Winter Wildlife and Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
- Cross-country ski near Yellowstone’s geysers
- View abundant wildlife with a former Yellowstone National Park interpretive ranger
- Warm your toes with seven nights of lodging
- All breakfasts and lunches, and one dinner
- All lodging
- Airport pick-up and drop-off
|Dates||Feb 15–22, 2014|
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Join Sierra Club trip leader Rob White and Julianne Baker, a widely recognized Yellowstone Association Institute field guide and former Yellowstone National Park interpretive ranger, for this unique opportunity to see the world’s first national park (and now International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site) in all its winter glory. Yellowstone National Park’s 2.2 million acres offer exceptional scenery, steaming geothermal features, diverse wildlife and plant communities, and great skiing. Each day we’ll ski the trails and backcountry, accompanied by Julianne, who will share her knowledge in wildlife biology and winter ecology. In the evenings, we’ll retire to cozy lodges, eat delicious meals, enjoy any available NPS slide shows and discussions about the park, and share the company of our fellow skiers.
The landscape of Yellowstone today reflects its dynamic, volcanic past. Three gigantic eruptions occurred in the last two million years, the most recent of which formed a huge volcanic caldera (28 by 47 miles) in the heart of the park. The forces behind those eruptions still power Yellowstone’s famous geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots. In fact, the park has more than 10,000 geothermal features (including Old Faithful) -- more than any other place in the world. Of these volcanic treasures, Sierra Club founder John Muir wrote in 1885:
"The park is full of exciting wonders. The wildest geysers in the world, in bright, triumphant bands, are dancing and singing in it amid thousands of boiling springs...and hot-paint pots, mud springs, mud volcanoes, mush and broth caldrons."
Yellowstone also offers abundant wildlife, which is easy to spot in winter when large mammals congregate in thermal areas and catchbasins in search of food. The greater Yellowstone ecosystem contains North America’s largest herds of elk and free-roaming bison. A herd of 43,000+ animals remains in the park, a tiny portion of the over 60 million animals that once populated this continent’s grasslands. Yellowstone is also the new home of a population of gray wolves -- imported from Canada in a successful reintroduction program -- along with deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, and other mammals.
Day 1: Arrive at the Bozeman airport no later than 2:00 p.m. Our van departs for the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel at 2:30 p.m. On our two-hour drive to the park, we’ll stop for wildlife viewing if the opportunity presents itself. After arriving at the lodge, we’ll check in, enjoy a delicious dinner, and then have a welcome orientation/evening planning meeting.
Day 2: After breakfast, we’ll decide between three ski options: Bighorn Trail (five and a half miles), the Bunsen Peak Trail (six miles), or the Indian Creek/Bighorn Loop Trail (eight miles). All trails offer spectacular views of the nearby mountains. Field topics will include mammals and winter ecology. The evening will be yours to enjoy a soak in the lodge’s hot tub or to take advantage of any available slide show/evening program.
Day 3: We’ll travel by snow coach (four and a half hours) to the Old Faithful Lodge, stopping along the way to view the many geysers and hot springs, and ski to Fairy Falls/Imperial Geyser. After arrival and check-in, we’ll hike or ski (one mile) around Old Faithful. Your evening is free for exploring the beautiful Old Faithful Snow Lodge, our home for the rest of the next two nights.
Day 4: Today we’ll ski the DeLacy Creek Trail to Shoshone Lake via a snow coach drop-off (eight miles). After dinner, we’ll spend the evening relaxing around the lodge, enjoying the large stone fireplace and a beverage of your choice.
Day 5: We’ll travel by snow coach (four and a half hours) back to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, stopping along the way to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and ski from Inspiration Point to the Upper Yellowstone Falls (four miles). After arrival and check-in, we’ll tell stories around the dinner table and get reacquainted with the historic Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, our home for the rest of the trip.
Day 6: After a hearty breakfast, we’ll depart for a trip to the Lamar Valley, where wolves and wildlife abound. Known as the Serengeti of North America, the Lamar Valley is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip. After our wildlife outing, we will then ski the Baronette Trail (three and a half miles), a thickly wooded, deep-snowed wonderland. A soak in the lodge’s hot tubs is available after dinner for those so inclined.
Day 7: Today, we’ll ski the Chittenden Loop Trail (5.3 miles) or the Blacktail Plateau Trail (eight miles). After a final dinner together, we’ll spend the evening relaxing around the hotel, while enjoying the ambience of the historic lobby.
Day 8: After breakfast we’ll return any rented ski equipment and then depart for the Bozeman airport or the hotel of your choice. Expect to arrive in Bozeman around 10:30 a.m.
Note: Ski itineraries are subject to change, depending on skiing abilities, interest, snow, and weather conditions, etc.
Trip participants will be picked up at the airport in Bozeman, MT and shuttled to Yellowstone National Park at the start of the trip. Trip participants will be shuttled back to the airport in Bozeman, MT at the conclusion of the trip. Shuttle services will also be provided throughout the trip.
Accommodations and Food
The trip includes seven nights’ lodging, all breakfasts and lunches, and one dinner. We’ll stay four nights at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel -- named after the nearby colorful, steaming cascades of stone known as Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces -- and three nights at the brand-new Old Faithful Snow Lodge, a five-minute walk from Old Faithful Geyser in the heart of the park.
All transportation is provided on the trip: van pick-up from the airport in Bozeman, Montana; travel by snow coach from Mammoth to Old Faithful and back; shuttle snow coach rides to various ski destinations; and a final van drop-off at the Bozeman airport at trip's end.
Standard arrangements are for double-occupancy rooms for all participants. Private rooms are also available, but numbers are limited, so reserve yours early. The cost for a private room upgrade for the duration of the trip is $500. Indicate your preference for private rooms to the leader and he will inform you of options and payment details.
A minimum skiing ability of "intermediate beginner" is suggested. Skiers should be able to ski rolling terrain and control speed and direction with a basic snowplow. Most of the terrain we’ll cover is not steep, but good balance and a familiarity with varied snow and trail conditions are necessary. Participants should be in good physical shape. There will generally be two ski options offered each day: a shorter trip of 3-7 miles and a more strenuous option of 7-14 miles. Participants may also take non-ski rest days on their own at the lodge.
Equipment and Clothing
Rental x-country ski equipment (including boots) is available at Yellowstone National Park. Equipment & clothing needs include:
- Day pack
- Small piece of closed cell foam to sit on snow
- Water bottle
- Sunglasses and/or goggles
- Sunscreen/lip protector
- Pocket hand & foot warmers
- Insulating underwear
- Mid-weight insulating layer -- wool or fleece
- Waterproof & windproof outer layer -- jacket & pants
- Pants -- wool or fleece
- Neck gaiter
- Insulated boots
- Camp shoes
- Yellowstone National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yell/
- Yellowstone Association: http://www.yellowstoneassociation.org/
Yellowstone National Park and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are facing a number of conservation issues today. As in so many wild areas, the clash between wilderness preservation and human use is evident in many ways:
- Heavy use of snowmobiles. On a busy winter day, up to 800+ machines enter the park from West Yellowstone, and some of the smoggy two-cycle engines may spew more than 1,000 times the emissions of a car.
- Migration of bison out of the park on roads used by snowmobiles and other vehicles. They are often shot once they leave the park because they carry brucellosis, a bacterial disease of concern to the cattle industry.
- Reintroduction of the gray wolf to the park, which sparked vocal opposition from local interests.
- Introduction of exotic trout species in Yellowstone Lake.
- The impact of human visitation (over 3 million people per year, 20,000 per summer day) on wildlife, thermal features, and other natural resources.
In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.