The leaves starting to fall and the weather taking a turn is a sure sign that things are slowing down in Waterton Lakes National Park.
Although the number of people visiting the park dwindles during the off-season, many businesses are still reaping the benefits of a busy summer in the tiny Alberta mountain town.
Carol Robbins, owner of Welch’s Chocolate Shop, says the early arrival of southern traffic made some positive impacts.
“This summer has been spectacular,” said Robbins. “We’ve now got Chief Mountain Border Crossing open, which is a main vein from Montana Glacier, which is the other side of the International Peace Park. I would think we probably had 80 to 90 per cent of our visitors have been our American visitors, it’s just been spectacular.”
According to Parks Canada, from June to August, Waterton saw 25,000 more visitors compared to last year, and indicated the average number of guests over the past three months is the highest it’s seen since 2017.
That increase in visitation also helped play a role in bookings for Shameer Suleman, the owner of Bayshore Inn Resort & Spa.
“In years past, we had to keep our rates low to keep business flowing in, yet our cost of doing business kept increasing. Well, this year was the first year I feel like we were able to stabilize,” explained Suleman. “So, we were able to raise our rates to the level of which our cost of business has gone up, which stabilized us.”
In the coming weeks, many businesses will be closing their doors for winter but visitor experience manager for Waterton Lakes National Park, Christy Gustavison, wants to assure people that’s not the case for the entire area.
“There is a misconception that Waterton closes but the park gates are open and we’re here to welcome you 365, year-round.”
Gustavison went on to share that during the colder months, there are still many activities to check out like winter hiking and snow sports.