Welcome to West Yellowstone, Montana!
Below you will find a partial list of weekly activities and events happening in West Yellowstone. There is also a printable one page guide to family activities, local events and scenic drives.
On our home page look under “play” for our calendar of events along with other useful and interesting information about our unique area.
Please be cautious of wildlife along and on the highways as they migrate thru our area!
This Week at a Glance:
- Yellowstone Park Fee Free Days: April 22-23
- FREE BBQ: April 22 – First Baptist Church – everyone welcome! 5:30-7:30pm
- Hawaiian Luau: April 22 – Bullwinkles
- Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center: Open Everyday 8:30am to 4:00pm
We are a not-for-profit wildlife park accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Call 406-646-7001 or visit them online.
- Yellowstone Giant Screen: Open Monday – Saturday. Call 406.646.4100
Showing Daily: “Yellowstone” at 3:00pm; “Extreme Weather” at 3:45pm; Hollywood Feature Movie at 4:30pm & 7:45pm
- Adult Co-ed Volleyball: Thursdays, 7:00pm at the WY School gym
- Yoga for Everyone: Classes are being offered every Thursday at 5:30pm at the Povah Community Center
- Martial Arts: Classes are being offered every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 6:30pm at the Povah Community Center
- Knit Nights: Thursdays, 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Stagecoach Inn
- Game Night: Fridays, 6:00pm, Bullwinkles
- Live Poker: Saturday evenings at 7:00pm, Buffalo Bar
For a printable version of activities and details please view the links below:
West Yellowstone Weather and Roads (April 22-28, 2017):
- Saturday: Sunny, with a high near 50F. Low around 28F.
- Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 49F. Low around 30F. Rain/snow showers likely.
- Monday: Cloudy, with a high near 44F. Low around 30F. Chance of showers.
- Tuesday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44F. Low around 28F. Chance of showers.
- Wednesday: Cloudy, with a high near 41F. Low around 27F. Showers likely.
- Thursday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 42F. Low around 24F. Chance of showers.
- Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 42F. Low around 25F. Chance of showers.
Changing weather conditions exist. Be prepared when traveling through Yellowstone Country.
2017 Spring Road Opening Dates
- OPEN: West Entrance to Madison; Mammoth to Old Faithful; Norris to Canyon.
- May 5: Canyon Junction to Lake; Lake to East Entrance (Sylvan Pass).
- May 12: Lake to West Thumb, West Thumb to Old Faithful (Craig Pass), and South Entrance to West Thumb; Tower Junction to Tower Fall.
- May 26: Tower Fall to Canyon Junction (Dunraven Pass)
- May 26: Beartooth Highway
- Norris to Mammoth: expect 30-minute delays between Roaring Mountain and the Indian Creek Campground beginning April 21, 2017. From June 1 to September 10, this section of road will be closed during the night (10 pm to 7 am). From September 10 to October 6, this section of road will be closed to all traffic (day and night). Norris and Indian Creek campgrounds will remain open.
- Canyon Area: the Brink of Upper Falls and Inspiration Point are closed for the season.
2017 Fall Closing Dates
- October 10: Beartooth Pass (US 212 to Red Lodge, Montana); Dunraven Pass (Tower Fall to Canyon)
- November 6: All roads except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast entrance close at 8:00 am
- NO WHEELED VEHICLES ARE PERMITTED FROM NOV. 6-MID APRIL (except the road between the North Entrance and the Northeast entrance by permit only)
2017-2018 Winter Oversnow (Snowmobile & Snowcoach) Opening Dates
- December 15: Conditions permitting, the park will open at 8 am to oversnow vehicles from Mammoth to Madison; Madison to Old Faithful; Madison to West Entrance; from Old Faithful to West Thumb; from South to Lake Butte Overlook, from Canyon to Lake and from Canyon to Norris.
- December 22: Conditions permitting, East Entrance Road (from East to Lake Butte) will open at 8 am.
Madison County, Montana is where you will find the “ghost” towns of Virginia City and Nevada City. Virginia City is a well preserved, very much alive, ghost town which is frozen in time. It is located just 20 miles west of Yellowstone National Park (90 miles by road).
In May of 1863 six men, Barney Hughes, Thomas Cover, Henry Rodgers, William Fairweather, Henry Edgar and Bill Sweeny set out toward the Yellowstone River. Their goal was to find enough gold to be able to buy tobacco in the town of Bannack. Unfortunately, they encountered a party of Crow Indians and were captured. The story goes that William Fairweather put a rattlesnake in his shirt. That impressed their captors and the men were released on the condition that they return to Bannack, which they did.
On May 26, 1863 Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar discovered gold near Alder Creek, so named because the banks were lined with Alder trees. They discovered the largest surface field of gold in Alder Gulch. No matter how hard they tried to keep their discovery a secret, the word got out and within three weeks the town of Virginia City was thriving. Some built log cabins, some of which stand to this day. Others built makeshift brush shelters while others pitched their tents. By the Fall of 1863 between 7000 and 10,000 souls called this place their home.
June 16,1863 a township was formed under the name of “Verina”, which was intended to honor Varina Howell Davis, the first and only First Lady of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. However, when they attempted to register the name, a Connecticut judge by the name of G. G. Bissell objected to their choice of name and recorded it as Virginia City.
It quickly became a boomtown of thousands of prosectors and fortune seekers. This remote area of what was then Idaho Territory had no law enforcement except for the miners courts. Due to the great wealth of this region, the lack of any type of justice system and the methods of travel, crime began to flourish there. It is estimated that “road agents” were responsible for up to 100 deaths in the area in 1863 and 1864. These “road agents” would ride out from Robbers’ Roost and terrorize stagecoaches, miners and travelers in the area and as far as Missoula 200 miles away. The locals were afraid to do anything about it because the road agents had spies everywhere and would soon find out who was working against them.
Henry Plummer was, at that time, the sheriff of both Bannack and Virginia City. Many suspected that he was the leader of the road agents gang called “The Innocents”. The suspicions about the Sheriff and the increasing number of murders in the immediate area prompted the citizens to form the Vigilante Committee. After obtaining confessions from some members of “The Innocents” the Vigilante Committee arrested Plummer on January 10, 1864. Plummer was hanged in Bannack without a trial.
On May 26, 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Montana Territory. Bannack was the first territorial capital but on February 7, 1865 the legislature moved the capital to Virginia City where it remained until April 19, 1875 when it was moved to Helena.
It was in Virginia City that the first public school was established. “Montana Post”, the first newspaper was established in Virginia City.
Among this who have called this their “home”:
- Calamity Jane (resided here for a short time)
- Jack Slade (Pony Express co-founder and gunfighter, was lynched here)
- John Bozeman (prospector, merchant, founder of Bozeman, Montana and the Bozeman Trail)
- Nathaniel P. Langford (prospector, vigilante and first superintendent of Yellowstone National Park)
- William F. Sanders (founding member of the Vigilance Committee and U.S. Senator from Montana)
- Sam V. Stewart (Governor and Supreme Court justice of Montana practiced law here)
- Nelson Story (prospector, merchant and cattleman, famous for 1866 cattle drive from Texas to Montana)
- George Laird Shoup (Governer of Idaho moved there after the Civil War)
When the gold ran out, there was enough left so the homes and businesses remained occupied. Unfortunately, there was not enough go left to repair and remodel the existing buildings. In the 1940’s Charles and Sue Bovey began buying the town and doing some of the much needed maintenance. In the 1950’s the town began to be restored for tourism. Most of the city is now owned by the state government is a National Historic Landmark and is operated as an open air museum. There are nearly 300 structures in the town with almost half of them having been built prior to 1900. Many of the buildings are in their original condition with Old West period displays and information plaques standing next to modern diners and other amenities.
Nevada City was destroyed by dredging operation in the early 1900s. It was Charles and Sue Bovey who also undertook the restoration of Nevada City. Many historic cabins have been moved to the site of the original Nevada City. A visit to Nevada City Museum will give you an idea of what it would have been like to live in the Alder Gulch area during the 1860’s. You will find a collection of music machines, like an automatic violin player. Nevada City is operated as an outdoor museum.
So – what is there to do in Virginia City and Nevada City?
