Employees Shovel Snow for Eight Days to Open Rocky Mountain Store for Summer
DENVER - After a winter of near-record snowfall, the Trail Ridge Gift Store and Café at Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park have finally opened for the season. The National Park Service opened the park's famous Trail Ridge Road on Monday, June 6.
There is a great deal more to opening a seasonal gift store and restaurant in Rocky Mountain National Park than simply stocking shelves. Beginning Tuesday, May 31, a hardy group of 20 employees of Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the store and restaurant, caravanned in trucks and vans from the gateway community of Estes Park approximately 22 miles up Rocky Mountain National Park's world-famous Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the continental United States.
Located adjacent to the National Park Service's Alpine Visitor Center, the building sits at 11,796 feet, nearly at the top of Trail Ridge Road. The National Park Service brings snowplows to clear the roads and the parking lot, but the only way to get to the door of the buildings and to the generator building that powers both facilities is to shovel snow by hand. This year the shoveling crew was faced with snowdrifts as high as 30 feet, and they could barely see the roofline of the building.
The National Park Service has reported that Rocky Mountain National Park has more snow this late in the season that it has had in almost 30 years - nearly twice the normal snowpack. Trail Ridge Road, Trail Ridge Gift Store, the Café at Trail Ridge and the National Park Service Alpine Visitor Center typically open Memorial Day weekend. The road closes again in mid- to late-October.
"While we were disappointed we could not open the store and restaurant Memorial Day weekend, we are of course primarily concerned with safety, and the conditions were simply too difficult and unpredictable," said Bill Bub, vice president of retail for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the facility. "Now that we are up and running, we are ready to serve the nearly 3 million guests who visit Rocky Mountain National Park annually."
Bub praised the dedication of the employees and noted that the crew never knows what they will find when they get to the top of the road. On clear days the view is breathtaking, but other days can be miserable, with extreme wind, cold and minimal visibility.
Bub said the Trail Ridge Gift Store has been closed for eight months, and it typically takes a "Herculean effort" not only to clear a path to the door but then to also stock the shelves and ready the kitchen to serve guests. "Our employees are dedicated and good-humored, and they know that Trail Ridge is not a typical tourist stop," said Bub. "We have many employees who return year after year because they love the adventure that comes with having their 'office' located at nearly 12,000 feet in elevation."
Trail Ridge gift store is known for its wide selection of gifts and souvenirs that reflect the Rocky Mountain National Park experience. The most popular item is the "I Made it to the Top" T-shirt. The store also offers an extensive selection of locally made products. The restaurant serves a variety of freshly prepared offerings such as sandwiches and salads. Because the restaurant and gift store are powered by a generator and storage is minimal, many ingredients are delivered daily from a storage facility in Estes Park.
National park concessioner and resort operator Xanterra Parks & Resorts began operating the facility in 2007 after an extensive renovation.
For more information about Xanterra Parks & Resorts, links to individual properties and reservations numbers, visit www.xanterra.com.