Twice a year they come around - the shoulder seasons. What are shoulder seasons? Shoulder seasons are those times of year when there is either too little traffic or too difficult access to make business even kinda profitable. Shoulder seasons are those times of year when we catch up on chores we have little time to address during the regular seasons. They are the times when we relax, enjoy where we live, and even take some 'me' time with family or just on our own.
Shoulder seasons are a blessing and a curse. Certainly they are a blessing because we need some time to rest. On the other hand, they are a curse (in the broad sense) because they eat up a lot of the profit from the regular seasons.
So, do I love the shoulder seasons? Yes. Are they beneficial to our business? That depends!
Contemplating how much I enjoy having Elk Lake to myself, I must admit I love our shoulder seasons. No one is there. No one to mar the quiet. No one to scare the wildlife. No one to leave tracks up 'my draw'. No one to stop me from settling down in front of the fire (or by a sunny window) and reading a good book. No one to keep me from visiting with friends who drop by. Yes, shoulder seasons are a blessing.
However, without good regular seasons, shoulder seasons can easily become a curse. There is a fine line between 'making a living' and 'barely scraping by'. Many people in our country are facing this these days. Unemployment is nice - while it lasts. But at some point, if you do not have the work, your money just won't keep up with your bills. THIS is the danger of the shoulder season.
Few people really comprehend what it means to make your living doing seasonal work. If you are a seasonal employee, chances are you either have another source of income or you follow the work. While you may start the season up north, you're likely to spend your winters further south. However, for business owners, it isn't quite that easy. Who can pick up a resort or a gas station or a rental shop or a restaurant or an auto repair shop or a hardware store or a grocery store or. . .and follow the business? Few, if any.
In other words, seasonal work is just that - seasonal. In the regular season, seasonal business owners store up for the dry season. How many of you have sufficient savings to pay the bills (which never stop coming) for a few months while you wait for work? Not many, I wager. Yet, unless a business owner in a seasonal area operates under this mentality, the business will quickly go under.
So, when organizations like "The Greater Yellowstone Coalition" (who, I believe have done many good things in and around YNP) continue to strive to break the back of our winter business, I grind my teeth. What people with regular paychecks fail to understand is: I only have a few months to make enough money to not only pay my bills all year but to allow me to upkeep and improve my business. If you take away a big chunk of my income, how, exactly, do you expect me to survive?
I know. That is my problem. After all, I bought a seasonal business. So, didn't I, in essence, ask for this problem?
Well, that presents an interesting question. Yes, I bought a seasonal business. You probably chose to go to work for an employer. I bought a business with the understanding I would have so many months of the year when the income would cover my expenses plus allow me to set aside something for the down times. You agreed to work for your employer for a certain wage.
Now, time will tell if we have made wise choices. It will also reveal who has learned to pinch their pennies and leave their nest egg untouched. However, I suspect most employees would be quite angry if someone decided your employer should only operate 4 hours a day instead of 8 because they thought your employer was too noisy. Granted, the closure will make the neighborhood a quieter place to live. Certainly it will please those who live nearby. However, what is going to happen? Yep, you are suddenly going to find your income cut in half. Don't get your dander up! It's good for the community and the environment - they say.
What we fail to take into account as we press toward our noble agendas is the trickle down effect. While your employer used to provide a family wage for say, 15 families, they can now only provide half that wage. Do your bills cut in half? Of course not. So, now you shop less. You purchase less fuel. You don't visit the hardware store except in an emergency because you cannot improve, you just hope to keep a roof over your head. Hah! Who has the money to eat out? A vacation - that becomes a memory from happier days.
Now, you may say - phooey with this. I'm moving to someplace where I can get a decent job. Good idea. But, what about your employer? What about all those other businesses who depended upon the 15 families who frequented their shops (after all, they were in business because you wanted or needed their services)?
You see, cutting snowmobile numbers in Yellowstone National Park, might sound like a good idea. It obviously appeals to the groups who hold power right now. However, I like to think those who are pushing their agenda just haven't thought about what this is going to do to all the other people - people who have lived and loved in the Yellowstone area all of their lives. People who own business which cannot move. People who stand to lose it all!
Still enjoying the shoulder seasons!
Lady of the Lake