There is a Boothill Cemetery in Virginia City which you can visit. You can take a ride on the narrow gauge Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad which will take you to Nevada City. You will not want to miss a visit to the Virginia City Opera House and a performance by the Virginia City Players. The opera house is an old livery stable which has been remodeled into a 19th century era theatre. It is home to one of the only remaining Cremona Player pianos which is used was used to accompany silent movies. It has been carefully maintained and restored. The theatre company performs authentic 19th entry melodramas and vaudeville variety.
You can take a 25 minute ride on the Virginia City Overland Stagecoach which will take you on a narrated tour up Alder Gulch to where the gold strike was originally discovered.
You might want to screen for rubies with the Red Rock Mike and Garnet Gallery in nearby Alder.
Montana Carriage offers a variety of horseback riding opportunities. You can choose a 1/2 hour ride, a 1 hour trip or, if you feel adventurous, you might want to try the 2 hour ride. There are also pony rides for the kids.
All of this in just over an hour’s scenic drive from West Yellowstone Montana – making it the perfect day trip for the family!
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
“Bear Friendly” means allowing every bear to retain its wild and free nature.
Spring is the time when bears and cubs emerge from their winter dens. Please enjoy our wildlife, especially bears, safely and responsibly.
Being bear-friendly in Montana is a commitment. It may mean sacrificing the opportunity to see a bear or take pictures of it—for the welfare of the bear. It means taking steps to prevent bears from finding sources of food on your property or when you are out camping.
Once a bear is food-trained, it is often impossible to un-train them. That is why biologists so often say a fed bear is a dead bear.
Your vigilance in keeping your residence and outdoor camps “Bear Friendly” can make all the difference in helping keep Montana’s grizzly and black bears wild and free.
Montana is a place where a bear is not viewed as entertainment but as a wild animal that shares its habitat with humans. Please make the commitment now to share bear country in a way that is respectful of bears and of the safety of other humans.
Don’t Feed Bears!
It is unlawful to intentionally, or to inadvertently feed bears. Those who do will be warned and possibly cited.
Tips for Recreating in Bear Country
Human behavior is the other half of the equation in a positive wildlife encounter. Here are some tips on human behavior that will help you prepare for safe outings.
- Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
- Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
- Stay on trails or rural roads.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Keep children close.
- Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off.
- Camp away from trails and areas where you see grizzly signs.
- Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
- Avoid cooking smelly foods.
- Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10′ above ground and 4′ from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container. Livestock feed should be treated the same as human food.
- Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.
The Custer-Gallatin National Forest Food Storage Order requires that all unattended food, refuse, and attractants be acceptably stored at all locations in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. Acceptably stored means placing all attractants in hard-sided vehicles or certified bear-resistant containers, or utilizing methods that meet the requirements outlined in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Approved Bear Resistant Products List. The list can be found at here. The Food Storage Order defines appropriate methods for acceptably storing and possessing food, refuse and other attractants, including animal carcasses.
- Don’t leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes and streams. Sink entrails in deep water. If you don’t properly dispose of entrails you increase danger to yourself and to the next person to use the area.
Hunting in bear country requires special equipment, skills and precautions. Here are some tips to properly prepare for your hunt:
- Carry bear pepper spray (at least 1 canister per hunter) and know how to use it;
- Have pulley systems & ropes (for hanging game & food storage);
- Have a drop cloth for relocating game;
- Carry gloves & apron for handling game;
- Carry a charged cell phone or hand-held 2-way radio and first aid kit;
- Let someone know where you are and when you plan to return;
- Know the requirements of Food Storage Order; and
- Pick up a Motor Vehicle Use Map for the area you are hunting in from the nearest Forest Service office.
Have you ever dreamed of having Yellowstone National Park all to yourself? Do you ever imagine the stunning, 360-degree mountain views without the distraction of cars or crowds? Visit West Yellowstone in the spring for your chance to explore YNP on a bike—and without a car or crowd in sight.
Spring visitors to West Yellowstone can experience YNP for a brief period of time without the distraction of peak-season traffic. As park access shifts with the seasons, visitors can bike, walk, run, and enjoy non-motorized activities for a few weeks on certain roads before the gates open to public cars, RVs, and tour buses. A popular activity for visitors during this period is to bike along YNP’s clear roads with only limited traffic from park employees and construction crews.
“Biking in Yellowstone National Park when there are no cars around is one of the most unique experiences that you will have in your lifetime,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone. “With no cars around, it’s a time to have the park all to yourself.”
Bikes allow visitors the freedom to move through the park at their own pace while experiencing panoramic views of the park’s dramatic transformation from winter to spring. The snow gradually melts, the bears start to emerge, and migratory birds begin to appear in the trees. Since there was heavy snow this past winter, visitors might even catch a glimpse of an animal feeding on a winter carcass.
The beauty of the seasonal change, coupled with minimal crowds, makes spring an ideal time of year to visit YNP and the surrounding region. Below, we’ll break down all you need to know for your spring cycling adventure in West Yellowstone.
When should I visit for spring biking?
Following the winter season, the the park roads close to snowcoaches and snowmobiles in order to remove snow and allow the roads to dry. Depending on the conditions, certain park roads open to bicycles and other non-motorized traffic on a to-be-determined date between late March and early April. The roads do not re-open to public vehicle traffic until late April.
For 2017, the west entrance opened to bikes on March 27, 2017, and to public vehicles on April 21, 2017.
Where can I bike?
From West Yellowstone, cyclists can enter YNP through the west entrance and bike to Madison Junction. From Madison, they can then either return to the west entrance or continue the journey to Mammoth. Keep in mind that those exiting through the west entrance during this time of year should prepare for a headwind on the return trip and plan accordingly. Whether returning from Madison or journeying all the way to Mammoth, visitors can take advantage of the limited road traffic to pause and savor the dramatic landscape.
For visitors who want to venture outside of YNP, a scenic bike route begins at the Highway 191/287 junction north of town and continues along Highway 287 to Quake Lake. The road offers both mountain and lake views as cyclists wind along the north shore of Hebgen Lake.
Are there any restrictions?
There are a few rules and restrictions for spring cyclists in YNP. These include:
- Bike in a single-file line on the right side of the road.
- Use a white bike light in the front and a red bike light in the back if cycling before sunrise or after sunset.
- Maintain a safe distance from animals (100 yards from bears and wolves, 25 yards from other wildlife).
- Only cycle on specified, open roads. Many popular routes, including the road from Madison to Old Faithful, are closed to the public and only accessible by authorized personnel during this time.
Can I rent a bike?
Visitors can rent or purchase bikes and gear at Freewheel and Wheel, West Yellowstone’s local bike and ski shop. Rentals include a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle. Cyclists can rent road bikes for $40/day and mountain bikes for $35/day.
What should I wear?
Cyclists should endeavor to wear high visibility clothing, even in light of limited vehicle traffic. Since spring weather in West Yellowstone can be unpredictable, cyclists should also dress for all conditions. A spring bike ride from West Yellowstone might begin on a warm, sunny morning, but the weather can quickly shift to chilly wind, rain, and even snow. Consider dressing with wicking materials, an insulated layer, a windbreaker, long socks, a light hat, and gloves before you set out for the day.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler in need of a break from the crowds or a first-time visitor in search of a quiet escape, cycling opportunities in YNP and the surrounding region make West Yellowstone an ideal spring biking destination.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
This is the story of a family who lived and worked in Yellowstone National Park in the 1880’s when the majority of our country was just beginning to discover the wonders of the Park.
The members of this family are Ellery Channing Culver, his wife, Mattie Shipley Culver and their only child, a daughter named Theda. Two of the members of this family would eventually leave the National Park but one would remain forever amidst the beauty and wonder of the Park.
Ellery was born in Shoreham, Addison County, Vermont on April 28, 1842. Martha Jane Shipley was born September 18, 1856 in Middlesex County Massachusetts. Theda was born on June 22, 1887 in the area around Billings, Montana.
So, how did they come to be in Yellowstone? Martha Jane, also known as Mattie, and Ellery, also referred to as E. C. were married April 6, 1886. Ellery served in the Civil War for 4 years with the 34th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. After his discharge, he and Mattie moved to Virginia City, Montana. By 1871 E. C. was well established in that town. Ten years later, by 1881, they had moved to the area around Billings where he was a businessman.
It was during their time in Billings that their only child, a daughter they named Theda was born. Mattie, E. C. and Theda spent the summers of 1887 and 1888 at the Firehole Hotel in Yellowstone. Mattie unfortunately suffered with tuberculosis and E.C. had hopes that the mountain air in Yellowstone would improve her condition. With that thought in mind, he became the caretaker of the hotel and the family spent the winters of 1888 and 1889 in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, hopes that the climate would improve Mattie’s condition were not to be realized. On March 2, 1889, at the age of 30 years, she succumbed to her illness.
