By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park won’t open this winter after all.
The historic hotel, a popular winter tourism destination in the national park, had been closed all summer after a flood in June damaged the area’s wastewater system.
Park officials had said a remanufactured system would be brought in to temporarily handle the up to 150,000 gallons per day capacity needed in winter, as well as the 350,000-gallon capacity needed in summer.
But park officials say winter weather and supply chain issues have delayed the completion date.
“Originally, we thought (the temporary wastewater system) would be finished by Dec. 1,” park spokeswoman Linda Veress told Cowboy State Daily via email.
“But now, given winter weather (snow) and difficulty procuring needed items for the system that are not readily available, we anticipate the system will be complete in February,” she said. “The park is diligently working on multiple short- and long-term solutions to restore full service to Mammoth.”
While the hotel will be closed, park officials stressed that the gift shop, coffee and beverage service, lobby and ski shop will remain open. Regularly scheduled tours and stagecoach service between Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful and other iconic locations also will remain available.
Refunds In The Works
Room and package reservations for Mammoth Hotel are all being canceled and refunded. No action is required by anyone with a reservation, the park says, adding that people should allow seven to 10 days for processing.
Guests who had a booking that included Mammoth and Old Faithful Inn may keep the Old Faithful arrangements if they wish or cancel for a full refund, as long as they do so at least 14 days in advance.
Guests also are advised they can book their Mammoth stays with Old Faithful, or with other communities in the area, including Silver Gate, Cooke City and Gardiner.
While the closure of Mammoth could turn out to be a blow for lodging tax revenues in Park County this winter, hotel owners in nearby communities like Gardiner and Cooke City told Cowboy State Daily that they are already seeing an influx of new bookings in response to Mammoth’s extended closure.
Park County Hit Could Be Boon For Others
The closure of Mammoth will undoubtedly have some impact on Park County, which gets to count those stays as part of its tally for lodging taxes.
But it appears it’s already becoming a boon to hard-hit hotel owners in Gardiner and Cooke City/Silver Gate, some of whom had told Cowboy State Daily their bookings for winter were down significantly compared to a more usual winter, despite the recent opening of Gardiner Road.
Among these was Tami McDonald at the Park Hotel, who said she’d already taken 100 bookings Wednesday, among them a Michigan couple coming to the park to celebrate their anniversary.
“They had actually extended their stay a couple of days to book a room with us prior to Mammoth hotel closing,” McDonald told Cowboy State Daily.
Since the couple will stay longer, they decided to upgrade their Park Hotel room to a larger space with a kitchen.
“I’ve had so many people tell me about their dreams of coming to Yellowstone,” McDonald said. “I remember one story, this gal she was just graduating college and she lived in Japan. And her dad was in his 70s and all his life he talked about going to Yellowstone Park someday.
“Finally, he saved enough money, and because his daughter had graduated from college he said, ‘We’re going to Yellowstone.’”
But then the flood hit and, with so many things closed, the dream trip was postponed, and so far hasn’t been rebooked.
McDonald said she hopes people whose Mammoth Hotel reservations are canceled will at least consider other hotels in the area.
Some of these include Yellowstone River Motel, Absaroka Lodge, Super 8, Yellowstone Gateway Inn, Riverside Cottages as well as several VRBOs, Chelsea DeWeese told Cowboy State Daily. DeWeese helps her mother Betty DeWeese with the Yellowstone River Motel.
“Folks can stay, eat and soak (in Yellowstone Hot Springs) in Gardiner and drive to the Old Gardiner Road to Mammoth to either explore Lamar Valley on their own or catch a slowcoach into the interior,” she said. “Gardiner could potentially be a ‘hot spot’ for cold-weather tourism this winter.”
High Country Motel in Cooke City, meanwhile, also was booking new reservations for wildlife watching groups, Cowboy State Daily was told.
The owner, Brandon Richardson, had previously said he had a lot fewer bookings this winter than usual, which particularly hurt after a brutal summer that, for him, was “a complete write-off.”
“It’s been a tough season,” Richardson said. “We were one of the few people who didn’t lay anybody off because we have such good employees and if we did, we’d probably lose them. I know a lot of places closed down a little early, and most of them struggled just like we did.”
He’s among hotel owners hoping for a boost in winter tourism this year.
“We thought COVID was rough, but it was nothing compared to the flooding,” Richardson said.
History of Yellowstone’s ‘Grand’ Hotel
Mammoth Hotel is one of Yellowstone Park’s four big lodges. It was first built in Queen Anne style in 1883 by the Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. At that time, it was known as the National Hotel.
Yellowstone Park Improvement Co. not only built a grand hotel, but had a grand design for the park. It rented out whole square-mile tracts, eyeing lucrative opportunities like rent and timber.
But in building the National Hotel — four stories high and more than 400 feet long — the company overextended itself, according to author Paul Scullery in the book “Searching for Yellowstone.”
From there, the hotel passed into the hands of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
In 1911, the hotel’s fourth floor was removed and the roof flattened. Robert Reamer oversaw the reconstruction, which included a new north wing, completed by 1913.
Reamer also oversaw reconstruction of the hotel again in 1935, when all but the north wing was torn down. The new building was painted a light grey and was constructed in the Art Moderne style.
In August 2019, in partnership with Xanterra Travel collection, the historic hotel was renovated and preserved again, down to keeping historic mahogany woodwork and adding new bronze inserts for handrails, as well as keeping original lamps for each guest room.
New, private bathrooms were added to the hotel guest rooms as well, along with new windows and conference rooms. The structure also was stabilized, electrical systems were modernized and the facility is now compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.