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Ski-touring in a National Park - Make tracks in Yellowstone

Signage to mark the way.
Signage to mark the way.

There is only one place on the planet where you can ski-tour amongst thermal features such as spouting geysers clouding the cold air with hot steam while observing a herd of bison in the distance. You might be wondering, “is this snowy pre-historic landscape for real?” Indeed. Yellowstone National Park is an other-worldly, winter wonderland of wildlife and snowy spectacles beyond anything you have seen before. The best part: it’s accessible.

Afternoon Ski Tour in Yellowstone National Park.
photo by Gigi Ragland

The main roads into and around the Park are groomed for cross-country skiing. Tracks are set right outside Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hotel so skiers can warm up before setting out for the backcountry ski-tour options. Because Yellowstone is a plateau it is well-situated for cross-country ski touring. There’s a lot of terrain to choose from for all ability levels, including beginner to the advanced cross-country ski adventurer. Terrain covers flat to gently rolling trails to more challenging steeper trails.

On a recent adventure into Yellowstone I ski-toured a magnificent trail that led to a "white" water crossing, not the river running type of crossing mind you. The scenery was stunning. Diamond icy crystals dripped from rocks forming icefalls, pristine white snow blanketed the landscape offering up tracks of the elusive snowhare.  The "beauty" moment arrived when I completed a round of turns and the overlook gave way to the valley below with puffing geyers sending off their momentary signals filling the sky.  So awesome.  Truly, a winter vacation in Yellowstone is an overwhelmingly beautiful experience.  That is, if you can stand the cold. Just be sure to layer, layer and layer. Packing a few toe and hand warmers are key as well.

If you are ready for a big ski-day go to one of the ski shops in Mammoth or Yellowstone for advice from one of the guides. They can pull out a map and customize an option for a great day of touring. Or alternatively, sign up for one of the Park’s guided tours. The Yellowstone Association Institute offers a series of winter programs including field programs and Winter Lodging and Learning packages to keep you busy on skis or off. Private eight-hour programs with an Institute naturalist/guide can be arranged that include covering topics “Wolves in Winter,” Yellowstone by Ski or Snowshoe,” and Wildlife Watching on the Northern Range.”

To enter the park without your vehicle, Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the Park’s concessionaire provides snowcoach service from the west entrance at West Yellowstone, Montana and the south entrance at Flagg Ranch. Call for advance reservations: (866-GEYSERLAND).


To learn more about the winter programs you can enjoy go to

For more information about reservations at Yellowstone National Park, visit Xanterra Parks & Resorts, at .


  • Diana Rowe 5 years ago

    You are right! Yellowstone in the winter is an other-worldly experience, piture postcard perfect! Nicely done article

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