Yellowstone National Park

Cross-Country Skiing
Gorp.com
Cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park
Cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park (Erika Lloyd)
Author's Note
Picture yourself skiing through frigid air, then suddenly engulfed in hot steam escaping from deep within the Earth. Surrounded by a herd of bison, with a few elk mingling in as they paw the frozen ground in search of forage. Or bumping along in a strange moon vehicle through a world enveloped in white. Winter in Yellowstone brings you all these scenes. If you head for Yellowstone for cross-country skiing, your choices are the Mammoth area (Mammoth trails), accessible by bus from Bozeman, Montana, or the Old Faithful area (Old Faithful trails), a 4 hour sno-cat ride from either Mammoth or the southern gateway to the park above Jackson, Wyoming. I took the ride to Old Faithful from Mammoth. My bruised rear was amply rewarded with winter vistas shrouded in steam, trumpeter swans sailing in waters kept unfrozen by the geologic heat, and coyotes silhouetted in a world of white. You will find trail descriptions below for both Old Faithful and Mammoth. My favorites included Fairy Falls, where the water I saw pouring down in midsummer was a wall of rippled ice, Mallard Lake, where I managed to ski uncontrollably through dense lodgepole pine, and the Divide Lookout, where high atop a Fire Tower, one can spot the Tetons through the winter haze. -Bill Greer
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In the winter, Yellowstone offers a variety of enjoyable and challenging trails for the skier. All trails are marked but may be untracked. On some trails, the more difficult and most difficult sections can be avoided by skiing part of the way in and returning to the same trailhead. The experience you have will depend upon the amount of planning and preparation you do prior to your trip. Stop at a visitor center or ski shop and discuss your trip in person. The staff is very helpful and provides current information on weather, trail, and snow conditions, and alerts you to any special winter hazards. Wood fires are not permitted. Pets are not allowed on ski trails or in backcountry areas.

Some backcountry trails are suitable for skiing, but should only be attempted by experienced parties equipped with topographic maps and a compass. Overnight camping requires a free backcountry use permit that must be obtained in person from the Mammoth or Old Faithful Ranger Stations/or West, South, or East Entrance Stations. Call the park to obtain more information on obtaining a backcountry permit.

Trail Ratings

Easiest - Skiers need basic knowledge and limited experience in the diagonal stride, snow plow, and side stepping. Trails may have short downhill and uphill stretches.

More Difficult - Skiers need to be able to ski varied terrain requiring turning, snow plowing, herringboning, and diagonal stride.

Most Difficult - Skiers need to be experienced as trails are hazardous and terrain is frequently extreme. Turns are often sharp and linked together with no room to snow plow or herringbone.

Attention All Skiers! - Trails within Yellowstone National Park have been rated by the National Park Service with trail ratings specific to Yellowstone. You are strongly encouraged to inquire at a ranger station or TW Ski Shop before beginning your first ski trip. Weather conditions may cause icy trails, deep snow, or barren sections increasing the difficulty of a trail.

Ski Trail Information

Old Faithful Trail Ski Trails

Mammoth Ski Trails

For Your Safety

When skiing near thermal areas, stay on marked trails. Approaching thermal features is dangerous because of unstable ground. The snow in these areas is often icy and what appears to be bare ground may be a thin crust over boiling water.

Winter weather in Yellowstone changes rapidly and can be severe. Many areas are frequently windy. Wear proper clothing. Watch yourself and other members of your party for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. For your safety, always ski with someone else. Carry extra clothing, food, water, map and compass, matches, flashlight, and a whistle. Sign in at trail registers and tell someone where you are going, by what route, and when you plan to return.

Wildlife Warning

Please do not approach wildlife. Large mammals survive on stored fat and low-quality food during winter. Causing them to move will cost them precious calories vital for survival. If animals look at you and move away, you are too close.

Permits

Some backcountry trails are suitable for skiing, but should only be attempted by experienced parties equipped with topographic maps and a compass. Overnight camping requires a free backcountry use permit that must be obtained in person from the Mammoth or Old Faithful Ranger Stations/or West, South, or East Entrance Stations. Call the park to obtain more information on obtaining a backcountry permit.


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