Yellowstone and Grand Teton open for winter, scant snow limits travel options

Commercial snowmobile guide John Davis leads visitors through Yellowstone National Park during a 2007 day trip. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate - click to enlarge)

From Staff Reports

CODY, Wyo. — Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks open for the winter season Thursday, but a lack of snow means that some parts of Yellowstone won’t yet be open to snowmobiles or snow coaches.

Visitors will be allowed to travel on commercially guided snowmobiles or rubber-tracked snow coaches between the park’s South Entrance and Old Faithful. Businesses offering over-snow tours will be temporarily allowed to use either rubber-tracked snow coaches or wheeled vehicles to transport visitors from West Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful.

Rubber-tracked snow coaches may travel between Norris and Canyon, but the rest of the interior park roads have too much ice and snow for cars and trucks, but not enough snow yet for snowmobiles or snow coaches.

Yellowstone officials say they will open more sections of the park to commercial tours as soon as sufficient snowfall has accumulated to allow for packed, groomed roads.

Travel through the park’s East Entrance over Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin Dec. 22.

Winter use in Yellowstone this year is operating under a temporary plan, as it has for the previous two winters. Ongoing legal disputes over snowmobile use in the park have hindered development of a permanent winter use plan.

Under a so-called “One Year Rule” published Monday in the Federal Register, up to 318 commercially guided snowmobiles and up to 78 commercially guided snow coaches will be allowed into Yellowstone each day this winter. Snowmobiles must use “best available technology,” to minimize noise and emissions.

Snowmobiles and snow coaches may travel only on the park’s paved roads.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Mont. through Mammoth Hot Springs and on to Cooke City, Mont. outside the park’s Northeast Entrance is open to automobile travel year-round.

Winter temperatures in Yellowstone’s high-altitude terrain can be among the lowest in the region, with an average January temperature at Mammoth of 9 degrees. The coldest temperature in the park was -66 degrees, recorded at the West Entrance in 1933.

If you go…

Limited dining and shopping opens at Old Faithful Dec. 15. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins and the Obsidian Dining Room open Sunday, Dec. 18. The Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel opens Dec. 20. Visit www.nps.gov/yell for more information.

One thought on “Yellowstone and Grand Teton open for winter, scant snow limits travel options

  1. Yellowstone has become what it was never intended to be. The public being banned from the public park is outrageous. If commercial tour operators are/were allowed in on rubber tires, than the public should be as well. It is not their park for their exclusive use, and it certainly is not the property of NPS employees and their guests, concessionaire employees and their guests, and contractors.