Even though it was early March when Mattie passed away, the heavy snows and frozen ground made it impossible for a proper grave to be prepared for her. It is reported that some of the soldiers who were stationed at Fountain Soldier Station took two empty barrels, placed them end-to-end and placed Mattie’s body inside those barrels which were kept outside until the ground softened enough for a grave to be prepared.
That spring, Adelaide Child, wife of the president of the Yellowstone Park Improvement arranged a proper burial for Mattie. She also had the gravesite fenced and, it is assumed, that she was responsible for the headstone being erected. Today you can visit the grave of Mattie Culver. Considering all the harsh winters it has endured, the headstone remains in remarkable condition. Mattie is the one member of the Culver family who will never leave Yellowstone.
So – what happened to the other two members of the Culver family? Theda, who was approximately 2 years old when her mother died, was sent to Spokane to live with relatives. Research shows that Theda passed away on July 2, 1906 at the age of 19. She is buried in Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane, Washington.
As for Ellery, in 1892 he was appointed US Court Commissioner for Wyoming and for the next 2 years he served in that capacity and was headquartered at Mammoth. He was in charge of the Norris Lunch Station and then in 1893 he went to work for the YPTCo and served as the train agent. He rode the rails from Livingston the Gardiner. He also worked for the YPA giving promotional lectures. In 1897 he became the Postmaster in Gardiner, Montana and also ran the Post Office Store there. In 1904 he retired due to poor health but later that same year he returned to work as the train runner.
In 1908 health issues forced him to retire once again. In 1909 he moved to the Sawtelle National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in California where he passed away on April 17, 1922. He is buried at the National Soldiers Home Cemetary.
And there you have the story of one family and their association with Yellowstone National Park. Not a very happy story to be sure. One would have hoped that Mattie would have recovered from her illness and lived to raise her daughter – but that was not to be the case.
Theda left Yellowstone at around the age of two, never to return to the Park. Ellery remained in the general vicinity of Yellowstone for many years after Mattie’s death. Mattie remains the sole member of the family who never left Yellowstone.
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
Today you can visit her grave located near the Nez Perce Picnic Area. The gravesite is well kept and often visitors find fresh flowers on the grave. Artifacts from the old hotel have also been found at her gravesite. I do not know if the National Park Service has someone who tends the grave or if concerned visitors do it.
Nevertheless, Mattie S. Culver will forever remain part of Yellowstone National Park.
West Yellowstone, Montana: Your Biathlon Destination
West Yellowstone is one of the few places in the Western United States where visitors can experience biathlon in action—and even try it for themselves! Read on to find out more about biathlon and how you can encounter the sport on your next West Yellowstone adventure.
What is biathlon?
Biathlon is a unique combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting. The sport is rooted in Scandinavian countries, where hunters and soldiers alike would ski to cover long distances before shooting to hunt game or engage in military action. The combination of Nordic skiing and rifle shooting evolved recreationally during the 18th and 19th centuries and biathlon officially became a winter Olympic sport in 1955.
Biathlon begins with athletes skiing a loop, usually between 3 to 5 kilometers in length, until they arrive at a shooting range. Athletes have five bullets to shoot five targets at the range, either prone or standing, with a .22 caliber rifle. Following the shooting, athletes ski an additional 150 kilometer penalty lap for each target that they missed. After completing the penalty laps, competitors return to the loop and repeat the ski and shooting cycle three to four times, depending on the event type, before skiing a final loop to the finish line.
“There’s a lot of action from the penalty loop to the range,” said Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel & Wheel in West Yellowstone. “The precision is really neat for people to watch. Athletes have to slow their breath when they come into the range to be able to shoot, and there’s always the wind factor as well.”
The combination of skiing and shooting can level the playing field between strong skiers and precision marksmen. A fast skier can quickly lose ground to slower competitors if they miss targets and have to ski multiple penalty loops. Likewise, an excellent marksman may struggle to keep pace with poorer shooters who are stronger skiers. The variation among individual strengths across the course can make biathlon exciting and unpredictable for athletes and spectators alike.
When can I check out biathlon?
West Yellowstone hosts several biathlon cups during the winter season. The following dates reflect the 2016-2017 winter season:
- December —Biathlon Cup #1
- January —Biathlon Cup #2
- February —Biathlon Cup #3
In February, the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation, in conjunction with Freeheel & Wheel and Altius Handcrafted Firearms, host a Free Ski and Try Biathlon Day. Visitors can take advantage of free 2-hour equipment rentals and a free 1-hour ski lesson courtesy of Freewheel & Wheel. In addition, those interested in learning how to shoot can take part in a free demo courtesy of Altius Handcrafted Firearms. After learning the basics, visitors can ski the Rendezvous Trails, West Yellowstone’s premier trail system, free of charge for the full day.
Not into skiing? Don’t like winter? Not a problem! Each July, visitors can take part in the summer biathlon, which combines mountain biking with rifle shooting.
How can I get involved?
Visitors are welcome to watch an event, or volunteer to get an even closer look at the action.
“The best opportunity to try biathlon is on our event days or on our try it biathlon day,” said Marc Sheppard, owner of Altius Handcrafted Firearms. “We welcome novices at any event, so you don’t need to be experienced.”
Ski lessons and gear are available at Freewheel & Wheel, West Yellowstone’s local ski shop. Visitors can rent gear for $25 to $30 a day or $10 an hour. Group lessons range from $35 to $40 an hour and private lessons are available for $50 an hour. For those interested in the summer biathlon, the store offers mountain bike rentals for $35 to $40 a day or $10 an hour.
Biathlon shooting lessons are available through Altius Handcrafted Firearms, West Yellowstone’s local rifle supply and the world’s only biathlon specialty shop. Visitors can set up a 2-hour private lesson on the range or take part in the Summer Shooting Camp in August.
Whether you are an accomplished athlete, a novice, or a spectator, West Yellowstone offers a variety of opportunities to experience biathlon. For summer and winter visitors alike, biathlon makes an exciting addition to your next West Yellowstone adventure.
Author: Caitlin Styrsky
Crust Cruising: A euphoric phenomena allowing Nordic skate skiers to travel over large open areas. Determined solely by Mother Nature.
Periodically throughout the spring, ideal crust cruising conditions present themselves. To the experienced skier, it is an addiction. The uninitiated question the daybreak departure, but soon are enlightened. Follow these rules and hope to find yourself at the right place, at the right time.
- Locate suitable terrain. Look for wide open areas with lots of sun exposure. Around West Yellowstone, Montana popular crust cruising spots include Hebgen Lake, Big Horn Pass, Fawn Pass, and the meadows near the Rendezvous Ski Trails.
- Wait for a window of perfect weather. Warm spring days with little to no snowfall are a great start. It needs to be warm enough to slightly melt the top layer of snow. The thermometer must drop below freezing overnight. Get up early and be rewarded. Skate skiers can literally ski anywhere by staying on top of the hard crust that has formed. After spending a season confined to groomed trails, skiers will soar across the surface in all directions. Keep your eyes open for once in a lifetime views of wildlife and tracks. Look for birds, bears, otters, wolves, coyotes, bison, Sandhill cranes, and trumpeter swans that show off in the spring.
- Know when to quit. The caveat of crust cruising is the end time. Get off the snow before it softens up, or post-hole all the way home.
Crust cruising is almost impossible to predict. Watch the weather, consult your favorite Nordic shop, and get a good night’s sleep. One perfect morning sailing over hills and flying through miles of terrain will keep the storage wax away.
For the latest on crust cruising conditions around West Yellowstone, call the folks at Freeheel and Wheel, 406-646-7744.
Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel in Yellowstone National Park
In the year 1826 in Barren County, Kentucky John F. Yancey was born. At that time no one realized that he would one day have an impact on Yellowstone National Park. Yancey was the 6th of ten children in the Yancey family. When he was a young boy his parents moved the family to Missouri where Yancey grew up.
It is believed that he participated in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy. In the 1870’s he turned up in the newly created Yellowstone National Park. He was a prospector here in the area of the Crevice Creek gold strike on the northern boundary of the park.
