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'Springtime in Montana:' Red Lodge businesses roll with Beartooth Pass opening delay

Red Lodge Storm
Posted at 10:25 AM, May 24, 2024

RED LODGE — The opening of the iconic Beartooth Pass has been delayed due to Thursday's storm that swept over much of Montana.

Originally, the highway was scheduled to open for the summer on Friday.

Typically, the route brings in a lot of tourists and business to Red Lodge, but this year that rush will be getting off to a slower start. Business owners say it isn't out of the ordinary for Mother Nature to put a wrench in their plans.

"It's crazy, but it's pretty typical," said Rosemary Stewart, manager of a downtown boutique, Hometown Sisters, on Thursday afternoon. "It's almost always on Memorial Day that we have something like this."

Stewart said that the delayed opening of the Beartooth Pass could affect their business in the short term, but she and others in the area are gearing up for a great summer.

"Well, you're hoping that a lot of people will come in but now with the pass not opening, people might not be driving here," Stewart said. "Still, we'll make up for it this summer."

Next door is the Blue Ribbon Bar, which is owned by Rocky Roberts. On Thursday, he was shoveling the sidewalk in front of his business, trying to stay ahead of the snow.

"It's Montana," Roberts said with a smile. "Springtime in Montana."

Roberts was also understanding of the unpredictable weather.

"It's semi-normal for Red Lodge on Memorial Day weekend," Roberts said. "It's what we have."

Even though Roberts said they are used to this type of weather, Thursday's storm was still a bit of a surprise.

"Yeah, this is more than I thought it would be for sure," Roberts said with a laugh. "We've got another four or five hours so we'll see. As long as everyone drives smart and stays safe we'll be alright."

The main question now is how long the opening of the pass will be delayed. Q2 Chief Meteorologist Ed McIntosh said it shouldn't be for long with better weather on the way.

"Beartooth Pass is definitely going to have complications because of (the storm)," McIntosh said on Wednesday. "But that's normal. Knowing the way the Montana Department of Transportation handles the clearing of the passes, I think we're going to see that open very soon after the storm is over."

That's music to the ears of business owners like Roberts, who's been heavily affected by unpredictable weather the last few summers.

"The last couple years have been pretty tough," Roberts said. "But we keep persevering and doing what we do."

It's a town that's always persevering through tough times, ready to adapt however they can.

"It's the most resilient, versatile town," Stewart said. "It really is. It's incredible for that."