The Mammoth Hotel in Yellowstone National Park is reopening after being closed for more than a year following last June’s flooding.
Last June 13, when the flood waters washed out large parts of the road connecting Mammoth with Gardiner the rushing water also severed sewage lines carrying waste from Mammoth to a treatment plant in the nearby town.
Some nearly century-old treatment facilities in Mammoth were pressed into service to keep park offices open, but the old infrastructure could not handle the large hotel and restaurants, forcing those facilities to close.
Since then a new, temporary treatment facility has been under construction in Mammoth. That was just finished and tourists will soon be welcomed back to the hotel and Terrace Grill. But the large restaurant will not open just yet.
According to the operator, Yellowstone Park Lodges, it’s all about lead time.
Manager Mike Keller said, “Food and beverage takes more time. You’ve got to train cooks, you’ve got to train servers. So, once we got the official open date just five, six days ago, then we began the process of hiring for the dining room and the hotel itself. So we’re hoping to have this open within two to three weeks.”
Inside the dining room, chairs are stacked to one side and what looks like a buffet table and several small tables are clustered in the center of the expansive dining room. Repainting of the restaurant was just finished the day before and now a temporary training area is ready to teach new staff how to serve customers.
Keller said, “Once the staff starts coming in we have to teach them what the menu is, how to do serving standards, how to prepare food, how to interact with guests at the table.”
Beyond setup and training time, just getting staff to the park is a challenge.
“You’re asking someone to pick up and leave their life, wherever they might be living at, relocate to a remote wilderness area for a period of 30 to 120 days if they’re just going to be a seasonal employee. That’s a big ask,” said Keller.
But Keller is pleased with how the hotel opening is going. He says when the doors open on Saturday, July 1, the rooms will be full.
He said, “So, people as it was getting closer, if they didn’t want to keep their reservation, we let them cancel, no charge, rebook somewhere else. A lot of folks decided, no, we’re going to hold our reservation because we think you’re going to be able to make it, and we did.”
Just five miles downhill, in Gardiner, that’s huge according to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Therese Petcoff. She said, “It’s incredibly important. Gardiner relies a lot on even just day trippers who stay in the Mammoth Hotel or who are traveling to stay in the Mammoth Hotel. People stopping here, eating in our restaurants, doing our activities.”
All the new visitors at Mammoth won’t be left without food options. In addition to Gardiner restaurants, the grill and snack bar are already open right next to the restaurant. That’s fueling hope for a strong summer season.
Petcoff predicts about the same number of visitors as seen in 2019 and added, “Based on what happened in May, with gate numbers I think we can sort of expect the same sort of situation with that number-wise. With international travel opening back up I think we’re going to experience more international travelers here.”
Park Superintendent Cam Sholly told MTN the nearby Mammoth campground will also open, at least partially, very soon.
Here’s one word of caution if you do visit Mammoth. Park officials say there are a lot of elk hanging around the public areas and visitors are reminded to stay at least 25 yards away, especially for elk with young.