Evidently he did well in his gold mining endeavor as he made enough that in 1882 he set up a way station on the Gardiner to Cooke City road inside the park. The location was just north of the Tower-Roosevelt junction on the Yellowstone River Trail.
It was the then park superintendent, Patrick Conger who gave Yancey verbal permission to build a cabin in Pleasant Valley. The route thru Pleasant Valley was the only way in and out of the Cooke City mining camps during the winter months. In April of 1884 the Department of the Interior granted Yancey a 10-acre lease to establish a hotel.
This hotel consisted of a 1 ½ story log cabin measuring 30’ x 50’ and had 5 rooms and was named Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel. The hotel could supposedly accommodate 20 guests in the upstairs bedrooms. Sometime later a saloon was built near the hotel for the use of the guests. The rooms were $2.00 a day or $10.00 a week – meals included. In doing some research in Wikipedia I found the following that was written by a hotel guest in 1901.
“We asked to be shown to our rooms. A pink checked little maid leads the way up a stairway of creaking, rough boards and when we reach the top announces that the lady and her husband, meaning me and my daughter, can take Room No. 1. The little hallway in which we are standing is formed by undressed boards and the doors leading from it have large numbers marked upon them in chalk from one to five. Inspections of the bedrooms prove them to be large enough for a single bedstead with a box on which are washbowl, pitcher and part of a crash towel. Of the four window lights, at least one was broken in each room. The cracks in the wall are pasted up with strips of newspaper. No. 1, being the bridal chamber, was distinguished from the others by a four x six looking glass. The beds showed they were changed at least twice, once in the spring and once in the fall of the year. A little bribe on the side and a promise to keep the act of criminality a secret from Uncle John induces the maid to provide us with clean sheets”
by Carl E. Schmidt, A Western Trip, 1910
Yet another description of a stay at this hotel can be found in Geyser Bob’s Yellowstone Park History Service and reads as follows:
Yellowstone Travel Account by Mary Caldwell Ludwig, describing the park and her stay at Yancey’s Hotel in Pleasant Valley in September of 1896.
The Pittsburg Press, May 30, 1987
In The Yellowstone – Beauties of a Trip There in the Autumn
A Hotel Quite Primeval
On the 8th of last September we left the Grand Canyon Hotel to make an equestrian trip to the Mammoth Hot springs via “Yancey’s” following for the most part the survey of the intended new road, which when complete, will open to the traveling public scenes varying greatly from any along the present route….
We stopped at Yancey’s for the night. It may interest our friends to know something of Yancey and Yancey’s. John Yancey, familiarly known as Uncle John has for years held a lease of some land in the valley of Lost Creek, at the foot of Crescent Hill. He is n odd character, whose looks encourage a belief in reincarnation, so forcibly does he remind us of the prehistoric. His hotel, too, belongs to the primeval; its walls are of log; its partitions and ceilings of cheesecloth. The bedrooms each contain a bed, washbowl, pitcher, a wooden box for a nightstand, one chair and carpet. The choicest two of the rooms revel in the luxury of a mirror, one mirror being about 4 x 6 inches and the other 8×10 inches. When a guest is ready to retire he is furnished with a candle, which casts it subdued light over his 6×8 front room. When there are sheets enough to go around, he sleeps in a clean bed, but if the tourists occupy half a dozen rooms somebody will – but we draw the curtain over unpleasant memories. Uncle John’s housekeeper, who also performs the duties of cook and chambermaid, confidentially informed one of our party that it was hard to find time to wash so many clothes every day. Poor woman, she probably knew what she was talking about.
If you are fortunate enough to arrive when the proprietor has not been too “busy” to milk the cows you will have milk to drink and cream for your coffee; you will dine on potatoes, fresh fish or whatever other food a kind providence has allowed to come to the dwelling. On this visit we were treated to fresh beef, cabbage and black currant jam.
The local folks referred him to as “Uncle John” and in 1903 he attended the dedication of the Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner. He became ill shortly after and died on May 7 at the age of 77. He is buried in Gardiner cemetery on Tinker’s Hill.
His nephew, Dan took over the business and on April 16, 1906 fire destroyed the hotel. Dan applied for permission to continue the business but requested to move it to a location closer to where a new road was being constructed. Unfortunately, permission was denied and the original lease was revoked that November. The saloon, which had escaped the fire that destroyed the hotel, was razed in the 1960’s.
Currently this area is being used by Xanterra Parks and Resorts for their stagecoach cookouts.
AUTHOR: SUE KNAPP
Avalanche Awareness Tips
With heavy snow in our area, avalanches are a possibility throughout the winter season. If you love winter recreation in West Yellowstone, taking a few simple precautions before you venture out can mean the difference between life and death.
Doug Chabot, Director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, says that groomed snowmobile and ski areas in town are safe, but once you venture off of these trails you may end up in avalanche-prone terrain. “Avalanche terrain is any steep, open slope with snow on it,” Chabot explains, “and there’s a lot of these around!”
So how can you be as safe as possible when riding, skiing, or even snowshoeing in our beautiful backcountry areas? Chabot provided some key tips:
- Check the avalanche report. This report can be found at http://www.mtavalanche.com/advisory and is updated frequently as weather changes. Many things can influence the potential for avalanches, including snowfall and temperature
- Hire a Guide. There is a selection of companies in the area that can not only rent out equipment, but can also offer guide service. Contact the West Yellowstone Chamber for information: (406)646-7701.
- Take an Avalanche Safety class. These classes can provide a wealth of information. If you plan on frequent winter backcountry trips, or just want to put your mind at ease for a specific trip, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has the class for you. They offer a FREE 1-hour Avalanche Awareness course, as well as more in-depth workshops complete with field components. You can find more information on upcoming classes and registration here.
- Always travel with a partner. If one of you does get injured or caught in an avalanche, having a partner can greatly increase your chances of survival. They will be able to help you on the spot or go get help, and you could do the same for them in the event of an emergency.
Whether you take a class/hire a guide or not, you and your partner(s) should always carry some crucial pieces of equipment, including:
- An avalanche transceiver. Each person in the party should carry a transceiver, so if one or more members of the group becomes separated the pulsed radio signal can assist in locating them. For more information on how transceivers work and how to to choose a transceiver, see this article from REI.
- A shovel. There are lightweight foldable and collapsible shovels designed specifically to be carried on or in a backpack for backcountry use.
- A probe. This is a long folding pole that looks similar to a tent pole. Once it assembled, it can be used, often in conjunction with an avalanche transceiver, tohelp locate a person that is buried under snow.
This equipment will help facilitate rescue if you or someone you’re skiing or riding with do become buried in an avalanche. All of the items above can be found at many outdoors stores as well as online at popular retailers such as amazon.
We encourage everyone to get out and enjoy our beautiful forests and mountains as much as possible, but always be sure to travel safe so you can venture out again and again.
Special thanks to Doug Chabot and the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center for the information they shared for this article and for their continuous work on avalanche awareness.
AUTHOR: MONIKA ROGERS
Snowmobiling is a fun and family-oriented activity.
A vast amount of National Forest land is open for winter travel. In some areas those traveling by skis, snowshoes, dog sled teams and snowmobiles must share the same routes and areas. Common sense and courtesy will provide a safe and pleasant experience for everyone.
Be respectful of the Trail Groomers
The groomers run between dusk and dawn. Because the trail grooming is a State of Montana program (which owns and insures many of the machines), there are requirements set forth that the drivers must abide by. These rules and regulations are put in place for the safety of all parties involved. What to know when you encounter a groomer on the trails:
- The drivers are not allowed to move over. They are required to stop and let traffic pass, therefore you (the user) must go around the groomer.
- The drivers are not allowed to pull public vehicles out of the snow – if you drive on the groomed trails and get stuck, you must call local authorities to be towed.
- If, by some chance, you have an accident or come in contact with the groomer or the attached equipment, you must remain at the scene while the driver calls in to dispatch and fills out a report.
Represent the sport well
- Be a savvy sports enthusiast. Recognize that people judge all snowmobile owners by your actions.
- Use your influence with other snowmobile owners to promote good conduct.
- Promote proper snowmobile education and training.
Care for the environment
- Do not litter trails or camping areas. Do not pollute lakes or streams.
- Snowmobile only when there is sufficient snow so you will not damage the land.
- Do not damage living trees, shrubs, or other natural features.
- Do not harass wildlife. Avoid areas posted for the protection or feeding of wildlife.
Be considerate of others
- Respect other people’s property and rights.
