Nordic Skiing

Yellowstone National Park

Nordic Skiing:

Yellowstone National Park:

Most of Yellowstone is backcountry and managed as wilderness; many miles of trails are available for skiing. Track is set only on a few trails. All unplowed roads and trails are open to cross country skiing and showshoeing. When skiing on unplowed roadways used by snowmobiles, keep to the right to avoid accidents.

There are dangers inherent in wilderness: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, deep snow, open streams, and rugged mountains with extreme avalanche danger. When you choose to explore Yellowstone, you experience the land on its own terms; there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations, and know the limit of your ability.

Most trails are marked with orange metal markers attached to trees. Few streams have bridges. Parties venturing into the backcountry should carry a USGS topographic map and a compass and know how to use them. Even on a well-marked trail, it is easy to get lost in a "whiteout" or blizzard. Only skiers thoroughly familiar with the area should attempt off-trail travel. When planning your trip, get specific information on conditions from rangers at a ranger station or visitor center.

Park elevations with adequate skiable snow range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet (2133 - 3048 meters.) Skiers and snowshoers who live at lower elevations should take a short day or overnight trip to test their capabilities before attempting longer outings.

A Backcountry Use Permit is required for all overnight ski trips. Contact a park ranger at a ranger station or visitor center before you begin a ski trip-- whether for a few hours or several days. Trip planning should include allowances for limited daylight, snow conditions, temperature extremes, and the number of people in the group, their experience and physical condition. Overnight ski and snowshoe trips during December and January are difficult due to short days, extreme temperatures, and soft snow. Learn as much as you can about winter survival. Talk with park rangers before you leave on any trip.

Choose skis and boots made for touring or mountaineering. Narrow racing skis won't provide enough surface area to break trail. 


West Yellowstone (West Entrance to Yellowstone National Park):

West Yellowstone, Montana is rapidly becoming a favored destination for both recreational and competitive cross country skiers. Long known as the site of the Rendezvous Ski Race (in its 20th year in 1999) and the U.S. Ski and Biathlon Teams Fall Training Camp (started in the late 1970's), West Yellowstone now attracts skiers of all abilities, interests, and nationalities. The West Yellowstone area has something to offer every breed of cross country skier, from perfectly groomed trails to deep back-country powder. Perhaps the best part about skiing in West Yellowstone is the length of the season. Easily accessible snow is virtually guaranteed from Mid-November through mid-April. Many skiers push the season from October through June.

Rendezvous Ski Trails (Groomed Trails)
The Rendezvous Trail System is the heart of skiing in West Yellowstone. It is perhaps the most convenient and certainly the best groomed in the U.S. Within easy walking distance of any location in West Yellowstone, the 40 kilometers of trails start on the south side of Town beneath a dramatic log arch. Consisting of gently rolling terrain as well as technically demanding hills and turns, the trails are ideal for beginners and experienced skiers alike. Professionally groomed on a daily basis from first snow until last, the Rendezvous System offers uninterrupted skiing from November through April (at least) every year. It is no exaggeration to state that these are the finest trails anywhere: Doug Edgerton of Yellowstone Track Systems grooms the Rendezvous Trails and has been selected as Chief of Grooming for the cross country and biathlon trails of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

In addition to their ideal layout and maintenance, the trails of the Rendezvous system are perfectly situated for the high altitude training favored by virtually all of the world’s top skiers and biathletes. The Town of West Yellowstone and the start of the trail system are located at 2020 m (6666 ft) above sea level. Many of the top National Teams in the world are planning to use West Yellowstone as a training site in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Representatives of the Norwegian Olympic Committee have already visited the site and declared it "perfect" for their training and racing needs.

The Master Plan for the further development and improvement of the trails calls for over $25,000/year to be invested over the next 6-8 years. Improvements will include 10-15 kilometers of new trails, new trail-side facilities such as warming huts and toilets, interpretive signs, widening of existing trails, and construction of a stadium/teaching area complex including an improved biathlon facility. The Rendezvous Trails are improved, maintained, and administrated through the joint cooperation of the U.S. Forest Service, the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce, and the West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation.

The Rendezvous ski trails are currently a "Fee Demonstration" area for the U.S. Forest Service. A modest fee is charged for use of the trails December - March. Daily trail passes are $3 and Season Passes are $20 Individual $40 Family/Household. Passes are available at a variety of vendors in West Yellowstone, including USFS, Chamber of Commerce, Free Heel & Wheel, Alpen Guides, and Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop. All fees collected are returned directly to the trail system for grooming, improvements, and administration.

Back Country Opportunities
Although the heart of skiing in West Yellowstone is the Rendezvous Trail System, easily accessible back-country and recreational touring opportunities also abound. Adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and the Gallatin National Forest, West Yellowstone is virtually land-locked by deep powder pistes and relaxing tours through an array of natural wonders, wildlife, and spectacular scenery. The back-country options are bounded only by your imagination and initiative.

Racing and Event Opportunities
Cross country ski racing opportunities abound in West Yellowstone. Beginning with the Fall Camp Sprint in Late November, at least one race per month is available throughout the season. These monthly events are fairly low key and are dubbed the "Spam Cup." Winners receive a can of Spam and the satisfaction of whipping their friends in a local event. Spam Cup races, despite their low-key appeal, often attract a handful of former Olympians as well as talented junior and masters skiers. The first Spam Cup of the ‘98-99 season attracted 83 participants, from age 9-75! These are truly equal opportunity events.

In addition to the Spam Cup, West Yellowstone plays host to the Yellowstone Rendezvous every year. This event is part of the American Marathon Series and regularly attracts more than 600 participants. With distances available from 5 to 50 km, there is something for everyone at the Rendezvous. Other ski events in West Yellowstone include the annual Christmas Stroll with childrens’ ski races and fun activities in the streets of Town and the annual West Yellowstone Youth Festival the day after the Rendezvous. At its inauguration in 1998 this event attracted nearly 100 skiers from age 3 to 15 for a day of racing, relays, obstacle courses, and other activities. In addition to these regular annual events, West Yellowstone typically hosts a major National Level competition every year.
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