Yellowstone’s east entrance is closed to cars for the winter now, and people won’t be able to drive from Cody to the Northeast entrance because ten to twelve miles of highway 212 east of Cooke City is covered in snow in the winter.
Snowmobilers use that stretch of highway. But some Cooke City and Cody business leaders would like to see it open to cars in the winter.
In the winter, the only way out of Cooke City, Montana to Wyoming is by snowmobile. The high mountain highway is covered by snow, and becomes Trail A.
The Director of the Wyoming Snowmobile Association, Bert Miller said, “Trail A connects the Wyoming side, which is on the Beartooth Mountain Range to Cooke City. It’s a fantastic mountain range where two states connect to each other.”
Miller said sledders have used the un-plowed road for almost sixty years, and he says they generate a lot of tourism dollars for both Cody, and Cooke City.
But, the deep snow prevents people from driving into Yellowstone from Cody in the winter, and some businessmen on both sides think they would do better with cars, instead of snowmobiles coming through.
Bruce Eldredge heads up the Center of the West, a museum complex in Cody.
Eldredge pointed out, “That influx of tourism that we could get in the winter season because that road is open and people could drive into and out of Yellowstone from the Northeast gate would be very important for us. And we believe that might impact our bottom line by as much as $500,000 to a million dollars.”
Jim Blair runs three hotels in Cody. He said the idea should be broached with caution.
But, Blair said, “My initial response to it as a hotelier is, ‘heck yeah, we would love to have the Northeast Gate of Yellowstone open up, whether that’s just longer in the shoulder season, or open year around.”
Matt Schneider owns Miner’s Saloon in Cooke City.
He said snowmobiling is slowing down there. He would like to see the road open to traffic earlier, and say open later.
Schneider pointed out, “To be dependent just upon snowmobiling has been difficult in the last few years, so for me to have some diversity would be a nice opportunity, just to see what the possibilities are.”
Hotel and restaurant owner Jan Gaertner said most of the business owners in Cooke City would like to see the road opened to generate more business but there’s another issue:
Gaertner said it’s a matter of life and death: “Our closest hospital is Cody, Wyoming.”
Miller remembered a large group of business owners met with county, state, and federal officials in Cooke City about five years ago to discuss a possible change.
The businessmen who suggested plowing Highway 212 east of Cooke City said snowmobilers would need to be part of any discussion, to make sure their needs were met.