- Do not interfere with hikers, skiers, snowshoers, ice fishermen, or other winter sports enthusiasts. Operate at minimum speeds near other recreationists and do not accelerate until well beyond those on foot. Stop and yield the trail to dogsleds. Skiers and snowshoers should yield the track to oncoming and overtaking snowmobilers, unless the track is wide enough for safe passage.
- Lend a helping hand when you see someone in need.
- Make yourself and your vehicle available to assist search and rescue parties.
All winter recreationists should be aware that they have an impact on wintering wild animals, most notably that disturbing or displacing them causes them to burn more energy. Minimize your impact on wintering animals by following these guidelines:
- Avoid winter range whenever possible.
- Do not linger in the presence of animals, move along in a steady, deliberate fashion.
- It is unlawful to chase, harass, herd, or rally wild animals.
- Keep your machine in well-tuned condition to minimize noise and pollution.
- Avoid areas designated as “closed” for wildlife protection.
Snowmobiling is a fun and exciting sport the whole family can enjoy. However, winter offers certain challenges that require snowmobilers to take precautions.
- Ride smart, be prepared, and stay in control.
- Check ice and weather conditions before riding. Dress appropriately.
- Practice Zero Tolerance with respect to impaired riding.
- Never travel alone. Let others know where you are going.
Perform a pre-ride inspection
The performance of a pre-ride inspection is paramount to a safe, stress-free ride. Most equipment failures can be avoided by periodic maintenance and inspection. [Learn more]
Safety on ice: know the rules
The safest snowmobiling rule is never to cross lakes or rivers. Besides the danger of plunging through the ice, you have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice than on snow.
Collisions on lakes account for a significant number of accidents. Don’t hold the attitude that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction, without boundaries, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.
If you do snowmobile on the ice, make absolutely sure the ice is safely frozen. Don’t trust the judgment of other snowmobilers. You are responsible for your own safety. Drowning is a leading cause of snowmobile fatalities. Know what to do if you go through the ice. [Learn more]
Be Avalanche Aware
Learn to recognize avalanche areas and avoid them. Carry avalanche rescue equipment including a transceiver, probe pole and shovel, and know how to use them. Review the local avalanche advisory when available.
It is your responsibility to know and follow established rules and regulations. The following is a summary of those rules, but you should also review additional information available from your county treasurer’s office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, U.S. Forest Service offices and ranger stations, and other state and county government sources. (Montana Snowmobiling Handbook)
General Snowmobiling Laws
MCA 23-2-6 defines the rules for operating a snowmobile in Montana.
- Operation at night — When operating during the hours between dusk and dawn a snowmobile must use a lighted headlight and taillight.
- Accidents — The owner or operator of a snowmobile that is involved in any accident, collision, or upset in which personal injury or fatality occurs to any person shall report the accident to the nearest law enforcement agency immediately.
- Firearms — A person may not discharge a firearm from or upon a snowmobile.
Laws for Road Riding
MCA 23-2-631 states that snowmobiles may operate on maintained streets, roads, or highways only if:
- the roadway is drifted or covered by snow to such an extent that travel is impossible by other motor vehicles;
- the local government allows snowmobiles to travel on plowed roads with wheeled vehicles;
- the snowmobile operator possesses a motor vehicle driver’s license or a snowmobile safety certificate and travels under the visual supervision of an adult.
Resident Trail Pass – NEW
As of October 1, 2015 residents are required purchase a trail pass to ride on any of the 4000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Trail Passes are valid for three seasons and are $18. Trail Passes apply to all “mechanized equipment” including; snowmobiles, motorized snow bikes, and fat tire pedal bikes.
- 2015 Resident Trail Pass FAQs ( 375 KB)
We ask that anyone using groomed snowmobile trails for recreation—please contribute and purchase the Trail Pass. The revenues go directly to grooming the trails.
The Montana Snowmobile Program provides grant funding to support snowmobile trail grooming and education so enthusiasts can ride safely in Montana. Montana State Parks administers the snowmobile program and its 4,000 miles of trails.
Nonresidents who plan to ride their snowmobiles and motorized snow bikes in Montana must purchase a Snowmobile Nonresident Temporary Use Permit for $25 per machine
Source: Montana State Parks
Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park’s backcountry is ILLEGAL
The use of snowmobiles in the backcountry, on trails and off road in Yellowstone is, and has always been, prohibited. Violators face a fine of up to $5,000 per operator and up to six months in jail as well as forfeiture of their snowmobiles. They can also be responsible to pay restitution for damages to natural resources.
- The boundary of Yellowstone is patrolled by both snowmobile and aircraft, and the regulations are strictly enforced.
- It is YOUR responsibility to know where the park boundary is.
- Yellowstone boundary markers and signs are not always visible. Don’t rely on signage only or tracks made by other groups.
For more information and maps:
- Yellowstone National Park: 307-344-7381, www.nps.gov/yell
- West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce: 406-646-7701
- Gallatin National Forest/Hebgen Basin District: 406-823-6961
As soon as the snow arrives, visitors to West Yellowstone can enjoy Nordic skiing as a part of the complete winter experience. Beginners and experienced skiers alike can explore more than 50km of groomed trails in and around West Yellowstone from November to April each year, weather permitting.
Below, we break down the basics to help you get started with Nordic skiing on your next West Yellowstone adventure.
Why should I choose Nordic skiing?
Nordic skiing is a winter activity suitable for visitors of all ages and fitness levels. West Yellowstone offers easily accessible trails for both classic and skate skiing. Kelli Hart, co-owner of Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone, recommends that beginners try classic skiing first.
“Basically, if you can walk, you can classic ski,” said Hart.
Classic skiing incorporates a diagonal stride, an alternating forward motion of the legs and arms similar to walking or running. The familiarity of the stride can make classic skiing a more manageable method for beginners. It can also be a more stable option for newcomers who struggle with balance. In addition to working out the entire body, classic skiing is a low-impact activity that is easy on the joints.
Skate skiing incorporates a forward skating motion with the skis in a V-shape, which can be more challenging or tiring for beginners unaccustomed to the altitude. If skate skiing looks more fun, visitors are welcome to take a lesson or rent the gear and try it out on their own.
Where can I ski?
The accessibility of Nordic skiing in West Yellowstone makes it an appealing winter activity for visitors, especially for those with limited transportation options. Freeheel and Wheel, the local ski shop offering gear, rentals, and lessons, is walkable from any of the hotels in town. From there, its only a short trek to three beginner-friendly trails.
- Boundary Trail (Free): Dogs are welcome on this trail! Visitors can access the trailhead at the end of Boundary Street on the northern edge of West Yellowstone. The trail runs along the boundary of Yellowstone National Park toward Baker’s Hole campground. It is groomed for classic skiing on a need-to basis, usually once or twice a week.
- Riverside Trail (Free): This trail enters Yellowstone National Park from Boundary Street and offers skiers stunning views of the Madison River and Gallatin Mountain Range. Visitors might even catch a glimpse of the elk, bison, or moose that frequent the area. The Riverside Trail is also groomed for classic skiing as needed.
- Rendezvous Ski Trails ($8/day or $40/season): The Rendezvous Ski Trails make up West Yellowstone’s premier trail system. The trail system includes 40km of trails groomed daily for classic and skate skiing. The relatively flat terrain allows beginners to gain confidence while the gentle hills offer entertaining challenges. Visitors can purchase a day pass for $8 or a season pass for $40.
Additional trails can be found in Yellowstone National Park and north of town along Highway 191. Whether enjoying a leisurely ski or a challenging workout, beginners will be surrounded by spectacular winter scenery—regardless of the trail.
“What I like about our trail system, whether its the Rendezvous or another, is that you feel like it’s your own,” said Moira Dow of the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation. “There are so many kilometers and—just the way the trails are laid out—you feel like you have your own personal trail system.”
What will I need?
Beginners don’t need to worry about purchasing expensive equipment to take part in Nordic skiing. Freeheel and Wheel offers gear rentals (including skis, boots, and poles) for $10 an hour or $25 a day. The shop also offers private and group lessons for both classic and skate skiing ranging from $35 to $50 an hour.
“The easiest way to get started is to take a lesson,” recommended Dow. “Nordic skiing can be intimidating, but don’t be scared.”
What should I wear?
Since Nordic skiing is a full-body experience, beginners can become overheated if they overdress and work up a sweat.
