WEST GLACIER, Mont. -- The government has been shut down for a month. At Glacier National Park, headquarters, visitor centers and fee collection booths are empty. But for surrounding restaurants and shops, it’s business as usual.
Winter is the off-season in the park. Many businesses along Going-to-the-Sun Road and in Apgar Village close until spring.
“In the winter, a lot of business goes down, because not as much tourists are usually around,” Tommy Paliga, an employee of the Huckleberry Patch on Highway 2 in Hungry Horse, said.
January, February and December are historically the quietest months in the park. In 2018, the park saw 12,222 recreation visitors in January and 11,847 in February. July, in the middle of peak summer season, saw 905,959 recreation visitors to the park. Data from last month isn’t available.
“Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed, and most of the traffic is just not here,” Glacier Raft Company co-owner Jeff Baldelli said. “It’s a pretty quiet place.”
Baldelli said he still has customers and hasn’t noticed a difference in sales due to the shutdown.
Unlike the government shutdown in 2013, park gates are still open, and people are still visiting. Sherri and Craig Scavo stopped by the park on Monday.
“It's our date day, so we decided to get out and do some cross-country skiing,” Craig Scavo said. “This is always a good place to go.”
The Scavos weren’t alone on the trails -- there were people cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, taking photos and enjoying the all along the edge of Lake McDonald.
“There were people in front of us and behind us on the trail the whole way,” Craig Scavo said.
The park is quieter, and business slower, than in the summer, but that’s not unexpected.
“That’s just how it is here,” Paliga said.
Baldelli said the shutdown hasn’t impacted summer visitation yet either.
“We get plenty of people calling every day, setting up their summer plans,” he said. “None of them have even mentioned the shutdown right now.”