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
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
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
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
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