“If you’re slightly cold when you start, that means you’re going to be just right,” said Hart.
Hart recommends that beginners layer like an onion—incorporating breathable wicking materials, base layers, and light shells. Wool socks, gloves, hats, and neck gaiters can also help skiers stay warm, but avoid overheating.
What if I fall?
Visitors new to Nordic skiing occasionally express concern about recovering from a fall and opt for snow shoes instead. Though it can initially be difficult for a beginner to return upright after falling on skis, Hart urges newcomers not to be intimidated.
“People do feel like they may have more control on snow shoes, but I’m always surprised at how we can usually talk people into skiing instead.”
The gentle glide and pace of Nordic skis impart an added level of enjoyment to an outdoor winter excursion. Beginners eager to explore the area may also be able to cover more distance on skis versus snow shoes.
West Yellowstone offers a number of Nordic ski events throughout the winter season. Beginners can take advantage of ski clinics and novice races during the following events to build their skill sets and gain confidence on the trails.
- Yellowstone Ski Festival (Week of Thanksgiving): Each November, the Yellowstone Ski Festival offers clinics and races for skiers of all levels. Beginners can participate in novice events, volunteer, and draw inspiration from the elite athletes and world-class racing.
- Free Ski Day: (January 8, 2017): Visit West Yellowstone in January to take advantage of Free Ski Day. Participants can ski the Rendezvous Trails for free and take part in a free, one-hour lesson for classic or skate skiing. Freeheel and Wheel also offers free gear rentals on a first come, first served basis.
- Taste of the Trails (February 25, 2017): This supported 5K race is open to skiers of all levels and offers four food and drink stations en route. Beginners have the opportunity to ski the Rendezvous Trails at their own pace and enjoy delicious fare along the way.
Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, West Yellowstone is a Nordic skier’s wonderland. Beginners can plan their trip around a particular event, schedule a lesson, or simply try it out on their own. With endless trails and beautiful scenery, Nordic skiing can be the perfect addition to your winter West Yellowstone adventure.
AUTHOR: CAITLIN STYRSKY
By Amy Freed
There are many things that come to mind when you hear the word “winter” – chillier temperatures, warm drinks, and cozying up next to a fireplace. Winter can be very fierce at times, and yet gentle with fluffy, cotton-like snowflakes that you can catch on your tongue.
Winter is all about making the most out of each day. One of the best ways to make the most out of your winter days is to take a snowshoe walk on nearby trails in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Snowshoeing is a great activity for the whole family, or just to enjoy some bonding time in nature with your canine companion. When you go snowshoeing, you can take time to really enjoy your surroundings and go at your own pace. One of the most scenic local trails is Refuge Point. It’s an easy to moderate 2.3 mile loop along the Madison River.
Refuge Point History
Refuge Point gets its name from the 1959 earthquake. There was a landslide at the Madison River Canyon that caused people to go up to the ridge, which is the trail’s namesake. From here, they were rescued by US Forest Service Smokejumpers.
When snowshoeing along the trail, you can read more about the 1959 earthquake and stop by the Visitor Center, which is conveniently located right down the road from the Refuge Point trailhead. (The visitor center is open daily May-Sept.)
From West Yellowstone, head north on US Highway 191 for 10 miles. Turn west on US HWY 287 and keep going for 13 more miles. The trailhead is clearly marked as Refuge Point.
What to Expect
You can expect pure beauty! The trees are covered with snow, mountains surround you in every direction, and you can even spot the Madison River. This river is notoriously known for its wonderful fly fishing around June and July, but also provides spectacular views in the winter months.
Be prepared to climb over some snow piles at the start of the trail. This un-groomed trail is very well marked with blue diamond symbols displayed along the route. There are gentle rolling hills for the first half, which makes it easy for beginner-level snowshoers. If you go off of the snow-packed trail, expect to come upon very deep snow that you could fall through up to your hip (or if you are a dog completely over your head like the dog pictured, Seeley.)
The second half of the trail is a bit hillier and has a larger climb at the end to get back to the parking lot, so be sure to save up some energy to climb the last hill. You should expect to take about two hours to complete the trail.
One of the most important things to remember is to dress like it is 10 degrees warmer outside than what it actually is. This will help you from getting overheated and sweating, which can be dangerous in colder temperatures. Here’s what you will need for gear:
- Snow pants
- Light puffy jacket
- Non-cotton base layers
You want to wear something that will be wicking,
- Light mittens
- Waterproof snow boots
- Snowshoes and poles
This trail does not require very aggressive snowshoes, but proper fit is very important. For this particular trail you would want Hiking/Recreational snowshoes with tubular framing, but flat stock frames would work as well. When measuring place the snowshoe heel on the floor and stand it against your calf. The toe portion should hit your knee or right below it.
Freeheel and Wheel in West Yellowstone can rent out the proper gear for your snowshoe hike and help supply any winter gear you may have forgotten at home.
If you have a furry friend accompanying you on your hike you must pay attention to the breed of your dog and do some research to make sure your pet stays safe and warm. The Seeley is a short-haired mixed breed and weighs about 50 pounds. This is what Seeley wore on her snowshoeing adventure:
- Ruffwear Powder Hybrid jacket
- Ruffwear Front Range Harness
- Musher Booties with vet wrap
She does not have much fur on her pads so to keep them from cracking and getting ice in them she wears booties with vet wrap around the velcro up to her carpal pad to keep it from slipping off when she would dive into deep snow.
Doggy Den Pet Supply in West Yellowstone has all of this gear to make sure your dog is well taken care of for winter activities.
When you are going on your adventure be sure to take a small backpack packed with plenty of food and water for humans and dogs alike, and any emergency first aid supplies to be prepared for an emergency. Another item to bring in the beginning and towards the end of the winter months is bear spray just in case some stubborn bears decide to be awake when there is snow.
With wonderful views of mountains, the river and snow-covered trees along with plenty of new history facts to learn, Refuge Point is one of the most beautiful snowshoe hikes around the West Yellowstone area. Winter is about making the most out of the short days, so go out and enjoy the snow with your human and four-legged friends.
Courtesy of West Yellowstone TBID
Sitting at the west entrance to the park, the charming and authentic community of West Yellowstone has truly earned its designation as one of the “11 Coolest Winter Places in America” (Budget Travel). The new year means new snow; with 150 inches of annual snowfall, there is more than enough for everything from snowball fights to backcountry excursions.
Winter in Yellowstone National Park is truly magical. Whether you travel through the park in a heated snowcoach, ride a snowmobile along a groomed trail, or go Nordic skiing through the forest —– you will be surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Shouldn’t 2017 be the year you take a winter vacation to Yellowstone? Start planning now to make sure you experience one of these upcoming events.
January 7, 2017: Spam Cup #2 Nordic Ski Race
Skiers of all ages and abilities are invited to compete in Freestyle 1k, 5k, or 10k races for the coveted custom-designed Spam trophy and bragging rights for a month! Taking place along the Rendezvous Ski Trails, day-of registration will be available at the Rendezvous Trailhead Building.
January 8, 2017: Free Ski & Try Biathlon Day
In honor of National Winter Trails Day, the Custer Gallatin National Forest will waive trail fees on the Rendezvous Trail System on January 8. WYSEF will be hosting free 1-hour cross-country ski tutorials at 10am. Freeheel & Wheel is offering free 2-hour equipment rentals. Altius Custom Firearms and WYSEF are hosting the Try-It Biathlon Demo at 12pm. Learn what it takes to ski & shoot! Pre-registration is not required.
January 8 & February 26, 2017: Biathlon Cup – Nordic Ski
A biathlon is a race in which contestants ski around a cross-country trail system with the total distance broken up by either two or four shooting rounds, half in prone position and the other half standing. All cross-country skiing techniques are permitted, and the biathlete carries the smallbore rifle. Novices are welcome and must attend the Novice Clinic.
January 13-15, 2017: NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament Qualifier
The qualifier – an ice fishing tournament – takes place on Sunday and is open to any two-person team. Teams range from locals to national level pros to teams just wanting to learn more about ice fishing. There is a registration fee for the tournament. Top teams earn prizes and cash payouts. The tournament is located on Hebgen Lake just outside of West Yellowstone. Kirkwood Resort & Marina is the location for the tournament starting point and Kid’s Ice Fishing Camp. Throughout the two days preceding the tournament, there are many educational opportunities which are free and open to the public.
