Yellowstone in Winter

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KDog
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Yellowstone in Winter

Post by KDog » Thu Jan 13, 2022 7:00 pm

My wife and I have wanted to ski in Yellowstone for years but due to reservations at Old Faithful Snow Lodge being hard to come by and then COVID shutting down the lodges completely last winter, it took us awhile to finally pull it off. We just got back from 4 days of touring around Geyser Basin and the trails surrounding the Old Faithful area. The heavy storms that hit Yellowstone and the Teton Valley (where we live) in late December and early January had just abated, and we had perfect bluebird/greybird days for our trip with fresh snow.

We didn't have much trail beta before we left and the maps provided by the concessionaire leave a lot to be desired. We had planned a shuttle drop at Fairy Falls trailhead planning to ski out to the falls and then back to the lodge area which is about 10 miles, but none of the trails had been broken out since the storms and 5-7 plus miles of trail breaking between the two of us sounded challenging. The other option was to return by skiing on the main road with the hundreds of snowmobile tours and snowcoaches which REALLY seemed unappealing! After talking to a knowledgeable ski guide who was driving our shuttle, we were dropped at Biscuit Basin in order to ski into Mystic Falls.

It was early, and still single digits in the basin and everything was rimed up from the steaming hot pools and geysers.
Rime sticks.jpeg
The 1.5 mile ski up to Mystic Falls was perfect snow and we were alone the entire time.
Amy Mystic.jpeg
Mystic falls.jpeg
After skiing out from the falls, we crossed the busy road area where snowmobile tours were gawking at Bison, so we quickly moved thru to the Artemesia trail.
Bison Frost.jpeg
The sheer number of geysers and hot springs along this trail is staggering. We saw two people the entire time we skied it.
Fairy pool.jpeg
The aptly named Firehole River was spectacular with many geysers erupting right on its banks.
Firehole.jpeg
Often we skied on the opposite bank from the main trail which kept us well away from other folks snowshoeing, giving us a quiet and intimate experience of Yellowstone which can be hard to come by.
Amy Firehole.jpg
This was just day one of our trip and we explored many other areas of the basin which according to the Park Rangers, has over 300 geysers. Winter is the time to see them. The crowds are a fraction of the hoards of summer and they don't stray far from the beaten paths near the Lodges. By asking questions of certain staff, many who have been working, skiing and guiding the Park for decades, you can find total solitude, even close to the resort area. We stayed in one of the small winter cabins, which I highly recommend over the Snow Lodge. We could easily ski right from our door to trails taking us up and away from the busier areas. And you can also watch Old Faithful erupt by yourselves if you time it right either very early, or in the moonlight. Exceptional!

Alone at Old Faithful at 6am.
Old Faithful.jpg
Last edited by KDog on Sat Jan 22, 2022 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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chris_the_wrench
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by chris_the_wrench » Thu Jan 13, 2022 9:41 pm

Wow!

You stayed in one place and day toured from there? What type of skis were you using?



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KDog
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by KDog » Thu Jan 13, 2022 10:24 pm

Yes we stayed in one of the cabins near the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, which is the only lodge open in winter in that area. Many trails take off from the lodge and within a mile or so, you're probably alone. The other option we took advantage of, is to pay for a shuttle drop off at one of the distant trailheads, ski explore the surrounding area and then return to the lodge end of day. They don't do pick ups, so you have to have the legs to make it back on your own. They ask you to check in so they don't send a search party out for you! They also offer guided trips with shuttles both directions if you're so inclined.

We skied on XCD/Rugged touring gear which is what is recommended because there is very little set track and you may need the flotation to break trail which we did quite a bit of. Specifically, Fischer S-Bound 112's, Voile Switchbacks and T4/Excursions. There can be some steeper climbs and we did use our kicker skins a few times. We brought our big BC packs with all emergency gear except avalanche equipment. If something goes down out there, you have to treat it like a wilderness rescue situation i.e, you're on your own until help can find you. That said, most trails are well blazed with orange flags on the trees. Great experience! We will go back again!



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Montana St Alum
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by Montana St Alum » Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:41 am

Man, your timing could not have been better! Lots of new snow and bluebird days.

If you're in the mood for barbeque at the end, drive north on 191 until you're about 2 miles from the turn off to Big Sky. On the right is The Riverhouse. Just about the best BBQ I've ever had.

You live pretty close by. Have you ever skied back to Granite Creek hot springs? It must be about an hour from you. I've been there in the summer and it's a pretty nice soak after kayaking.



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randoskier
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by randoskier » Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:12 pm

Beautiful stuff and if you are out Cooke City way check out if if the band the B-Flips are 'round, they're playin' Classic small town Montana Rock n Roll. Yeow!
Last edited by randoskier on Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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randoskier
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by randoskier » Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:25 pm

Are you allowed to wild camp in there with a tent or are there restrictions? I hate the "resort" aspect that you mentioned, our American National Parks deserve better! Great pics!



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KDog
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by KDog » Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:05 pm

Montana St Alum wrote:
Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:41 am
You live pretty close by. Have you ever skied back to Granite Creek hot springs? It must be about an hour from you. I've been there in the summer and it's a pretty nice soak after kayaking.
We have not done Granite Hot Springs in Winter yet as it is almost a 20 mile roundtrip ski and the snowmobilers kinda take it over anyway. My boots would have to be a LOT more comfortable (and legs stronger!) to even attempt that distance!



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Montana St Alum
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by Montana St Alum » Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:07 pm

KDog wrote:
Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:05 pm
Montana St Alum wrote:
Fri Jan 14, 2022 11:41 am
You live pretty close by. Have you ever skied back to Granite Creek hot springs? It must be about an hour from you. I've been there in the summer and it's a pretty nice soak after kayaking.
We have not done Granite Hot Springs in Winter yet as it is almost a 20 mile roundtrip ski and the snowmobilers kinda take it over anyway. My boots would have to be a LOT more comfortable (and legs stronger!) to even attempt that distance!
Yeah, getting the snow off the 10-mile ingress to the trailhead is probably out of the question, come to think of it!



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KDog
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by KDog » Fri Jan 14, 2022 6:28 pm

randoskier wrote:
Fri Jan 14, 2022 12:25 pm
Are you allowed to wild camp in there with a tent or are there restrictions? I hate the "resort" aspect that you mentioned, our American National Parks deserve better! Great pics!
I don't know for sure whether the Park allows backcountry camping permits in winter, but I suspect they might because we watched a documentary (actually an episode of Nature on PBS) where a photographer skied around Yellowstone in winter, camping in little more than a heavy down bag and a tarp! It was that show that inspired us to go there to ski however, unlike this guy, we did not come across the wolf pack!

Yes the resort part is unfortunate and the concessionaire (Xanterra) doesn't do much to improve the experience. You are basically stuck using their foodservice and the quality is dubious at best. Next time we will take at least cold items for bfast & lunches as the cabins have small fridges, but no other cooking devices, not even microwaves. We ate a lot of gorp and bars that we brought with us.

Next winter we plan on booking with Yellowstone Expeditions, who run a Yurt Camp near the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Not cheap, but more of a wilderness experience similar to the backcountry huts we've stayed at in the Kootenays of BC. Price includes, accomodations, all meals, guided skiing, and transportation in/out as well as to ski trails. There's even telemarking terrain they access on Mt Washburn which is a big draw for us!



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Woodserson
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Re: Yellowstone in Winter

Post by Woodserson » Tue Jan 18, 2022 8:05 pm

Thanks for taking the time to write this up for us, and the explanations!



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