Explore Yellowstone National Park on Skis

July 10, 2013 by  
Filed under features

While thousands of people enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park in the summer, a growing number of snow sport enthusiasts have discovered that the winter months are great for exploring the network of trails and backcountry areas of America’s historic national park on skis or on snowshoes. Some tour operators offer adventurers a touch of luxury with heated tents, gourmet meals and other nice-to-have amenities, while others offer a rough ‘n tough outdoor experience and some groups prefer the self-guided option.

Whichever way visitors decide to discover this national treasure, park authorities ask visitors to be mindful of the fact that Yellowstone is a wilderness and there are risks attached to exploring it. Visitors should be prepared for any situation, know the limits of their abilities and take responsibility for their own safety. Having said that, Yellowstone National Park makes a wealth of information available to visitors to plan their excursion and make the most of the park’s breathtaking natural beauty, while respecting the resident wildlife and the environment.

One of the easiest routes into Yellowstone in the winter months is from the town of West Yellowstone in Montana. Dry powder snow generally starts falling at the beginning of November, with snow cover lasting until May, giving snow skiing enthusiasts plenty of opportunity to explore the park on skis. Appropriate gear can be hired from Freeheel & Wheel in the town, and up to 35 kilometers of groomed trails are run by Rendezvouz Ski Trails not too far from town. This is the site of the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival held during Thanksgiving week – an event definitely worth including in your Yellowstone adventure itinerary.

As the roads in Yellowstone National Park are closed to cars during the winter months, visitors can travel by snow coach (a bus mounted on snow tracks) to check out “Old Faithful” in the Lower Geyser Basin, along with dozens of other thermal pools. Be sure to look out for elk, bison and flocks of trumpeter swans. The damage done by the 1988 fire which destroyed almost thirty percent of the park is still evident, but there are encouraging signs that the park is recovering. Groomed trails lead out from the village, and skiers can expect to see a variety of wildlife such as elk, moose, foxes, antelope, bison and bobcats along the way. Because there are less people around in winter, and food is harder to find, the resident wildlife venture out into areas they may avoid in the summer months, making winter the best time for wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park, and the best way to do this is on skis or snowshoes.