January 14-15; Feb & March 4-5, 2017: Kids’N’Snow Weekend
Kids can try out a wide range of fun winter activities during these special weekends, like ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and much more. Kids’N’Snow takes the fear out of first-ever winter experiences, and people young and old can discover the true delight of winter activities.
January 14, 2017: Kids’ Ice Fishing Camp – West Yellowstone Hebgen Lake Ice Fishing Tournament
Ice Camp is a popular youth education program that is open to the public and free of charge. It includes in-class and on-ice fishing tutorials delivered by experienced, certified NAIFC Pro-Staff instructors. The curriculum promotes safety, conservation, and environmental stewardship. Two groups will begin at 11am and 11:45am, and all kids who participate will receive a complimentary ice rod and tackle.
February 25, 2017: Taste of the Trails
Taste of the Trails is designed to encourage skiers of all ages and abilities to try cross-country skiing in a simple and festive format. A 5km (3.1 mile) course will take skiers and snowshoers around the Rendezvous Ski Trails. Four feed stations are staffed by volunteers and will offer snacks and beverages to participating skiers. Skiers can casually stride from spot to spot, revel in the winter landscapes, refuel with friends, and explore the trails in a relaxed, non-competitive atmosphere.
March 4, 2017: Rendezvous Ski Race – Big Hair Band Theme
Are you ready to put a winter’s worth of training to the test while you enjoy the beauty of the Yellowstone region? You are invited to participate in the 38th annual Yellowstone Rendezvous Race on March 4th, 2017 in West Yellowstone, Montana. There are six different races to choose from depending on your age and ability: 2K, 5K, 10K, 25K classic, 25K, and 50K. The six races are run concurrently and skiers of all ages and abilities participate every year. The Rendezvous Race is the culmination of cross country ski racing in our region and, as the name implies, it is a reunion of old timers and new comers alike who have trained and skied on our trail system for years or who are skiing here for the first time. Run on the beautifully groomed, rolling terrain of the Rendezvous Ski Trails, there is no better way to celebrate the end of the winter season than to ski in the Yellowstone Rendezvous Race!
March 10-12, 2017: Snowmobile EXPO, Powersports & Races
A terrific end and beginning for snowmobilers! The West Yellowstone Snowmobile EXPO March 10-12, 2017, will feature snowmobile races Friday and Saturday, plus the National Vintage Show. Exhibitors will be on hand with the newest machines and accessories, as well as demos. Snow bike racing returns on Sunday morning. Powersports joins the show with exciting events including the family-friendly SWOOP stunt team, Trials bikes performances, and we are excited to announce the only Razr flip performance in Montana by a rider from Butte! Saturday night will bring the high flying action along with UTV races. Nighttime activities include a “Funny-Money” Casino night, live entertainment and plenty of laughs. Plan now to attend!
March 17 & 18, 2017: Tour de Spam – Montana’s only Cross Country stage race AND night race
Friday night ski by moonlight, lantern light, and headlamps in the 3k Freestyle Sprint. Saturday morning is the 7.5k Classic Mass Start race. Stick around for the afternoon and test your legs in the 15k Freestyle Mass Start. Sign up for just one race or the whole series of low key, but challenging races. Prizes will be awarded to those who stick it out and race both days, and winners of all 3 races (top 3 male and female overall finishers).
West Yellowstone is the ideal hub for all your Yellowstone National Park adventures and offers a full range of lodging options from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large full-service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience winter in Yellowstone. Book your lodging now for the best selection and availability.
Flowers and trees blooming, bears venturing down from higher elevations, the bison “nursery” in full swing, longer days, and sunny afternoons that transpose to beautiful sunsets—- that is spring in West Yellowstone, Montana.
Spring travel to Yellowstone National Park offers visitors a unique and memorable experience and West Yellowstone is the perfect hub for all your adventures. Plan now so you don’t miss out on the unique adventures listed below.
- The heart of fly fishing in the Rocky Mountains, West Yellowstone is surrounded by some of the country’s top trout streams and some of the best float and deep water trout fishing on nearby Hebgen and Earthquake Lakes.
- Cycle-Only Days in Yellowstone National Park. The roads between the West Entrance at West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs will open as conditions allow from late March (generally the last Friday in March) through the third Thursday in April, depending on weather. The West gate does not start charging entrance fees until it re-opens for vehicle travel.
- Yellowstone Historic Center opens in mid-May. The Yellowstone Historic Center Museum, located in the Union Pacific Depot in West Yellowstone’s Historic District, aims to share the unique story of travel to and through Yellowstone National Park. The museum features exhibits on travel from the stage coach era, through the railroad heyday to the advent of the automobile and beyond, as well as exhibits on the heritage of the West Yellowstone area.
- The Earthquake Lake Visitor Center opens on Memorial Day and provides a panoramic view of the mountain that fell during an earthquake in 1959 and the resulting lake that was formed.
Other activities include scenic drives, wildlife watching and birding, hiking and much more. Sample itineraries are available here.
West Yellowstone offers a full range of lodging options, from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large, full- service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience spring and summer in Yellowstone. Book your lodging now for the best selection and availability.
West Yellowstone, MT January 14-15, 2017
On Saturday, January 14th, kids will have the unique opportunity to learn to ice fish for free! The ice fishing pros and equipment manufacturers will be in West Yellowstone that weekend for a NAIFC tournament. As part of the tournament, NAIFC (National Association of Ice Fishing) offers a special Ice Camp for kids and their parents.
Ice Camp is a popular industry-leading youth education program that is open to the public and free of charge. There will be two different starting times. The first group begins at 11:00 AM with classroom instruction and demonstration of ice fishing equipment, techniques, as well as safety, conservation, and environmental stewardship. Then everyone heads out onto the ice for fishing tutorials delivered by experienced, certified NAIFC Pro-Staff instructors. A second group will start in the classroom at 11:45, followed by the on-ice experience. A hot lunch will be served after on-ice demo’s and practice, between 12:30-1:30. Before leaving, all kids who participate will receive a complimentary ice rod and tackle. Make sure to dress warmly including waterproof footwear for this outside event.
Kirkwood Marina is located on Hebgen Lake, 18 miles from the junctions of Highways 101 and 287 north of West Yellowstone. For directions, call 406-646-7200 or go to westyellowstoneicefishing.com/directions
Winters in West Yellowstone are always exciting, but now fun with the family means even more activities during the Kids’N’Snow Weekends. Most activities during these weekends are free, although some have limited openings and require pre-registration to secure a spot.
In its fifth full year, the winter event series was created to offer an opportunity for all kids, both from our community and winter visitors, the chance to try new things in a safe and fun hands-on learning environment. And hopefully to develop lifelong healthy habits along the way.
So, what kind of activities can your child try, you ask? How about a snowshoe hike along the Riverside Trail in Yellowstone National Park with a Ranger? Or join a naturalist from the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center for a free presentation with live raptors (birds, not the dinosaurs!). Children can also find animal tracks, ride an M120 snowmobile, dissect owl pellets, or make a s’more over an open fire.
For more information, the complete schedule and registration, please go to www.kidsnsnow.org.
Courtesy of Carolyn L Fox, carolynfoxphotos.com
Photography isn’t just snapping pictures of beautiful scenes, loved ones, or animals. It’s preserving memories of things you treasure. Through photography you can bring a person from their spot in the world to yours. You can show them things they’ll never see and open worlds to them that they’ll never experience. They can stand with you among the geological wonders of Yellowstone or watch as a grizzly bear nurses her cubs. That’s how powerful a photograph can be if the subject is captured correctly.
Great photographs are not necessarily the result of having the best equipment in the world. It’s how you use what you have. Anyone can take an incredible photograph by following some basic principles.
One thing that is absolutely crucial is knowing how to use your camera correctly, whether it’s an iPhone or an expensive camera. The time to figure that out is before you get to your destination, not when you’re trying to get that once in a lifetime photograph. Read your manual, take some practice shots and always check your camera settings before taking a picture. Make sure you’re using the correct shutter speed, aperture, ISO or Mode.
Decide on your subject. What do you want your viewer to see? What’s your story? Every picture should tell a story.
You’ll have a more interesting picture if you compose in thirds, placing your subject to the side of the frame and leaving some space in front of your subject, especially if the subject is a person or an animal. Placing the subject in the center normally creates a more static picture and that’s not what you want. Lines that lead towards your subject will help the viewer see what you want them to see and feel what you felt when you created the picture.
