store and access cameras, lunches, cross-country skis and other gear. Special features for winter include a different track system that rolls easily and quietly, extra underbody insulation and a customized heating system.
The vehicle seats 30 and has already taken its first visitors to Old Faithful, helping alleviate summertime traffic on Yellowstone’s roads, Mr. Roberson notes.
Mr. Roberson said the Park Service’s plan to require “Best Available Technology” snowcoaches by 2014 as part of Yellowstone’s new winter rules will lead to development of dual-season vehicle fleets. This will help tour businesses spread their operational expenses over the whole year rather than having high fixed costs exclusive to a three-month snowmobile season, he said. The savings from serving more visitors with fewer overall vehicles can then be passed on to Yellowstone’s visitors, the businessman added.
“That’s an efficiency that is helping tour operators keep the price of visiting Yellowstone affordable for as many visitors as possible,” Mr. Roberson explained.
The number of visitors choosing to experience Yellowstone by snowcoach grew 74.3 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to Park Service visitor statistics. Last winter, that growth continued; the number of snowcoach visitors increased 14.1 percent at the West Entrance and 11.7 percent at the park’s four winter entrances combined, compared to the prior winter.
Growth in the popularity of snowcoach travel has been attributed to many factors including price, increased demand for interpretation, larger numbers of photographers, skiers and other visitors bringing equipment with them, and greater convenience for families, groups and visitors of widely different ages and abilities.
“Those of us who are in the business of introducing visitors to Yellowstone National Park are entering an exciting period,” Mr. Roberson said. “This newest coach is only the beginning. We are already exploring options to power coaches with alternative fuels and to make other innovations that can lead to even cleaner and quieter visitor travel.”