RED LODGE — Early Friday morning the Beartooth Highway was opened for the summer season. Crews worked throughout the spring to ensure a timely opening and the full length of the road is now accessible to vehicle traffic.
The opening generally happens every year between Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend. The road can be closed at any time because of severe weather or other causes.
Lined up at the gates at 8 a.m. on Friday were over a dozen cars filled with people from across the country. Some woke up early and drove while others camped nearby, all to be the first one on the newly-reopened road.
“Every year this opens us up for summer travel,” says Sherry Weamer, the executive director at the Red Lodge area Chamber of Commerce.
Local business owners estimate about 60% of their business between Memorial Day and Labor Day is generated from tourism.
“In the retail business we really look forward to a lot of foot traffic, and we’re really looking forward to summer of 2021,” says Ryan Brajcich, the co-owner of Hometown Sisters Boutique in Red Lodge.
“We had a record season last year, so we are getting ready and preparing for another busy season,” says Merek Rosin, the owner of Adventure Whitewater, a river rafting company.
Weamer estimates that Red Lodge sees around 100,000 visitors a year, and a large percentage of those come during the summer season.
The chamber of commerce also mails copies of a travel planner to those who request it. Weamer says she typically sends around 120 newsletters a month at this time of year, but this month she sent out over 400.