Try to take pictures in the early morning or in the evening when the light is nice instead of in the middle of the day when the sun is bright and the shadows harsh. Don’t put the camera away when it’s foggy. Those days are great for environmental and surreal pictures.
Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough and that you have enough light. Hold your camera steady and use a tripod if possible. Raise your ISO if needed. A little noise is better than a blurry picture. Capture moments!
Think about what story you want to tell, how you want to tell it and what you want the viewer to “see” when they view the image that you’ve created.
Ten Tips for Better Photography
1. Decide on a center of attention
2. Capture moments
3. Compose in thirds
4. Avoid camera shake
5. Check camera settings before taking a picture
6. Check the light source
7. Choose the appropriate aperture, shutter speed and ISO
8. Create a sense of depth
9. Use a simple background
10. Practice, practice, practice
For more helpful information and tips: http://bit.ly/2aggYDD
Any local will tell you that one of their favorite times of the year around West Yellowstone and Yellowstone Park is September and October during the Elk Mating Season (rut). This is when the males are vying for the females’ attention. During this time the herds can be found in the northern range, including Mammoth Hot Springs and along the Madison River.
We can assure you that listening to the sound of their bugle is a unique experience (for some, once in a lifetime). It starts as a low, long moan and grows into several high-pitched grunts. (Video here: http://bit.ly/2bT46Ed). You will often hear several bulls bugling back and forth across the valleys, almost like a synchronized concert. Sometimes the mating ritual will also lead to sparring matches between bulls to establish their dominance of the herds.
Yellowstone provides summer range for an estimated 10,000–20,000 elk, from 6–7 herds, most of which winter at lower elevations outside of the park. Males (bull) weigh about 700 pounds and are about 5 feet high at the shoulder; females (cow) weigh about 500 pounds and are slightly shorter; calves are about 30 pounds at birth. Bulls have antlers, which begin growing in the spring and usually drop in March or April of the next year. Calves are born in May to late June, with spots like their smaller deer cousins.
Local tip: Elk seem docile, but they can move quickly. When threatened they will grunt and posture. If the threat persists they can react with their antlers or by kicking – they have been known to head butt a vehicle or two, leaving dents. Please obey wildlife safety rules by staying at least 25 yards or more from the animals, especially those with young.
For more information about West Yellowstone in the fall: http://bit.ly/1OQ6IlZ
Courtesy of West Yellowstone TBID
West Yellowstone is not only brimming with heart-pumping winter recreation, but also unique entertainment for the entire family. Start your adventure with a sled dog tour, snowmobiling, or snowshoeing through our picturesque corner of Montana. After a day of snow-filled fun, catch a guaranteed sighting of grizzlies and wolves at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Wrap it all up with the monthly Kids’N’Snow event, sure to bring happy smiles to everyone in the family.
This list will make winter in West Yellowstone your favorite season!
7. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK: Experience the park in a whole new way with a guided snowcoach or snowmobile tour to see popular park destinations, like Old Faithful.
6. ICE FISHING: In winter, Hebgen Lake becomes an ice fishing paradise. Visit the local marina to get a fishing report and then head out for a day on the ice. Don’t miss out on the NAIFC Ice Fishing Tournament in January.
5. SLED DOG TOURS: For a truly unique family experience, make this the year you enjoy the thrill of dogsledding! Sled dog tours are available daily with sleds that can handle up to a family of four. Experience the excitement at the Rodeo Run Sled Dog Race min December.
4. SNOWMOBILING: A 400-mile groomed trail system winds through the southern reaches of Montana and into Island Park, Idaho. There are perfect trails for both first-timer and the experienced snowmobiler; groomed trails lead to backcountry adventures.
3. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: West Yellowstone is a cross-country ski mecca with over 20 miles of varied terrain, from gently rolling hills to more challenging climbs, in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Annual events happen throughout the winter season.
2. FAMILY FUN: Kids’N’Snow takes place one weekend each month in West Yellowstone, and offers an assortment of options to introduce families to winter activities including ice skating, sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, and winter learning programs. Saturday night S’mores & Skatin’ & Sleddin’ is everyone’s favorite way to wrap up the day!
1. SEE GRIZZLIES AND WOLVES: The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center gives you guaranteed opportunities to see the animals and offers kid-friendly activities and presentations. December is Christmas for the Critters – donate food for reduced admission and discounts in the gift shop.
For a listing of all West Yellowstone events click here
West Yellowstone offers a full range of lodging options, from personal cabins and family-owned motels to large, full- service properties. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home as you experience the winter wonderland of West Yellowstone and Yellowstone National Park.
Please Come Prepared
Mammoth Hot Springs, WY – At 8 a.m. Thursday, December 15, Yellowstone National Park roads will open to the public for motorized oversnow travel. Winter is here!
Visitors will be able to travel the park’s interior roads on commercially-guided snowmobiles and snowcoaches from the North, West, and South Entrances. Visitors who have proper permits can also participate in the Non-commercially Guided Snowmobile Access Program. Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin December 22.
The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, Montana, is open to wheeled vehicle travel all year.
Are you planning a winter trip to the park? Weather is extremely unpredictable and road closures or delays can occur with little or no warning. Please come prepared. Carry personal emergency survival equipment and dress appropriately for outside activities in extremely cold weather.
Most stores, restaurants, campgrounds, and lodges are closed during winter. The following list highlights when winter visitor services will open:
- December 15 – Old Faithful Visitor Education Center, Geyser Grill, and Bear Den Gift Shop (includes the ski shop)
- December 16 – Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and Obsidian Dining Room
Mammoth Hot Springs
- December 16 – Terrace Grill, Ski Shop
- Open Year-Round – Albright Visitor Center, Yellowstone General Store, 24-hour gasoline pumps, medical clinic, campground, and post office
- Open Year-Round – 24-hour gasoline pumps
Additionally, a series of warming huts throughout the park provide shelter. Some huts are staffed during business hours and food, restrooms, and water is available.
– www.nps.gov/yell –
About the National Park Service: Since 1916, the National Park Service has been entrusted with the care of America’s more than 400 national parks. With the help of volunteers and partners, we safeguard these special places and share their stories millions of people every year. Learn more at www.nps.gov.
*Order by October 31, 2016 for the best rate
Prepaid trail passes will be available for the Yellowstone Ski Festival from Oct. 1-31, 2016. Passes are valid from November 1-30, 2016. Passes can be purchased through the mail or online.
For coaches, clubs, and teams-
Discounted passes for the month of November are available now. Regularly $55 each, these passes can be purchased by college, high school and club coaches for $45 each. Passes must be paid for by check and postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to qualify for the special rate.
To qualify for this incentive, coaches must send the PreSeason Ski Pass Form containing the following information:
1) A complete list of athletes attending the Yellowstone Ski Festival
2) The exact name of the lodging establishment you will be staying in while in West Yellowstone
3) Your arrival date
4) Contact info including email and phone number
5) One check for all your ski passes, postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to:
The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
ATTN: Yellowstone Ski Festival Coordinator
PO Box 458
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Trail passes will be delivered to the front desk of your hotel prior to your arrival. Other options for pick-up are listed on the form. Please read carefully. There will be one package of passes delivered and coaches are responsible for distributing the passes to their teams. Please let your team members know that they will have to get their pass directly from you. Prepaid passes for the Rendezvous Ski Trails are non-refundable.
For individual skiers-
Discounted passes for the month of November are available now. Regularly $55 each, these passes can be purchased by skiers and families for $45 each. Passes must be paid for by check and postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to qualify for this special rate.
To qualify for this incentive, skiers must send the following:
1) A complete list of skiers in your group attending the Yellowstone Ski Festival
2) One check for their ski passes postmarked no later than October 31, 2016 to:
The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce
ATTN: Yellowstone Ski Festival Coordinator
PO Box 458
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
For groups of 5 or more, trail passes will be delivered to your place of lodging, if within the town of West Yellowstone. Passes will be at the lodging facility no later than Sunday, November 20.
All other passes will be available for pick up at one of the designated locations listed on the form. If you will be arriving before these times, please email [email protected] to make arrangements.
Prepaid passes for the Rendezvous Ski Trails are non-refundable.
Passes may be purchased online (for a small processing fee) at http://yellowstoneskifestival.athlete360.com/
For more information on the Yellowstone Ski Festival, please visit www.SkiRunBikeMT.com